At least, most people that I talk with that don’t understand networking think it is! They think that if they decide to network they will need to schmooze, pass business cards around without hesitation, meet people they probably don’t want to meet, spend lots of time after hours in lame boring network settings, or take time off from work to attend a coordinated network meeting where most people are quiet or shy, expcept for a few eccentrics that are bubbling over with personality.
But is that really networking? Maybe I’m just really naive, but I seem to think that we are going through a paradigm shift and figuring out that there is fake and meaningless networking activities, and there are real and significant networking activities. Julie Cohen (you guessed it, that’s her in the picture ;)), an accomplished career coach and expert in networking, job search and career management e-mailed me a great article on networking, and how it isn’t a dirty word. I would recommend that you sign up for her newsletter as she only sends out high quality stuff, and her perspective is very helpful (considering the people that she is helping).
You know I can’t post on someone else’s work without commenting on it. She says in her article that you will “understand how networking works in everyday situations”… Julie has some great ideas on finding alternative networking opportunities (things that I hadn’t really thought of, under the Networking for Promotion section)… I would like to submit one more great way to network: take someone to lunch.
Lunch is great because it is a more personal setting, and you can have a discussion for about (or at least) an hour. You ask them to lunch, you pay for lunch (unless somewhere in there you say “let’s go dutch” – but this needs to be clear up front. If you don’t talk about it then whip out your trusty Visa). This is where you can really get to know people, ask them about what makes them tick, what projects they are working on, their family, all kinds of great stuff. It goes way beyond the 5 minutes that you get over cocktails. It should be non-threatening – don’t go in with the idea of asking for a job, or “who do you know that has a job for me”, rather “how can I help this person, who can I connect them with, and how can I let them know more about me so they can be in a position to help me.”
I hope I don’t shock anyone by saying that… this is networking! It is all about (you’ve heard this before) building intimate relationships! And it is very effective.
Go read the article, it gave me some new ideas. But do me a favor today – no matter who you are – call someone up today and ask them to lunch. Make it easy for them – you can say “Hey, I’d like to do lunch this week – how does the rest of the week look for you?” Then let it go from there. But, just do it… pick up the phone and start dialing… 🙂