I’ll bet that you’re currently prioritizing at least one of these things:
- Looking for your next gig
- Courting new clients
- Recruiting talent
- Working to stay current on your industry and market.
How can I be so sure? Consider this:
Gone are the days of finding a job, spending your career there and collecting a pension to fund your retirement. Baby Boomers’ job tenure is 10+ years, Gen Xers’ tenure averages about seven years and Millennials tend to work at the same role for about four years.
Business in general has also become more fluid. In the agency world specifically, long-term retainers are no longer the norm. Clients are shopping around more often looking for partners that can deliver a project or specific skill set.
Then layer on the rise of resources like LinkedIn and Glassdoor where it’s easy to find mutual connections and get the real skinny on people and companies.
Not to mention that technology has increased the pace of change within just about every industry there is.
Bottom line, if you aren’t working on one (or more) of these priorities, you will be soon. Consistent and “always on” networking is the key to your success. And you need to start now.
I know what you’re thinking as you’re rolling your eyes: Networking, ugh. I hear you. I have attended many events in the spirit of “networking” and it has felt more like a job fair than a networking event. But I encourage you to think differently about it. Networking doesn’t have to be a smarmy, disingenuous thing. As a matter of fact, it’s disingenuous if you only network when you need something. Rather, think of it as an authentic way to create meaningful connections.
If you’re not sure how to start, try this:
1. Make a List
Put together a list of people you know and respect. Get together with them first and tell them what you are trying to accomplish through networking. Ask for their help in meeting other people. A warm introduction will undoubtedly get you a meeting.
2. Be Scared, Do It Anway
There will be times you want to meet someone you don’t already know and you won’t have any mutual connections (see: Connection Center For Education And Research). Don’t let that stop you from reaching out and asking for a meeting. The worse thing they can do is say no, and that outcome is highly unlikely. In those cases, rather than a no, you simply won’t get a response. But you’ve got to try. In my experience, more times than not, they will agree. After all, it’s flattering when someone wants to meet you.
3. Show Up Prepared
This is especially true if you’re meeting with someone you don’t know. The conversation may not always come easily, so show up prepared with questions. Check them out on LinkedIn before you meet so you can have relevant questions. It’s usually pretty easy to get people talking about themselves. Ask good questions, listen well, the rest will come.
4. Take Care of the Details
Reach out to confirm the day before you meet, especially if it’s with someone you don’t know. Respect their time by being punctual. Offer to buy their coffee. Follow up afterwards, especially if that person does you a favor and introduces you to someone else. Let them know how it worked out and that you appreciate their effort. If you pay attention to the details, you will leave a lasting positive impression.
If I were looking for a downside to networking, there is only one. It does take time. Like anything else in life, you choose how to prioritize and spend your time. Start small. Reach out to one person per week or month for coffee. You’ll meet interesting people, learn new things, and you may even find someone calling you with your dream job. You’ve got nothing to lose.