A friend was telling me that he believes applying for a job via the company’s website is the most altruistic way to earn the job. “Applying through friends is not meritocratic,” he said. I nearly spit out my coffee in laughter.
If you don’t understand the power of networking, then this post is for you. Nearly everyone has used the power of relationships to move his or her career forward. This is just a fact. People enjoy being around other people that have been “vouched for” in some way or another. Having a connection to someone, even in the remotest of ways, opens doors and generally leads to opportunities.
You can see examples of the power of networking in any good success story.
Let me give you the most extreme example to start. Sure, the Kardashian clan are a publicity machine today, but lest we all forget the humble beginnings of Kim Kardashian? Remember, she started out hanging around Paris Hilton as Paris’ assistant. At that time Paris Hilton was much more famous and a huge influencer. Through her connection to Paris, Kim was able to build her network, which then led to an interesting boyfriend and the infamous “video tape”, a Mom-ager and the rest is history… captured through lots and lots of bad reality TV.
Okay, now that I’ve officially dumbed down this post, let’s get back to some more substantial examples of networking in action.
Here’s a more tangible example…
Every year, a handle of top business schools get to run trips to Omaha, Nebraska to have a steak dinner and meeting with the world’s best investor: Warren Buffet. I actually organized this trip when I was in business school by coordinating with one of Warren’s assistants. However, one woman took it to the next level when she organized her school’s trip, and she ended up making a connection with Warren that led to a job by his side after she graduated from HBS in 2009. It clearly took a lot of guts and motivation to pull that off, but she did it, all through the power of effective networking.
There’s so many more examples I could provide but I want to get to the meat of this post, which is that networking is the single most important things you can do for your career. So below are my top 10 tips for networking.
10 Networking Do’s And Don’ts That Absolutely Work:
1. Do focus on something you want to learn more about and ask friends & family for suggestions on people to speak with.
2. Do ask for introductions to these suggested connections and prove to the referrer that you will handle the connection with care (ie, avoid #3)
4. When you reach out to a potential connection for the first time, always deliver value first. This is the most important point. Don’t just expect to “get something” from that person. Instead, you must give him a reason to respond. Look the person up on LinkedIn. Google him. Find out as much as you can about his company and job. Then see #5
5. If possible, send the connection 10 ideas you have for solving a problem that his or her company faces. I will have a future blog post dedicated to this. Or if that isn’t feasible, then send a note that shows you have studied her company, her industry, her role and you would like to talk more about it. You must find a common ground with this person and get her to want to help you. Show you are interested and it’s not just “help me, help me, help me”.
6. When you meet a connection, don’t ask for a job or for help. Instead, be respectful and continue to show interest in learning from him. Ask to keep up the connection and again, find ways you can deliver some value for him.
7. If it feels right, ask the connection if she knows anyone else you should speak with. And then ask her to connect you to said people.
8. Always send a thank you email or note that expresses your gratitude and is thoughtful. Address specifics from your meeting or deliver more value with some good ideas you’ve thought of since the meeting.
9. Do check back in with all the connections periodically. Let them know how you’ve followed their advice and taken action.
10. Do connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn. Every. Single. Person. If you are looking for a career, LinkedIn is your Bible.
Follow these steps above and you’ll be successfully networking your way toward a great career. I promise. Or at the very least, I hear Paris Hilton is hiring again 🙂