As appeared in The Huffington Post.
You’re a smart millennial who thrives on social networks and connections. But when it comes to professional networking to accelerate your career, it feels like a bizarre chore that’s better left undone. And then there are days when you do gather all the courage and willingness to attend a networking event, or make an effort to talk to a senior colleague, but then you fall short in packaging your strengths and skills in the most intriguing and effective manner that could make the effort worthwhile. And you go back to square one questioning networking all over again.
– Only about 5% of job-seekers obtain jobs through ads.
– 60% of job ads are FAKE.
– Only about 15-20% of all available jobs are ever publicly advertised in any medium.
– 60% of people have found jobs through networking.
Networking is the #1 unwritten rule for success. It is about getting ‘plugged in’ to your community, making connections and building mutually beneficial relationships. As critical as networking is, it is also one of those things that does not come naturally to people – quite an acquired taste.
Let’s look at 5 sure shot ways to make networking more fun, more effective and more doable.
1. Have a clear goal in mind
You can go to all of the fancy schmancy networking events under the sun and collect hundreds of business cards while you’re at it but if you’re not hanging out with people that matter, the entire effort will go down the drain. You might make some new friends, but you won’t get many leads for a job or grow your business for that matter.
If your goal is to grow your business by networking, it is imperative that you network with: people who are your ideal clients, people who know your ideal clients, and/or people who do business with your ideal clients. Same principle applies for job seekers: network with people who are influential decision makers in your industry, people who know influential decision makers in your industry and people who do business with them. So before you sign up for your next networking event, ask yourself if it is a good fit for your clearly defined goal.
2. Craft an effective and memorable elevator pitch
Do you often find yourself stuttering and stammering when someone catches you off guard and asks ‘tell me about yourself’? If you are at a casual networking event, you might blurt out all there is to know about you, your family, your dog, the neighbors, all the 25 companies you have worked at, before the other person dozes off in deep slumber. If you are at a networking business lunch or seminar where everyone in the room goes one by one with their 30 sec intro, you again have the choice to be nice boys like them – stand up, say your name and company, sit down and no one will ever remember who you are unless you are unusually tall or short or extremely good looking.
You want to change that, effective today. “Tell me about yourself” is your chance to really capture the audience’s attention by being clear, memorable and authentic, by genuinely showing your passion, your zeal.
Critical elements that your elevator pitch should have are: 1. Who you help? 2. What solution you provide? And 3. Why should they work with you?
In a formal group networking event, your pitch could start by asking a question “How many of you here are interested in driving more traffic to your website?” Raise your hand as a cue and there, you have got them all awake, listening to you. Next up, mention what you do in a way that answers the question by providing compelling value along with social proof to the listeners. Close with a humble call to action.
E.g. “Great! Thank you. I am John Pepper and I run a popular business blog that helps you get more traffic to your website. I started this business after using my own service to rank my blog #1 in Google for the key phrase ‘how to make money blogging’. If you would like to get more traffic to your website, I’m happy to talk to you more about it!”
Notice the use of ‘popular’, ‘#1 blog on Google search’ to drive proof of performance. If you don’t have major accomplishments yet, just mention testimonials and praise from influential people in your industry.
As you talk, notice who raises their hand, how interested people appear when you are talking and let those be the ones you engage with more during the rest of the event.
No matter what kind of elevator pitch you are looking for, once you have created something you are proud of, you need to practice. You will get it right not only when it is well thought through, but also when it is well rehearsed. Not thinking of what to say next makes you focus on the present, be in the moment, notice and observe the visual cues, body language, and swing the conversation in your favor.
3. Remember, networking is a two-way street
How many of you have experienced people in networking events pouncing on you, literally ambushing you with their verbal diarrhea of overselling. Here’s one of the most important things to remember when it comes to networking; it’s a two-way street. You cannot engage in a monologue and then expect favors of them without building a mutually beneficial relationship. Be genuinely interested in their story, get to know what they do and in due course they will ask about you. If you struggle with small talk to break the ice, you could ask meaningful questions about their line of work such as: What products does your company offer? Who are your clients? How are you different from the competition, and so on.
Don’t approach networking like speed-dating unless you are going to a speed networking event. The goal is not to meet as many people as you can, it is to make valuable connections.
4. Meet & Mingle
This is the fun part. Who does not like to socialize when surrounded by carefully curated, like-minded people? Now that your goal, target audience and story is super clear, get yourself out there and you will see it becomes much easier to find people who can help you. Conduct some quick research to see where you can find your target audience: do they go to after work networking events, hang out in bars or meet in coffee shops? Do they attend industry related events, workshops or seminars that you could participate in? How could you leverage social media to find and connect with them? Remember, people are more relaxed in social settings, so it’s one of the best chances to strike up a conversation.
5. Always get a second date
Most common issues people encounter during large networking events is that it gets a bit overwhelming making rounds of introductions to several people who you might not remember later, or to gauge in that short amount of time who out of those contacts is worth pursuing. This is why it’s important to secure a second meeting. To build a strong relationship, it’s always good to strike while the iron’s hot. Chances are, you got their business card or can find one of them via social media. Follow up with a personal tid-bit from your conversation; they will appreciate the gesture and remember you in the future.
Want to market yourself by defining your unique and authentic personal brand that produces value? Want to package your strengths, skills and experience in a perfectly crafted elevator pitch that always hits a home run? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary session or visit www.directiondose.com to find out how I can help you.
About the Author:
Samia helps millennials to know who they really are, not what they need to be. She is the founder of Direction Dose – Career and Business coaching for millennials. She’s an ICF certified career coach, NLP Practitioner, trainer and speaker, based in Dubai. Having over 9 years of experience at Procter & Gamble in brand management and coaching; Samia knows what it takes for Gen Y to excel and succeed in their careers.