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Sunday, 27 May 2012 00:00

Networking For Introverts

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Image of cheerleader

"Networking? I am just not good at that." I hear this time and again. With the recent financial issues in Europe, the line is repeated with a frequency reminiscent of 2009. So, it is time to pull out the pom-poms, put on the short skirt, and be the cheerleader chanting its virtues. For those of you that know me, the visual may be a little disturbing, but I conjure it up with your best interest in mind. The fact is, most of us dislike networking. After all, "work" is its middle name. It is, however, how people do business and find jobs. No argument, it is difficult to approach total strangers, publish an essay for the world to critique, or launch a tweet into the ether's unknown, being fully aware there is no way to delete a disgruntled individual's flame-o-gram on your dissertation. It takes guts to air ideas for others to appraise, "like," deride, or amplify. The best way to start, however, is to jump in and immerse yourself. An acquired talent, networking takes practice and it is more than face-to-face interactions.


A Networking Plan

Like any other business endeavor, networking requires a plan. Yes, finding a job is a business, your own—one of the most important you will have. It requires knowing where to network. Knowing where to network takes experimentation. You also need to have "content." The people you connect with will remember you when you provide value. If you think you have nothing of value to say, how are you ever going to find a job? An interview where you disclose, "I have nothing of value to say" will a very short interview indeed. Determine what you have of value and develop ways to deliver it vocally and in writing. You may only have a few seconds to deliver your message, so make it short, and create ways to extend the conversation.

Paying Forward

The key to networking is paying forward. In every meeting, determine what you have to offer the person with whom you are meeting. Your give-to-ask ratio should be in excess of 20. Show sincerity when you give and take little in return. Think of this as cash in the bank. You never know when you can use it. Live by the motto that every meeting must provide value to the other person. That takes work, because the value that you give them may be the pride of helping you.

Write a Blog

The best method of lengthening the conversation and providing value is through writing. You can differentiate yourself as someone that is passionate your subject through a well-written essay. Create and post three to five articles in your own blog on subjects that you feel strongly about. Here is how you use them:

  1. In an interview or conversation, give the listener a one or two sentence taste of what you know.
  2. If you think they are mildly interested, suggest sending them one of your articles and ask for their business card.
  3. When you return to your office send them a link to the article on your blog. This exposes them to the subject of direct interest as well as the others you have written.
  4. In a week, send them a cordial follow-up note asking for their valued opinions on your ideas.
  5. If they have not read it, they are shamed into reading it and getting back to you.
  6. Once they have read it, tell them you will buy them a cup of coffee so you can clearly understand their thoughts.

This process takes a five-minute meeting and extends it into a few weeks. Better yet, you have stayed in their mind for that same period.

LinkedIn's Sniff Test

LinkedIn is the tool of the business networker. It must be up to date and promote your passion. A ten-second glance at a profile sets an impression. A job seeker with an incomplete profile is lackadaisical about looking for a job. Your concerns about privacy on the web will never be heard because the reviewer will move on to the next candidate.

LinkedIn has become the de facto sniff test for any prospective employee; it provides connections to mutual friends, and sets first impressions. If the candidate has fifty recommendations, he or she is "fake;" if there are none, he or she is questionable, if there are ten the smell test is passed. If one of those recommendations is from a mutual friend, the candidate shines like gold.

Connections and their quantities are just as important. If there are more than 500 the profile points to someone in some form of marketing or sales (recruiter, business owner, consultant, etc.). If there are less than 100, he or she is a recluse.

Find friends connected to the people you will interview with and ask them for the prospective employer's needs. Scan employee profiles looking for tidbits to fill idle conversation. Finding a common alma mater can make a lasting impression.

Discount No One

Great leads come from bizarre places. A few weeks ago, I heard that an acquaintance who lives 5,000 miles (8,000 km) away had "become redundant." He wanted to postpone our Skype chat indefinitely. I took a chance and scolded him withdrawing. He struggled with understanding how someone so physically removed could help him. He neglected to remember that when he needed an article written we meet via social media—I was a friend of another author I met via Twitter. I connected him with people inside his industry and close to his hometown.

One Hundred Cups Of Coffee... Or Tea

Keep a positive outlook. There is a saying, "It takes a hundred cups of coffee to meet the right person." Albeit, your cultural measure and beverage may be cups of tea, glasses of wine, mugs of beer. You must meet people and make the connections. Anyone who tells you this is easy is lying. Dive into the deep end of the pool and start swimming and remeber to ask for help when you need it. And, of course, if you have learned anything you will connect with me on LinkedIn.

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