You hear it all the time: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. Through WISE, I have learned the true value of networking. If done the right way, networking will open doors for you — and not just in your job search. Networking can introduce you to people who can become your sounding board, open you up to new ways of looking at things and offer advice in times of need; networking can create business partnerships and even lead to friendships that last a lifetime.
The WISE network has provided all of the above for me. Leading up to this past January’s Speed Mentoring Roundtables — an event in which industry veterans engage and “mentor” participants in small peer groups — I was questioning whether I should even attend. I was exhausted after a long week of work, a feeling I’m sure many know all too well. I wasn’t looking to network, and I certainly wasn’t looking for a new job. However, after the event, a Roundtable mentor whom I had met at other WISE events approached me about a new position on her team at the Boston Bruins. She remembered the interesting conversations we had had about branding and sponsorships over the years, and she told me to email her my résumé that night.
Before I knew it, I was in her office interviewing. The job description was a perfect fit, which I otherwise wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the relationship I had built with her over time. In addition, through my WISE network, I had multiple women as sounding boards during the interview process and great referrals who already worked for the team. Within a week, I was offered the job and accepted the position. I couldn’t be happier in my new role.
Networking is a long-term process, and WISE provides the perfect platform to get you started. Here is some advice to keep in mind:
BE BOLD. Send handwritten letters, cold call, drive to New York City for an informational interview. Most people don’t go the extra step, so you will stand out more than you think.
SHOW INTEREST. When you meet someone, let your interest, motivation and curiosity shine through. Be genuinely engaged and ask for other people to share their experiences and advice.
LISTEN. Be a sponge. You can’t learn anything from hearing yourself talk.
BE KIND. Research shows people evaluate everyone they meet in terms of warmth and competence. Of the two, warmth mattered more than competence!
FOLLOW UP. Be persistent, but also patient. Make sure to stay top of mind while respecting the other person’s time.
BE AWARE OF TIMING. Want to follow up after a meeting? See something that inspires you to reconnect? Don’t wait more than 24 hours! When you push things off longer, you’re more likely to come off as careless or forget to do it all together.
ADD VALUE. Always think about how you add value to others. Don’t just follow up when you need something! Share articles. Congratulate them. Show them how you took their advice. Focus on planting the seeds, NOT the fruit. Opportunities come when you least expect them, in ways you could never guess.
GROW YOUR NETWORK. Ask for a lead or an introduction. Be respectful of other people’s networks, but there is no harm in asking, “Whom else do you know that I should talk to?”
FIND A MENTOR. Find someone who is doing what you want to do and is where you want to be. Make sure they are willing to help. Nurture the relationship.
Editor’s note: Look for your chapter’s announcement for the upcoming Speed Mentoring Roundtables event, held annually. Read more at http://wiseworks.org/resources/within/roundtable/.