Still the Undisputed King of Networking
Perhaps I should have qualified that headline with, “at least for now.” It certainly seems that one can truly live their entire personal and professional lives online these days. The remote workforce is growing exponentially and with food delivery services, one doesn’t even have to leave the house for fine dining. That being said, until artificial intelligence replaces us all, face to face interpersonal communication remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of professional networking. This means that when it comes to making business-to-business connections or perhaps even finding that dream job, you must still practice and master the art of the networking conversation.
Based in Chattanooga, I currently help top-tier professionals and prospective employers find one another from sea to shining sea…which means that I’ve gotten pretty skilled at reading an individual via teleconference or over a simple phone call. However, nothing replaces the handshake and eye contact that screams volumes about an individual. So whenever possible, I make it a point to meet face to face. Moreover, when the opportunity to attend a networking event pops up, I treat it for the golden opportunity that it is. So, if I can have your permission, I’d like to share a few tips on how to master interpersonal networking.
Arrange for Reconnaissance
You’ll have to pardon my use of military terms, but after a 27-year career as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, it sticks with me. Not to mention that it translates well in the private sector. Call it research or reconnaissance, but you would do well to gain an understanding of the nature of the networking event and who is going to be there prior to your arrival. This strategy works well for one-on-one networking as well. A great deal of the social anxiety that many feel when it comes to interpersonal networking involves the dreaded awkward conversation. It is as if your livelihood depended on a terrible blind date. There is a pause in the conversation and for the life of you, the words to break the awkward silence escape you. It is at this moment that your reconnaissance will pay off.
LinkedIn will show you the various seven degrees of separation between yourself and any prospect. Facebook will show you any mutual friends between the two of you. Twitter will show you who the prospect follows and you can gain helpful insight on who they admire. I know this sounds like social media stalking, but that information is out in the public domain. Plus, we call it research or reconnaissance because that sounds better. All of that information can be used to initiate a conversation, break an awkward silence, and transition the conversation into a specific ask or an invitation to meet again. Arrange for the reconnaissance and you will walk into the next networking meeting with confidence and swagger.
I should also point out that the same process works extremely well for job interviews. If you walked into a job interview without having done any research into the organization at which you are applying, then I would submit that you do not really want that position. The organization’s website and social media pages can give you a great deal of insight into the corporate culture. If it is a nonprofit organization, their publicly filed IRS 990 forms will show you the financial position of the organization and even the salaries of the top five officers if you want to see it. When you walk into a job interview and it is clear you have done your homework, it shows initiative and makes a solid first impression.
Next week we’ll take a look at how to understand what you want before you walk into a situation. Until then…Get Busy—Get Connected!