Professional networking tips and panel on 9/15

Just a quick note that I’m running an informal career networking panel this coming Tuesday at the Peninsula Temple Shalom in Burlingame, CA. The topic is "Networking for Success: Tips from the Pros" and it’s free. More details are below.

But the reason why I’m sharing this on the blog is to provide some of my professional networking tips, and also to get your feedback, especially on how technology helps you do this.

So here are my responses to the questions I’ll be asking the panel on Tuesday.

Give an example of when networking has helped your career.

I feel as if I’m always networking, making connections, asking for introductions, so I rely on networking as a crucial part of my work. Pretty much every job I’ve gotten was through a referral. My first job out of college was in management consulting with Monitor Company, which I found out about from an upperclassman my sophomore. My stint at the San Jose Mercury News was because my study group mate in business school used to work at Knight Ridder. And I went to Forrester because another former colleague from Knight Ridder was an analyst there. I never know when the next connection is going to made, or pan out so I am always in networking mode.

How did you develop a network? What advice do you have for people to
create networks, especially if they are coming back from time off or
moving into a new field?

When I moved from the Bay Area back to Boston, I had no established network outside of my school buddies. So I set out a schedule to go to as many networking events as possible and to meet people. I then realized that there weren’t many Internet oriented events (this was early 1996) so I started organizing monthly get togethers. 

People coming back into the work force, or trying to change fields, need to be very specific about where what they need but also what they can provide. Skills and experiences they have from previous jobs — especially when it comes to operating and organizing in charged political environments like schools or churches — are extremely value.

What tools do you use to help you network? Alumni networks, contact management systems, LinkedIn/Facebook, etc.
As you can expect, I use LinkedIn and Facebook a lot for networking. For the longest time, I’ve tried to be exclusive about who I accepted as a "friend" but gave up on that given my visibility in the space. So I pretty much accept any invitation. But I use these sites, as well as Twitter and FriendFeed, to stay up on what people are doing. If I have a one on one meeting, I’ll check out their online profiles, updates, and blog, so that I’m up to date. And I’m always impressed when someone has done their homework on me, even down to the last tweet that I made before a meeting.

I also use Facebook and sites like Upcoming to find out who is going to an event in advance. I may send a note to someone, letting them know that I’ll be there, and hope to connect.

In terms of managing my contacts, I have to admit that I’m still looking for a good solution. By default, it’s Outlook, where I put in the latest contact information from email. I also use CardScan to input cards I get from a conference, and I tag them with the date and event. And I use Gmail, where I search for email correspondence. In other words, it’s a complete mess! I have aspirations of consolidating everything into one place, but for now this system works.

How do you prepare for networking events?
I always have a plan about what I want to get out of a networking opportunity. This could be content related, but also very specific in terms of meeting short and long term objectives. Take for example, the TechCrunch50 conference which I attended for two days last week. I had two concrete goals:

1) Be visible with key influentials, especially press outlets. I planted myself in the middle section of the press section, and went up to reporters that I recognized and introduced myself to others that I didn’t know.

2) Find and meet smart people. This included going up to presenters or judges after they presented. The key is not to be shy — if I’m at an event, I assume that the speakers are there to also meet people, so why shouldn’t they meet me? So I’ve always gone up to speakers, and usually hang on the edges at first to let the eager folks push their way to the front. Then when most of the crowd has gone, and the speaker is more relaxed, I’ll engage them in a more in-depth conversation, and maybe even continue the conversation as they walk out.

And a tip on in-person networking at events — wear or carry something that makes you stand out. I tend to wear bright colors (as a woman, I can get away with it. Marc Cantor can usually be counted on wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt. Stowe Boyd is always there with his beret. It helps when someone is trying to point you out, e.g. "Look for Charlene — she’s walking around the exhibit booths with this huge red tote bag. You can’t miss her".

What are common mistakes that you see people trying to networking making?
By far, the biggest mistake is that people are not prepared. They contact me to "network" but without a specific purpose. I’m happy to help people, but you gotta tell me specifically how I can help you! A request like "I’m looking for a position where I can help a consumer marketing company in the financial services space develop a compelling Twitter presence" is a lot easier than "I want to get into social media – I love all of it!"

The other mistake I often see is staying with one person for too long. The goal of networking is to make several meaningful connections, so if you tend to engage with one person in a long, in-depth conversation, you need to set yourself up to in advance to gracefully disengage. Getting a drink/food is always a good way to transition. And my favorite way of meeting new people is to station myself at high traffic points, such as near the entrance or by the bar. You inevitable meet people who then introduce you to other people that they know and you don’t.

So what are you favorite networking tips? What tools do you use to stay connected? Or do you unplug, preferring to network in a very high bandwidth, face-to-face way?

And here’s the information on the event on Tuesday:

Networking For Success: Tips From The Pros

Tuesday, September 16, 7:00-9:00 pm
Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame

How do you set yourself up for the best jobs and career moves? How do you re-enter the workforce after taking a break? Three words: network, network, network! This panel of successful professionals will share their networking secrets (and mistakes!) along with specific technique that you can use to get closer to the professional community that interests you.

Panelists:
Charlene Li (moderator), Co-author, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
Judy Bloom, Development Officer, Jewish Community Federation Endowment Fund
Naomi Snyder Greenstone, Senior Counsel, Human Resources, Abbott Laboratories
Jeremy Verba, CEO, Piczo, Inc.

 

Open to all, but space is limited and registration is encouraged. For more information and to register: www.jvs.org/JEN.htm. JEN is funded by the Jewish Community Federation and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund.

 

Comments

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  2. Great advice – just added your article to personal learning space on professional networking in anticipation to an online discussion I’m leading next week on the topic for social entrepreneurs.
    My contact management system is in the same state as yours – complete mess. However, I discovered this tool via Chris Brogan. I haven’t had time to check it out yet – but it is on my list.
    http://www.chrisbrogan.com/batchbook-is-great-for-contact-management/

  3. @Beth: Thanks for the suggestion to try out Batchbook. I saw from the comments in Chris’ post that there’s also another solution called Highrise (www.highrisehq.com) that looks promising.

  4. I’m hoping to mess with one or both to see if there is a better solution to my mess. I’ll blog my notes.

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