Today’s Free Advice Friday is brought to you by the topic of networking…
I’m a big advocate of networking. Two weeks ago, I would have said that there is no bad time to network. Now, I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the process of networking and meeting new people, and there’s just nothing better than helping someone make a connection that leads to that first job, a better job or just gets them working again. I love that.
However, trying to squeeze just one or two more meetings into my calendar this first week of 2012 reminded me of the first few months of 2011 and 2010. So here’s the trend I’m noticing: requests for informational interviews, resume reviews, overall career advice and coffee meetings to “pick your brain” — all great things if you are job searching — dramatically increase at the beginning of a new year. I’m guessing there are a few reasons. First, December grads. Second, time off over the holidays to think about career goals, combined with potential resolutions to take action to achieve those goals.
If you must amp up your networking in the first quarter, here are some tips to consider:
- Realize that the beginning of the year is a very busy time professionally for most people, as plans for the year can still be in the approval stages while the day-to-day management of tasks must move forward. This means there are fewer available times for courtesy meetings, with more people competing for them during this time of the year.
- Be straightforward in what you are seeking. If you are looking for a job, don’t try to disguise it as another reason for meeting.
- If you request a meeting, make it convenient for the other person and be flexible on scheduling.
- Don’t take it personally if your meeting request is declined. Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to take another meeting. (And I feel horribly guilty when I have to say no.)
- The real key is less about holding back on networking in the early months and more about consistently networking throughout the year.
If you are a connector and have folks on your list who you repeatedly refer other people to, check in with them from time to time. Ask how the meetings went. Ask if you are connecting them with people who are beneficial to them. Ask them the types of people they would like to meet.
Hopefully these tips will help strengthen your professional relationships. Happy networking and happy New Year!
9 thoughts on “The Worst New Year’s Resolution: Network More”
Great tips, Dana. You make an important point when you say spread your networking out during the year – similar to the concept of a slow news day for PR…
I think it’s so important to get out there and meet with people, but there’s work to be done too. My January schedule is like yours, one more meeting and it will burst.
Like Lisa, I hate saying no, especially when I remember all the people who said they’d meet with me. But… it’s so important to be respectful of a person’s time and NOT become a pest.
So many people helped me and continue to do so! I suppose just as many say no, and I’ve learned not to take it personally. Good comparison to a slow news day. I like to say yes. I like to meet new people. You never know who will be your new best friend, most devoted employee, future partner, trusted advisor… plus, networking is fun. Since we can’t spend all of our time doing it, it is certainly easier to say yes when a request doesn’t come through at the same time as several others.
I hate saying no! I really do. But you have to draw the line. It doesn’t end with the informational meetings. Then! there are the requests to sit on boards and advisory committees. I get those a lot being in a small town. But I imagine it’s the same everywhere – non-profits need your expertise.
It’s wonderful to be wanted for your brain isn’t it? I love the advice you give here. I know it takes a lot of courage to ask for an informational interview. It can’t be fun to have your request declined, but it should NOT be taken personally for the very reasons you state.
I like meeting people at professional events that I’m already attending. If you are in PR, then you should be going to PRSA lunches anyway, and then it makes it easy to meet. I think Gini said she does this, too…. tells folks to meet up where she’ll already be. I’m trying to be more efficient in the ways I say yes as well as learning to say no when I just can’t do it because I hate it, too!
Ha! Just read this! Hope I hope I didn’t say I want to pick your brain at lunch today!
We had a great time catching up and learning about your connections at NCSU! I hope that we do get to see each other more downtown- You do have to call and schedule something because we are obviously not going to “run into each other!”
Come see us at Artspace soon!
You crack me up, RMC! I don’t think you said “pick your brain,” but I was enjoying seeing you so much that I wouldn’t have noticed! Thank you for lunch. We tried to make it down there last night, but it just didn’t work out that way. I promise to come over soon! And lunch again soon, too. I loved meeting Lia.
Dana — seriously, $20k? Makes me feel a little less guilty when I say no, having that number floating around in my head.
I am a big proponent of paying it forward – I enjoy the opportunity to meet and get to know new people. Young, up and comers, career-changers, etc. all add an interesting perspective to the business.
But, it does have to be done when it is convenient to me and my schedule. If I do not have a previous relationship with the person, they are welcome to come to the office (they can bring the coffee). If this a reacquainting meeting, then meeting out is fine. In both cases, I set the hard-stop and stick to it.
And yes, the meeting requests are somewhat cyclical – end of school year, spring break, end of calendar year. When in reality, networking really should be an ongoing thing.
I think the difference is in people who make money on their time and people who make money selling products. The latter don’t understand, when they ask you to coffee, they’re taking you away from making money. Sure, most of us have time set aside to network, but it’s for the meetings that will eventually lead to our making money. There is almost nothing I hate more than, “I’d like to pick your brain.” No amount of coffee, lunches, or drinks will pay for the time it takes me away from running my business. That may hurt some feelings, but you have to look out for what’s best for you and for your business.
Well said, Gini. I did a little math last night out of curiosity. If I add one more coffee meeting each week of the year, it will cost me about $20,000. Now I get that we have to do meetings and network to make more money, and for the most part, I’m a believer in the concept of you never know where you’ll get your next lead. As I’ve said before, I also like helping people make connections and similar to those who did it for me, I enjoy advising students. Neither one of us will ever stop doing those things. However, I am learning that there is much value in qualifying. I agree that unless you are in a business that bills by the hour, you probably don’t understand that you are asking for more than just free advice.
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