Without the right approach, networking can be a hassle and a fruitless endeavor. Done properly, relationships can blossom and contacts may go out of their way to help you. Taunee Besson, career transitions expert and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions, tackles networking in today’s post. Wise words from an expert! Are you doing it right? — Maurice Gilbert
Q: I hate networking. Going to crowded meetings where I don’t know anyone, telling people I want a job and seeing them cringe, burdening my friends with my unemployment woes and cold calling are all activities I find repugnant. Yet I know I have to do it, even though it’s getting me nowhere. Obviously, I need help.
A: The first thing you need is an attitude adjustment. When you hate what you are doing, it’s hard to hide your distaste. People sense your discomfort and want to flee.
You also don’t understand how to network effectively. It’s not all about you.
Unfortunately, you have plenty of company when it comes to networking misconceptions. However, with a little forethought and some targeted research, you and other misinformed job seekers can become candidates almost anyone would be happy to help.
Poor networking methods generally derive from a “me-against-the-world” attitude.
Without an understanding of his contact’s perspective, a job seeker seems to be selfish and unconcerned about anyone but himself. Put this myopic individual together with a busy professional working under a lot of stress and feeling stretched to the limit, and you have a recipe for networking disaster.
To be a successful networker, you must perceive the process as a two-way street. If you want a favor from a stranger, be prepared to give her a motive for attending to your needs when she could be putting time into her own pressing project. Here are some tips for becoming a nominee for Networker of the Year:
Recognize that people may be willing to give you information for a variety of reasons. They may do it as a favor to a friend or manager whom they respect or admire (or fear). They may enjoy playing the “expert.” They may have an altruistic desire to help you in making a critical life decision. You might have valuable information or business opportunities for them either now or in the future. They are always looking for great employees, and you sound like a worthwhile prospect. Perhaps, they’re in a really good mood when you serendipitously call at just the right moment.
Whatever their motive, you must be prepared to allude to one or more of the above reasons for contacting. For instance, if your good friend Jim Collins suggested you get in touch with his other good friend Susan in Atlanta, you would say, “Hi. This is Taunee Besson. Jim Collins and I were playing golf last Saturday when your name came up in the conversation. I told Jim I was thinking about moving to Atlanta and he said that, before I talk to anyone else, I should call you. He’s sure you’re the best person to tell me about the city and introduce me to everyone worth knowing. Since I’ve always found Jim’s advice to be right on target, I’m starting my Atlanta research with you. Besides, I promised I would send his regards, ask about your new granddaughter and report back to Jim on our conversation.”
By starting your call with these few carefully selected words, you have alluded to an important friendship between Susan and Jim, told her she is an acknowledged expert in Atlanta, indicated you are also a good buddy of Jim’s who might make an excellent employee or colleague for her or one of her friends, mentioned that you agreed to tell Jim about your conversation and asked about her granddaughter, who undoubtedly is the light of her life. How can this woman refuse to talk to you when you’ve given her so many good reasons to believe your impending phone conversation or visit will be both enjoyable and rewarding?
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.
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