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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Today I had a call with someone I met at a professional association event a year and a half ago and have stayed connected to through LinkedIn.  A few days ago, he sent me a nice message requesting a small amount of time to either meet in person to over the phone to discuss some career research he was doing.  Of course I was happy to oblige.

After a bit of chit-chat, discussing what he’s been up to and the specs of my new role, we got to the point of the call.  The “research” was to find out if I may know of any job opportunities that may fit what he is looking for.  So, I asked what to me is the obvious, “What would your ideal job be?”  His answer was a bit challenging for me to digest:  it included a few job titles interspersed with “or”; and didn’t give me a picture of the type of organization that he’d like to work for.  I was sold on wanting to help him, but needed the parameters to know if I could.

You may be thinking, “well, I don’t want my contact to rule out options they may know about by being too picbulls eye imageky.” I’m not suggesting to be inflexible in the range of options that you’ll accept–but at least start by targeting the bull’s eye.  This is a key element of your career seeking elevator pitch–so you have to be precise about your desired outcome.  Anyone worth receiving advice or a referral from, will be able to determine if they know of opportunities or have contacts in the ball park of what you’re looking for.

As for my contact, a series of questions helped him to uncover more specifically what his ideal role looks like.  I didn’t have the right knowledge or connections , but was able to refer him to a colleague who I know will.

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Next to exploring and becoming conscious of who I am, networking has been the most important aspect of managing my career.  In many ways the two are interlinked–understanding my values and goals has in most cases been facilitated by the people who I have connected with through career networking.

From my experience, there are a few keys to successful networking as a student:

  1. Have a GOAL – It is easier if you start out with some idea of who you would like to meet.  When I was in school, the person I most wanted to meet was Stephen Covey, who wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that was a life changing read for me.  It took me almost two years and a long series of connections that lead me to getting a chance opportunity to speak with him as he was being introduced to speak at an event I was volunteering at.  Achieving that goal gave me important credibility, for some meetings that I wanted to have with his company.
  2. Make a PLAN – Connecting with people who can have a significant impact on your career is rarely a one-step process.  As Dave Navarro discusses in his article “7 Steps For Networking With A-Listers“, there are many ways to connect with the people you want to develop a relationship with.  Diagram out who it is that you want to connect to and who they look to for influence.
  3. Get INVOLVED – There is no better time to start building the foundation of your network than while you are a student.  There are dozens or even hundreds student organizations and conferences that you can get involved in.  Take the time to explore a few that appear to focus on your career and life interests–and then get meaningfully involved in at least one that will help you meet other people with similar goals or values.   As a fourth year student, I became the President of my ACE/SIFE team at Wilfrid Laurier.  Not only have I met some of my best friends through that experience–but I can also trace all of the jobs I have had in someway back to the network I established in that role.
  4. Build RELATIONSHIPS – Effective networking is not transactional, it is relational.  It would be easy to measure the volume of networking that you do by the number of cards that you hand-out/receive or connections that you have on LinkedIn.  But networking only becomes effective when someone is willing to do something for you that they wouldn’t for someone they don’t know, like and trust.  The most significant career benefits I have received from networking have typically come 2-3 years into the relationship–it’s a building process.

In upcoming posts, I will get into more of the specifics for each of these keys to networking.

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