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Monday, August 17, 2009

Networking Session - Shepa learning company

I mentioned last week that I'd spent friday at a "howto" session on networking. The day was organized by the Mitacs group at UBC, and was run by the Shepa Learning Company, of the "Work The Pond" fame. (A book on "positive networking".)

Overall, I was really glad I attended - The two women who ran the course did an excellent job. (One of them is the founder of the company "Cookies-by-George" which I remember from my childhood - man, I loved the chocolate cookies with cheese in them....) Anyhow, this is one of those things you really have to attend yourself to get the full value out of - however, I can pass along some of the more valuable tips.
  1. It''s not who you know well - it's who you know vaguely. When looking for a job, it's probably not your close contacts who will hire you, but rather it'll be a connection through a connection - so cast your network wide, and make friends with everyone. (Corollary: if you see someone regularly, you should get to know their name - you never know who will be a good connection.)
  2. Good networking isn't about what people can do for you, but what you can do for them. This puts things into perspective a little better than the hustling that people usually associate with networking. In fact, this is more of a western view of karma: if you do good, good will come back to you - so engage in it with the perspective that you should meet people with the aim of being a good person and helping them out. Don't dismiss people because they can't help you - you may be able to help them, so go for it. [Actually, this point resonated very well with me, as it's the approach I take with my blog. Put information where it's available in the hope that it helps people, and some of that goodwill may come back to me one day - and so far, I have no complaints! I can already vouch for this method of networking.]
  3. Networking isn't just meeting people and exchanging cards. Always remember to follow up with the people you meet and to take the time to organize your notes/cards. I found that to be good advice - I spent a few hours organizing my card collection, making notes on where I met people, what we talked about, etc. All of this will help me next time I come across a card and want to know where it came from.
  4. Develop your brand. The way you present yourself, the way you communicate - even the way you interact distinguishes you from other people. All of that should should be reflected in your appearance, your cards, and even your "elevator pitch" when someone asks you what you do.
  5. Keep business cards everywhere - It's always a good idea to keep a few on hand when you meet someone new. Put some into the pockets of all your coats, bags, etc. Oh, and don't keep them in your wallet - it doesn't look so good and the cards get mangled.
  6. When you go to an event, set a goal. For instance, set out to meet 7 new people, or to rescue one person who is too shy to get involved. Your job at events should be to make connections - not just to meet them for yourself. Try to find people that could help each other, and put them in touch.
  7. The glowing introduction. After you meet someone, you should be able to introduce them to someone else in a flattering way. learn how to do this: it'll help you remember who they are better, and it will facilitate introductions.
  8. You have 3 seconds to make a good first impression. Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and most importantly, decide you're going to like someone BEFORE you meet them - you'll have a good smile and you'll find you tend to like more people.
  9. Use people's name in conversation. it's a nice touch - and it helps you remember names. Win-win.
  10. Always give people your full attention when talking with them. It's just rude not to, and well, people don't multi-task as well as they think they do.
The take away tasks are cool, though:
  • Stash business cards everywhere
  • Go to more events
  • work out your introduction (in response to "what do you do?") Make sure it sells you and your desired brand"
  • meet more people (practice, practice, practice!)
  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Connect people who could use each other's help
  • reconnect with your old network
Finally - there were three secrets, which I'm going to paraphrase for you. (I didn't see a trademark sign on any of them, but they're useful.

  1. Network to figure out what you can do for other people - don't expect a return from everyone you meet.
  2. You'll have to meet (and help) a lot of people before you meet people who can help you, so meet everyone you can.
  3. You need to give yourself permission to engage with people you don't know.
Was all of that useful to anyone? Probably not without the context of the course or even their book, but I found some of their points to be through provoking. As for whether I'm a better networker today than I was on thursday, I don't know, but I'm willing to go a little further out of my shell.



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