Hi! My name is Laura Keene, owner of Keene Insights in Los Angeles, CA. Not surprisingly, networking is an important part of my job, but the truth is: we all have to network. Even if you have a 9-to-5 job, you may be searching for new staff, collaborators, or other resources for your company, you may be looking for a new avenue of work within your organization, or you may be hunting for a dream job elsewhere.
Lesson Learned: Networking ain’t what it used to be.
When I first started my business, the idea of networking was daunting. Like many of you, I imagined that in order to sell my services I needed to mold myself into a 1950s used car salesman, i.e., be schmoozey and pushy. Turns out, a lot has changed since then.
In his book, To Sell is Human, Dan Pink writes: “Selling in all its dimensions – whether pushing Buicks on a car lot or pitching ideas in a meeting – has changed more in the last ten years than it did over the previous hundred.” He argues that because we live in a world where we have a mountain of information at our fingertips, sellers no longer have an advantage over buyers.
As a result, selling, and the use of networking as a sales strategy, has become more about connecting, sharing, and building strong relationships with people over time. When I learned that networking was less about closing deals and more about meeting new people, developing friendships, and sharing myself and my work with those friends (without worrying about when or if they’re going to hire me), it became a lot easier to do.
Hot Tip: Connect instead of network
Networking is still hard work, especially for us introverts, but the pressure is off. You don’t need to get the contract or land the new job. You just need to meet and get to know some cool new people. Here are a few tips for doing so:
- Relax and be yourself
- Ask questions; find out about their work, their hobbies, their family
- Share; let them learn about your work (and your passion for it), your hobbies, your family
- Ask for a business card and jot notes about the person on the card…because the next step is to follow-up, share your connections and expertise, and build a relationship of trust.
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