IC Week: Laura Keene on Networking in the 21st Century

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.

Rad Resources

Check out Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human and, for those consultants out there who want a new angle on growing your business, pick up Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Independent Consulting TIG Week with our colleagues in the IC AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “IC Week: Laura Keene on Networking in the 21st Century”

  1. Laura,

    A great topic to write a post on. I could not agree more that the 21st century provides a whole new avenue for communicating and making connections now. You can create blogs, websites and ads online that are available for all to see and employers have really advanced to using such technology when looking at employees.

    I was able to apply online for jobs across the country and have a skype interview, technology has provided a whole new world for us to network in. Even taking courses, online courses allow for people across the world to be able to connect and network, sharing ideas, thoughts and opinions allowing us to converse and learn from one another.

    I like how you mentioned about relaxing and just getting to know people, technology really allows people to be able to relax and not have the pressure of face to face conversation, especially for those who are not comfortable in person, and as long as we are sure to be responsible and thoughtful it can be an excellent tool.

  2. Hi Laura. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips on networking in this day and age. I imagine it simply comes with the job description to network as innovatively as possible when you’re an entrepreneur. It’s a different story in my case, however. Teaching in a school doesn’t leave much room for networking in the classic sense of the word; as in, networking with potential clients, vendors, financiers, etc. The education industry in general is relatively structured and predictable in its day-to-day operations, and the turnaround in faces in very slim in a given academic year. However, I like to think of my students as my long term clients, with their siblings as potential clients, and forge a friendly relationship with them accordingly. I strongly believe that such teacher-student relationship only facilitates the transfer of knowledge, and hence achieves the education objective. Moreover, I always look forward to the school’s parent-teacher events and treat it as a form of networking for the sake of understanding my students better through the lens of their familial status/conditions. And since I grew up with the internet, I can’t think of networking as a social activity over wine and cheese, but more of a discussion on an interesting post on microbiology on a LinkedIn page (Hot Tip 1 of yours)! I find the virtual space better suited for an academic discussion that could counts towards networking with fellow academicians, and open doors of opportunity (professional or research). Nevertheless, I would still attend a symposium on education or any related subject and randomly bump into people and listen to their stories.

  3. Businesses can also use networking as a force for enhancing the public good.

    Are you aware of any evaluation consultants (LLCs) or consulting firms (C or S Corps) that adhere to B Corporation principles: https://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/the-b-corp-declaration ?

    B Corporations are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Their mission aligns well with AEA’s core values.


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