Networking often sounds either tiresome (e.g., wearing old-fashioned name tags, exchanging business cards, and scrambling to exchange tickets for drinks), or superficial (e.g., speed-dating, giving 60-second “elevator pitches” to win a prize, and joining lots of LinkedIn groups where you don’t know anyone), or both. It doesn’t have to be, but it needs to be done properly in order for it to be worthwhile to you and to those with whom you connect. Below are some of our suggestions based on our work with our current and former students, our coaching clients, and even our experiences as customers.
1) Begin in school: get to know your professors and help them
One of Karen’s students at Michigan State volunteered to be her teaching assistant for her Retail Promotions class. She showed up every day for a class that she had already taken, helped with distributing and grading assignments, and mentored other students
In his career, Aneil has taught thousands of MBA and undergraduate students. Many of these students have made it a point to spend time with him outside of class, having lunch with him, or spending time just chatting in his office. In the years since they’ve graduated, some of them have kept in touch with him, invited him to speak to their organizations, and even served as guest speakers for his classes. When it came time for them to make decisions about switching jobs, or to consider leaving corporate life for divinity or nursing school, Aneil was then glad to serve as a sounding board for these alumni, and to even write recommendation letters for them. Professors know people, and if you make the effort, they can really get to know you. They can then connect you to those other people in powerful ways that very few others can.
2) Jump-start your day with some old friends, and make some new ones.
Whether it’s with a grande, non-fat, extra-hot mocha (Karen) or a venti soy cinnamon dolce latte with two pumps of white mocha (Aneil), sharing a beverage before you start the work day or after you’ve finished your weekend workout is a great way to stay in touch with friends or make new friends.
3) Become a mover and shaker by starting your own movement
4) Hit the road, Jack (and Jill)
5) Performance in your current gig will help you get your next gig
In the near future, with the ubiquity of video recording capability, location services, and social networking apps on smart phones, customer encounters will certainly become part of one’s “online resume” for better and for worse. These folks could have taken a tip from our favorite Starbucks baristas. We have actually read resumes, provided recommendations, and helped to find jobs for our favorite Starbucks baristas when they decided to explore other career opportunities. We did this because they consistently provided us with outstanding service, day after day (and always smiled at Aneil who is not a morning person), along with those drinks that get us going in the morning.
You never know how or where you will be networking next. It might be when you are making or getting coffee or it might be when you are talking to your old professor or to a new friend. Make the most of your connections and your network will grow.