Networking | Foundation 5 – Lesson 2

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

OK, in the last lesson, I got you started thinking about stories you could share… maybe the exercise felt a little bit disconnected to some of you. Well, here’s where the rubber meets the road.

We are going to do three things in this lesson. First, we are going to ask, “What do we want? Why are we investing so much time and energy in our communications?” Second, we are going to picture the people we are connecting with. As we do this, the importance of the last lesson will start to become clear. And third, we are going to re-prioritize our perspective, goals, and and environmental needs based on what we’ve learned. (At the same time, we will also change the type of feedback we are looking for when networking.)

Part 1: What do we want?

This question is not rhetorical. Grab a scrap of paper or pull up Word, and answer this: “When you meet someone, what’s the point… what do you want?” Spend a few minutes on this, then continue reading.

What you need is a job. But that’s not the point of every interaction, is it? That’s like a salesperson saying that he’s trying to close business in every interaction—impossible. There is a whole cycle salespeople go through, from introduction to pre-sale to sale to post-sale support to renewal. Social interactions work similarly: we size people up, determine the likelihood of a match, seek common ground, help the person, ask for help, etc… and every relationship moves at its own pace.

So, what do you want? I’ll tell you what I want: I want a network of people who value their relationship with me. I want people in my life who will go out of their way to help me because that’s the kind of people we all are. I want to be able to tell someone, “I’m working on X” and have them come to me with, “Have you thought about calling so-and-so?” I want free and easy exchanges and a long-term perspective where people don’t worry about quid pro quos because they know someone else in the network will pay it forward to them later.

This is the kind of network that will not only find me a job, but will support my career and help me succeed at every step along the way. People who can find you a job are nice, but once you find the job… then what? Start building a network now of people you can call on 2, 5, 10 years down the road. Twitter and Facebook are great for starting these relationships, just don’t forget, when you find someone you like, to pick up the phone and introduce yourself. The longer you wait, the more awkward it gets, and the objective is to have a network that makes success easy, not awkward!

Part 2: Whom are you trying to meet?

I dunno. Do you?

Let’s tackle this question in the abstract first: Imagine you are a hiring manager at a company.

Really picture yourself: Where do you live? How much do you make? Are you married? Do you have kids? What do you do at night and on the weekends? What’s your relationship to this sharp young gun trying to get you to hire him/her—are you a peer? old enough to be a parent? threatened? relieved? How did you get to your current job? How did you find work after graduation?

What’s your story?

We don’t know, do we? We need to be ready to adapt to whatever this person throws at us and run with it. We need to be able to break out of the formal conversation in order to learn about this person, so we can determine if this is someone we should be networking with, and if so, how to do so effectively. We also need to be ready to go in the reverse direction: to recognize when someone meets the image we have of a potential employer, so we can steer the conversation accordingly.

Now let’s leave abstraction and get real.

Gee, wouldn’t be handy if we had a bank of stories ready to go so that we could grab the conversational reins and steer? Stories that let us introduce a more human element into the interaction and connect with the individual more sincerely—a way to let the person know our strengths and what we want, without being annoyingly direct about it? And you know what else would be useful, is a clear idea of the company this person works for, the organization’s story, and even who this person is if they have an accessible online persona. These things would really shorten the learning curve, too, wouldn’t it.

Oh, wait—we *do* have all that! (See how everything we’re doing builds on itself? )

No to go back to the original question: who are we trying to meet? It’s different for each of us, but all of us need to be ready for a curve ball. It may turn out that the person we thought was the captain of our bowling team turns out to be our employer. We just never know.

Part 3: Quality Events in networking

How do we pull all this together? How do we prepare to be “always searching” even with our social networks? Here are some ideas, using the Quality Event framework:

  • Perspective: Our goals when we meet people is not to satisfy our immediate need. It’s to build a network that will serve us today and in the future and satisfy all our needs.
  • Objective: Create as many opportunities as possible. This forks into three subgoals: first, meet as many people as possible, and second, meet people as “holistically” as possible—that is, in contexts that allow for the interaction to go many different directions. (When you say, “Please hire me,” the person says yes or no, and you’re done. When you say, “I’ve got a network of HR bloggers and I’m looking for ways to leverage it,” you’re suddenly a resource for that person and it’s just the beginning…) Thirdly, we need to let go of networks that aren’t helping us. I won’t lie: this can be TOUGH.
  • Environment: The perfect resume is simply not imperative for this type of relationship building. Being outside, away from your computer (or, if you’re at your computer, being online), is imperative. It’s that simple: GO MEET PEOPLE. And if you’re not in the mood, then go do something that makes you a more interesting person. Go create a story!
  • Feedback: You need to engage with people and get live feedback from them as to how valuable they perceive you. You can do this several ways: first, you can ask directly. I don’t recommend this, however, because it signals a lack of confidence. Second, you can engage a little and see if you get invited back. I highly recommend this approach because you already have the tools to do it. In fact, you’re using one of them right now.*This* is the power of social media: do you attract Twitter followers? Do you get invited into legitimate Facebook groups? Are your LinkedIn questions answered, or are your answers selected as “Best Answer”? Does your blog drive traffic… and from where? Feedback on your personal brand online is immediate and irrefutable. This is the stuff you should be monitoring!


By the end of the week, learn something new about five people—these could be new people who you meet at the coffee shop, or acquaintances who you haven’t connected with. Use one of the stories you developed yesterday as a wedge to open up a conversation.

After the interactions, note: was the story successful? What did you learn about the person? How could you help the person? How might they help you? The answer to these last two questions might be, “They can’t” or “I don’t know.” Those are fine responses. The idea here is simply to practice getting out there!

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2 responses to “Networking | Foundation 5 – Lesson 2”

  1. mdabhi says:

    Quick question: Does this mean that to network effectively, you have to and it’s imperative to create a online brand for yourself ? So Blogging, Twitter, Linked-In or using Facebook. It’s a difficult lesson for me to put into practise.

    • Willy Franzen says:

      Networking in person is always better than networking online – the relationships are more meaningful. With that said, you need to have an online brand. When people want to find out about you, they’re not always going to be able to ask you what they want to know. They’re going to look for it online. You want them to find something good. If there’s a lot of good stuff about you online (not just created by you), it’s a signal to employers that you’re somebody that they want to know (and hire).

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