Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: Let’s Go Steady

Image source: tower.com

Image source: tower.com

So many of my clients have heard that networking leads to a job, but still many of them don’t understand how. My last four posts got down to the nitty gritty of networking and how the etiquette is similar to dating somebody new or making a new friend. So what happens next? Sometimes something great and sometimes nothing comes from it. Similarly, you go on a couple dates, and initially it’s great and then it kind of fizzles over time. So why do all this work if there’s a possibility that nothing happens? Because, like dating, it’s a necessary evil to secure something long term.

So what happens when it does lead to a job, what does that look like? It can take many forms and you could be the initiator or you contact could, but it’s always beneficial to be proactive. After that initial conversation or two, keep checking the company website and reach out when you see something that you’re interested in. You can frame you language to sound something like:

“Hi Amelia, I hope all is well with you. You gave me some great advice and insight a few months back and as you instructed I’ve been checking the company website every few days looking for entry level positions that fit my experience.

Something just opened up in auditing and I was writing to see if you had any insight on the position or could connect me with somebody who did. I am eager to get my application in, but I want to make sure I’m an attractive candidate. Thank you for your help.”

Amelia will hopefully write back with some advice and say that she’ll “put in a good word for you”. This generally (not always) guarantees that the hiring manager will at least give your application a closer look. You’re one step closer to “going steady” with that company. It’s important to recognize that despite all your networking, the job may just not be a good fit for you, but at least you got a shot. In many cases however, it tips the scale greatly in your favor.

The best case scenario is that you’ve been keeping in touch with your network and a contact sees a position that, based on your conversations seems like a great fit, and reaches out encouraging you to apply. This will almost always get you an interview because it is safe to assume that you contact already sang you praises to the hiring manager.

Regardless of the scenario- the benefits to networking far outweigh the cons and the understandable “uncomfortable” feeling that comes with the process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dating connoisseur, I’m confident you can master the simple rules of networking etiquette.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The Courtship

image source: comefillyourcup.com

Old School Courtship image source: comefillyourcup.com

Courtship [kawrt-ship, kohrt-

noun

  1. the wooing of one person by another.
  2. the period during which such wooing takes place.

In other words: the period of a time you spend dating, trying to figure out whether or not you think that the relationship will go long term. The courtship is the most exhilarating and exciting part of the dating timeline, but it can also be filled with confusion and anxiety. Similarly, when trying to cultivate a networking relationship with a dream employer, it’s difficult to navigate the social niceties without shooting yourself in the foot.

Let’s go back to the dating example. It’s the day after a successful first date; there was great conversation, delicious food and most importantly, a connection. You sent a text that night saying that you had a great time. Now what? “Should I call him/her? Is it too soon? What if they think I’m annoying?” Not surprisingly, these are similar to the questions I get from clients after they have a successful informational interview. “When should I follow up? Will they think I’m annoying? I don’t want to come off too needy.”

Since my last post, we know that the first step to keeping the networking relationship alive is to send an email thanking the person (scroll to the bottom of the link) for their time and citing conversation bits you found especially helpful and/or interesting. I would also suggest including a closing sentence that says you’ll update them on your progress over the next few weeks/months. Like dating, it’s easier and feels less awkward to follow up with somebody when you have a reason to and it confirms that you were actively listening at the meeting.

Dating example: “Hey Kelly, Are you free Thursday night? You said you love 90’s movies when we met and they’re playing Terminator 2: Judgment Day at the Hatch Shell, want to go?” Why yes, mystery man, I would (but seriously, I would).

Networking example: “Dear Amelia, Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks back. I took your advice and followed up with Fred in accounting. He gave me some great insight on how to navigate the finance job market at some of the larger firms and much of what he said complimented the advice you gave me. I’ll be certain to keep in touch with you as I continue my job search and I appreciate all of your help thus far. If you have other suggestions for me or hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you kept me in mind. Thanks again!”

While the thank you email should be sent within 24 hours of your initial networking meeting, your follow up is dependent on you. If you met with Fred just a week after meeting with Amelia, it’s fine to follow up with Amelia after speaking to Fred, and in fact, I’d highly suggest that you do, even if it’s only been a week. Use your common sense and just don’t be a stalker. Follow up with Amelia in 4-6 weeks after your Fred email to update her on your progress from there. It doesn’t have to be a long email, just a short, check-in.

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Although it may seem slightly redundant and simple, following up is the most important part of the networking relationship for a few reasons. First, it keeps you fresh in their mind in case something opens up or if they hear of anything elsewhere that they think you’d be a good fit for. Second it demonstrates politeness and professionalism. Now that you’ve had a solid conversation and a of couple email exchanges, they’ll feel more comfortable vouching for you. Finally, it gets the person to care, even just a little bit more, about your career. People generally like the feeling of helping out somebody else- thanking them and following up confirms that they were helpful. The goal is to get them invested in your career so you have them as a lifelong contact. Amelia is probably feeling pretty good about herself at this point.

All in all, the key to the courtship phase of the networking/dating relationship is to follow up! Just use your common sense and don’t be rude about it. You wouldn’t ask somebody to be your boyfriend or girlfriend without going on multiple dates first, so don’t expect that your contact is going to go out on a limb for you and hand you a job right away. Like any relationship, it takes time to foster and grow. Your network should serve as an information resource and it’s important to be patient and know that not everything is in your (or their) control when it comes to the job market. Embrace Forrest Gump-esque serendipity and know that most people are willing to help, but you need to do the work.

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get married. Final post of the series next week: Let’s Go Steady.

How have you followed up with your networking contact? Has anyone ever connected you to somebody that’s helped land you a full-time position or internship?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The First Date

 

Girl: "I like you" Boy: (after pushing her) "You smell like dog poo."

Girl: “I like you”
Boy: (after pushing her) “You smell like dog poo.”

Your phone buzzes, and yes, you got a response from that online dating inquiry. “Sweet, now what do I do?  Do I text back right away?  Maybe I should wait a few so I don’t seem too eager, wait, or maybe he/she will think I’m ignoring him/her?”

We have come to the most exhilarating and frightening part of our journey down the dating/networking path: the first date.

The first date, full of mystery and anxiety… luckily in the networking world, it’s a little more straight forward. Unlike dating, if the person you requested to informational interview writes you back, you should respond promptly. Keep in mind, they’re doing you a favor, limit the back and forth scheduling emails. If they suggest a time/place, try to accommodate them, if that time/place doesn’t work, suggest a couple alternatives. Do the work. I can speak from experience, it’s annoying going back and forth five times trying to schedule a meeting with somebody with whom you’ve never met.

“So this weather we’re having…” Getting ready.

You’ve set the time and location, now it’s time to get ready. It’s going to be slightly awkward, just accept it – they’ve already agreed to meet you, so you’ve got that going for you (you go Glen Coco).

"Uhh..." image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

“Uhh…”
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

Let’s start with the conversation prep. It is essential that you prepare questions to ask. Again, they’re doing you a favor, so you need to go in there with multiple conversation starters. Similar to a date, we want to avoid as many awkward silences as possible. You always know that it was at least a decent date if you left having good conversation- the same goes for the initial informational interview. People, as a whole, love talking about themselves, so asking questions about their career path, their current position and what their success tips are is always a good way to start. It’s an easy way to break the ice and connect with them. Similar to a first date, you want them to like you and feel a connection (or dare I say, a spark), so that down the line they feel comfortable recommending you to their superiors and/or think of you when a job opens up. Feel free to answer their questions as well- this is a two way street, and you need not pretend you’re not looking for a position if asked, but NEVER ask them for a job- it’s rude and they may not be in a position to offer you one. Cue the super awkwardness.

Let’s talk about dress, baby.

First rule of thumb, whatever you do, don’t roll in to the meeting looking like a slob-ka-bob. First impressions matter. I once went on a date where the guy showed up in a baseball hat and gym shorts. Glad you cared enough to dress up.  Know your industry. If we go back to the Google example from last week, you probably don’t need to rock your designer suit, but looking like you care about the meeting and you put some effort into your appearance is important. If you’re info interviewing somebody that works in a profession where suits are commonplace- wear a suit.

Additional tid-bits.

These are the things you learn only through experience. One, don’t show up too early, but don’t show up late. If you are going to be late, send a quick email, just like you would send a text to your date.

Two, once you’ve hit the designated time marker, stop talking. If you asked for twenty minutes, but are having awesome conversation, stop at the twenty minute mark and say something along the lines of, “We’re just about at 20 minutes, I don’t want to take up much more of you’re time, I’m sure you’re really busy.” Let the employer determine if they can stay and chat longer.

Three, isn’t nice when get a lovely text message after your date that says something along the lines of, “hey, I had fun, let’s get together again soon”? Super sweet right? Same goes for after you have an informational interview- send a thank you email and let them know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. We have samples on our site.

image source: http://giphy.com/

image source: http://giphy.com/

Finally, keep the goodbye as normal as possible. The dating world makes goodbyes uncomfortable and weird and I honestly believe that it has scarred our interactions with others. Ask for a business card, say “thank you for your time”, and finish off with a firm handshake. That is all.

Just like dating, some interviews will be good, and some will be eh. Being prepared and making a good impression will set you up for future success.

Do you like mind games? Because next week we’ll be discussing the Courtship.

What advice do you have for those conducting informational interviews? Are there any other parallels you can pull from going on a first date?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part II

Last week we touched upon the social/in person approach to networking, or what I referred to as “happenstance”, where you meet somebody by chance or ideally, purposely put yourself in situations where you could potentially meet somebody that shares similar interests (networking event, student group, you get it).

Well, congratulations! You have now graduated to “the blind approach” and “online dating/networking,” so let’s get this party started.someecards-online-datingLet’s start with the networking equivalent to online dating: LinkedIn.  So you’re on OKCupid, or Match.com and you’re browsing profiles, looking for people with similar interests that catch your eye (Tinder is too shallow for this, sorry).  Let’s just point out the obvious: you’re not looking for your life partner. Yes, that person may very well be your soul mate, but for now you’re just looking for a nice date and some good food.  You find a suitable match; you send them a message and wait. LinkedIn acts very similarly, but instead of looking for potential future exes, you’re looking for people who either work in a place you’re interested in working, or in a position that you’re interested in learning more about.

Let me reiterate, you’re not looking for somebody to give you a job, but just trying to connect, learn about, and ask for advice from somebody in the industry.  Just like on the first date you wouldn’t ask somebody to be your bf/gf, you wouldn’t ask for a job during an informational interview– which is what these are called btw (if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you click the link above).  Networking– like dating– can be a slow process, you have to invest the time and energy to learn more about that person and company.  Then with luck and timing, it generally blossoms into something better.

Let’s say you are interested in working for Google.  Assuming your LI profile is sparkling the internship movie wilson vaughn and up-to-date, you decide to do an advanced people search and type “Northeastern” into the school and “Google” into the company section. Your search reveals that you actually have 3 first degree connections, and 15 second degree connections! (Who knew Aunt Sally had a friend that works at Google?) So you browse their profiles to determine which person’s profile appeals to you and who you think would be best to talk to in order to learn more about Google.  Pretty standard and the process is not too dissimilar from perusing OKCupid profiles.

The Career Development website actually has a guide and language you can use to help you draft a message to a person you may not know that well (or at all). Also, check the calendar for “LinkedIn 2: Advanced Networking” workshops, which run every other week to give you a more in depth look into how to navigate LinkedIn to connect with people.

So you send your message, and you wait.  Good for you!  You’ve “blindly approached” somebody online!  And similar to online dating, feel free to follow up after a couple weeks if somebody doesn’t respond. Maybe they didn’t get your message.  Just don’t be a stalker and follow up 3 hours later. Desperation is never attractive.

PS: if you are doing this at a networking event or family party, the same rules apply!  Don’t forget to ask for a business card and tell them you’ll follow up and keep them posted, that way they expect to hear from you.

Have you ever blindly approached somebody for an informational interview? If so, what advice do you have for others? If not, what are your reservations?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part I

So let’s start with the initial approach.  Realistically, there are three ways to meet potential dating victims.  Two of which are very targeted and deliberate. The other one is more luck and timing.

  1. The first way (and the bravest if you ask me) is blindly approaching the person.
    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    source: tumblr, New Girl, Fox

    This tends to happen at more casual outings and events etc. (this is actually way less scary at a networking event).

  2. The second way is online dating, aka OK Cupid, Match or some other constituent (LinkedIn and in some cases Twitter, is the online equivalent in the professional realm.)
  3. The final way tends to be more happenstance.  You meet somebody through a student organization or through a class project and hit it off.  Worst case, you’re at the same event and you’re both waiting in line for the bathroom (an unfortunate place to be in).

We’re going to focus on happenstance today and touch upon the braver approaches later. Let’s ease into this networking thing.

The initial approach, regardless of the circumstance, is generally awkward, but often times we walk away thinking (I hope), “that wasn’t too bad” or at least, “it could have been worse.”  And the person you were talking to on most occasions is generally nice and receptive.  It’s easier to meet somebody when you share a common interest.  “I met someone I would later date because we were in a play together,” says Amy Henion, a recent Communications grad, “we both obviously were theater geeks, and hit it off right away.”  Networking generally works the same way.

"On Wednesdays we wear pink!" source: perezhilton.com

“On Wednesdays we wear pink!” Mean Girls
 source: perezhilton.com

The easiest way to meet somebody is to go to events and join professional and student organizations related to your major and interests, thus, deliberately putting yourself in situations where it’s natural to meet somebody who is doing something you’re interested in.  Plus, you have that common thread now, so there is something to talk about aside from the weather, the Sox’s latest loss, or one of the Kardashians.

Example: if you’re a Physical Therapist or in any healthcare field for that matter, consider volunteering at the Red Cross, or for a big event like the Boston Marathon.  You’ll meet people with some pull and it looks good on a resume (just saying).

You can also tap the network you already have.  Lots of people get together through friends and networking is similar.  Ask former co-op supervisors, faculty, friends and even family if they know anyone working at “X” company.  Those are easy matches and generally lead to solid conversations.  Just make sure you follow through so you don’t make your friend look like a fool, or ruin a potential match made in heaven.

Do you have a successful “happenstance” networking story?  What are tips you would give and questions you asked?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

 

Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating

Generally, when I mention the word “networking” to students, a look of sheer panic fills their eyes.  It’s as if I asked them to recite the Declaration of Independence or some obscure Shakespeare passage.  As a Career Counselor, I am a huge advocate of networking, but as a Millennial myself, I understand the uncomfortable feeling of actually talking to a stranger in person, or even worse, over the phone (and I’m generally using a land line, yes, they still exist).

You don't have a target card?! source: reddit.com

You don’t have a target card?!
source: reddit.com

Over the course of my various career coaching/counseling appointments with students, I found myself trying to convince them that networking really wasn’t that bad and then, all of a sudden, it hit me (I knew that look of pure panic looked vaguely familiar). Networking was a lot like dating.  You know that moment when you think that guy or girl is kind of cute?  Maybe you’re in class or out with friends, and you’re just not sure exactly how to approach the situation.  “Should I say something, or no?  What would I even say?  Maybe they won’t like me.  Why did I wear this stupid shirt?”  I noticed a lot of my clients were having the same if not similar reactions/questions when I was encouraging them to network.  “What am I supposed to even say?  Why would they want to even talk to me?  I feel annoying.  Can I wear this shirt?”

My epiphany inspired me to write this series.  To give you a little preview, the next few posts are as follows and will appear weekly:

  1. The Initial Approach (parts I and II)
  2. The First Date
  3. The Courtship
  4. Let’s go steady

Stay tuned and hopefully I’ll hit two birds with one stone here.

What are some aspects about networking that freak you out?  What are some tips, for those of you who feel comfortable networking, you would give to green networkers?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.