Networking in Action with Own The Boardroom

Your network is the greatest resource you have.

Think about the last decision you made – did you use the opinions, reviews, or recommendations of others to make that decision? That’s the power of a network. Your network is an extension of you; they’ll vouch for you, they’ll refer you, they’ll help you.

Your network is the most efficient path to your goals. No one reaches success on their own.

Despite all the benefits of networking, most people seem to hate it. If you search the term in Google, you’ll find articles upon articles with titles like “networking for people who hate networking”.

Networking feels uncomfortable and scary; let’s change how we perceive it.  By the end of this you’ll feel confident and comfortable with networking. Are you ready?

No time to read? Click here to listen to the podcast version, or watch the presentation:

What exactly is networking?

As Devora Zack defines it in her book, Networking for People Who Hate Networking; “Building and maintaining connections with others for shared positive outcomes”.  No wonder you hate the idea of networking. Does that sound fun to you?

In plain speak, networking is meeting people and staying in touch.

You already have a network. Your friends, family, professors, coaches, anyone that you have a relationship with – that’s your network.

Photos via Northeastern University Networking in Action event

Photos via Northeastern University Networking in Action Event

Why bother networking?

It may sound basic but it’s true: Opportunities are all about who you know. Think about it:

Whether you’re buying something off Amazon, deciding whether to swipe left or right in a dating app, whether you’re trying a new restaurant – it’s all thanks to a mutual connection or recommendation.

That doesn’t change with business decisions. No matter how close to the top you are in a hierarchy, you’re always going to consider recommendations from people you trust.

According to an ABC News report from 2012, 80% of people find a new job through networking. It’s possible that number has increased to 85%, as identified by Lou Adler’s 2016 report.

Clearly, it’s going to be more efficient to network your way into a job than continue sending your resume into the black hole of online job applications.

How do I network?

We know networking is meeting people and staying in touch.  That can literally happen everywhere! For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on strategy during networking events.

When you’re at a networking event, everyone is there to meet other people. Yes, networking events feel formal and business-y; keep in mind that everyone is there expecting to talk to strangers and you’ll feel more comfortable introducing yourself.

Christopher Barrat’s TEDx talk, Successful Networking – The Ultimate Guide, explains four steps to building a successful business relationship

You have to move through these phases in order – no skipping ahead! When building your network, you focus on the first two; Know, Like.

You’re not pitching yourself. You’re not handing out resumes. You’re getting to know people as people, and the most effective way to do that is to barely talk at all. Listen to others, ask relevant follow up questions, give them your full attention.

Barrat sums it up as “Be interested. Not interesting”.

How do I know who to talk to?

Barrat’s TEDx talk also addresses tips on how to decide which conversation to join. Essentially, look for groups where there’s an open space for you to stand. Barrat refers to these as “open two’s” and “open threes”.

In the networking image below I identify open and closed groups. Look at the closed two – they’re facing each other directly, off to the side, they’re chatting. Compare that to the open two on the far right – they’re clearly engaged with each other but their body language is turned slightly outward which makes an opening for you to walk into.

But how do I do it?

Strategy is nice but you have to do it. Hopefully you feel a little better about the concept of networking at this point, but if you don’t – don’t worry. Networking is something that gets easier the more you do it.

So let’s talk tactics that will help you take those first steps:

It all starts with you walking up to a stranger, and introducing yourself. It sounds uncomfortable, but remember that everyone at networking events is expecting to meet strangers, so it’s socially acceptable in this context. I personally find that exiting conversations without feeling rude is the most difficult part.  In the full presentation, we discuss tried-and-true phrases (three each!) to use for entering a conversation and exiting a conversation. Scroll down to access the presentation for free and receive these concrete tips.

Remember, networking is meeting people and staying in touch. At a networking event you’re focusing on the first part – meeting people – and the goal is to give others the opportunity to know and like you. Likewise, you want to know and like them.

How do you feel now? Are you ready to network?

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This post is a summary of Own The Boardroom’s presentation that kicked-off Northeastern University’s Networking in Action. The event was organized by Michelle Dubow a Career Advisor at Northeastern University. This post was written by Erica Zahka CEO/Founder of Own The Boardroom.

Want to experience the full talk?  Access it here for free.

In this presentation you’ll learn:

  • How to think about networking so it’s not scary
  • The basics of networking; what it is, where it happens, do’s and don’t’s
  • Strategy for assessing which group(s) to approach first
  • Tried-and-true statements for introducing yourself and exiting conversations

OTB offers everything you need to make a powerful first impression: subscribe to learn how to present your best-self in any business situation and keep an eye on our suit options to rent business professional attire when you need it (women’s attire coming soon!).

 

What’s The Deal With Company Culture?

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downloadWhen looking for a job, most interviewees try desperately hard to impress the interviewer by being marketable and portraying the best version of themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Great interviewees research the position, company, and the individuals they will meet during the interview. Most people spend their time preparing their physical appearance, reviewing mock interview questions, and being agreeable during the entire interview process. But how about the interviewer portraying their best, performing their research on the candidate, and preparing respectable questions? There are many things that candidates can learn and pick up about the company culture during their one hour interview or even before!

One of the things I find most helpful is researching the company. I don’t mean just looking at their objectives and pipeline or the current news on their latest breakthrough. Try and connect with people who are in the company to find out how they enjoy what they do and how their work environment makes their job a welcoming place before the interview. You need to find out if people feel like they’re making a difference in the company and if they’re happy when at work (yes, there is such a thing!)

the-art-of-information-interviews-managing-americans-postHere is a list of some possible questions that you can ask on an informational interview:

  • Can you please describe the kind of work that you do here?
  • Do you feel like you are making an impact at this company?
  • Can you describe the company culture and how that plays a role on work performance?
  • What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

It’s important to get the scoop on how the company works in terms of the work atmosphere and if everyone is being treated with respect. Everyone from the intern to the CEO should feel well respected and that they are succeeding their career goals in their positions.

Back to the interview! I’m not an expert on reading body language, but there are some signs you can pick up on.

  • During the interview, is the interviewer giving you their full attention or checking their phone every 2 minutes?
  • Did you arrive at the interview only to find out that it has been rescheduled without your knowledge?
  • Does the interviewer seem unprepared when explaining the position or asking about key major details they should know are already clearly printed on your resume?
  • Does the staff look happy or at least content during the tour of the workspace?
  • Does the staff seem like they’re friendly and get along with each other?
  • Can you feel tension amongst the employees when you walk into the office?

If you’re in a situation where the company culture is far from ideal, there are small ways that you can make some changes by doing your part in providing a safe work environment where people can grow and learn from one another with a high level of respect. Respect everyone and remember that you’re in a team environment. Sure, mistakes can happen, but how you react to them and help others can make all the difference in the world.

Joviane Bellegarde is a Northeastern Alumna hailing from the Class of 2014. She graduated with a BS in Biochemistry and is working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a Technical Research Assistant. In her free time, she enjoys reading, catching up on her favorite shows, and expressing her inner geek. Email her at bellegarde.j@husky.neu.edu or connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jovianebellegarde.

Twitter! Your Networking Secret Weapon

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The pinnacle of my college networking experiences came in the form of tea in New York City with a writer from my favorite magazine. I slipped away from my final semester for a week to network while I could still use the whole “college student figuring out what I want to do with my life” excuse to ask for people’s time. What my career counselor found to be most miraculous about this particular informational interview was not that I was fortunate enough to have it, it was how. In retrospect, my request was quite long-winded and ridiculous. Journalists, I have found, are a laid-back, friendly bunch, though I was too intimidated at the time and could only muster formalities. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first ever tweet had something to do with the frozen vegetable medley I made with dinner, complete with a hashtag I can’t remember. While that account no longer exists, I filled it with 140-character bursts of millennial genius while latching onto every word Bret Easton Ellis and Nikki Sixx tweeted, and used it to catch up with my internet friends. Everybody starts somewhere. When I got my own radio show on WRBB, I created a Twitter account to promote it and the local musicians I spun and interviewed on-air. Twitter continued to prove a worthwhile tool during an internship with ‘stache media/RED Distribution when I began using the same account to post content about larger/more well-known music artists, which were subsequently shared by said artists, venues, and record labels. Tweeting mostly about music, I began having some semblance of clout. And then one Friday, I tweeted #FF (for #FollowFriday, where the goal is to call attention to accounts worth paying attention to) and listed every writer I could find from my favorite magazine. Most of them ignored it, two of them favorited it, and one followed me back. After we started engaging with each other’s posts, I felt comfortable enough to ask him for his email address and sent a request to meet up for an informational interview the next time I was in New York. This was a few years ago, and his family and I keep in touch.

I share this now with the intent to provide basic guidelines for how one can create one’s own experiences and foster meaningful connections (that can turn into friendships) through Twitter. Social networks, after all, are called “networks” for a reason.

Understanding Twitter’s True Value

My favorite thing about Twitter is how accessible people are — the writers, the celebrities, the executives, the Forbes 30 Under 30. On LinkedIn, you need to be a certain degree to a person in order to message him/her, but with Twitter, you can reach out to anyone. Not only does Twitter provide an opportunity to engage with people on a more personal level, it allows you to keep up with industry trends and happenings in real time.


building-up-strong-connections-on-twitterFinding Ideal Contacts

Interested in working at a specific company?
Follow everyone you can who lists employment at your dream company in their bio. Engage with them about the professional content they post (taking interest in the personal life of someone you’ve never interacted with is creepy). As with anything, being overzealous isn’t appealing — liking or retweeting every tweet your ideal connection posts isn’t going to make a good impression. Instead, share a link to an article or video this person posted and include his/her handle at the end with “via @username.” If he/she wrote an article, tweet the link, tag the person, and write about the value it gave you.

Trying to break into a specific field? Find out who the influencers are by following industry publications and those who write for them. The more time you spend reading up on an industry, the more informed you are of real world applications, trends, and executives. When you engage with potential contacts, you’ll come across as someone who pays attention.

Establishing Your Voice & Rules of Engagement (Don’t be a sycophant)

  • Notice what your potential contacts tweet and how they do it. Of course, don’t curse or get political (even if they do), but, given your field, emojis can be acceptable here.
  • Be a human, not a robot. People like authenticity, not those who are all business, so don’t be afraid to intersperse personal tidbits in your posts. Big sports fan? Tweet about the game. Went to a concert one night? Share a photo.
  • When sharing content about your field, tag all those involved and always give credit when and where it’s due.
  • If you’re not knowledgeable about something, be resourceful and do some research. If you don’t know where to start, tweet to an influencer: “Not too familiar with this but would love to learn. Who are your favorite writers on the subject? What websites do you recommend I look at?” If you show an interest in learning, people are apt to respond in your favor.
  • Do NOT “troll” people, start arguments, rant about a bad day you’re having, or subtweet (passive-aggressive hints at a problem or frustration without directly mentioning the issue).

Twitter can be a great networking tool if you take advantage of the platform and create opportunities for yourself. Who knows who you’ll click with and where it could lead? Remember, you can’t control whether people respond to you, but you can control your approach.

A graduate of Northeastern with a degree in English, Ashley previously was the News Director and a DJ for WRBB 104.9 FM, the university’s student-run radio station. When she’s not working at Apple, she writes for music blogs and builds her marketing portfolio. Informational interviews, cooking and rock & roll are some of her favorite things. Tell her what you’re listening to via Twitter @amjcbs or connect with her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/amjcbs).