Networking 101 – building strong friendships so people will RECOMMEND you

On May 13, 2012 by Andy Bandy Man

Let’s say you have a Bachelor’s degree and 3-5 years of work experience. You read on Harvard Business School’s careers site that 65 to 85% of jobs are found through “networking.” But what does this mean?  How do you effectively network your way into a great job that will take you to the next step of your career?

  • Go to business-related events and conferences in your city?
  • Exchange business cards at random business events?
  • Message people on LinkedIn?
  • Find interesting companies on the Internet and e-mail their HR departments?
Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.

 

THE PROPER WAY TO “NETWORK” – Just make friends with interesting people
I have made the rounds at trade shows, networking events, etc. and can say I have made VERY FEW lasting relationships from approaching random people at these events. But yet, I have been able to build a fairly strong professional network over the years. I believe the best method is the following three step process:
  1. Make friends with co-workers, classmates, and people that you think are doing interesting and innovative things – even if they are not working on things directly related to what you are working on
  2. Keep in touch – if you don’t live in the city, even just dropping an e-mail once every 4-6 months is fine
  3. If they are working on something you are interested in, ask them for 30 minutes of their time to talk about it
That’s it. If they can help you, they often will offer to help by recommending you – either to a job, an event, or by connecting you to somebody else that can help you. The recommendation will be even stronger if you’ve developed a personal or working connection – by meeting up for a coffee, or by working together on something (e.g., working on a non-profit initiative with a co-worker, organizing an Alumni event with a college classmate).

Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappo’s) outlined a similar method in his fantastic book “Delivering Happiness.” He says that he has found that if you just focus on making friends with interesting people, 2-3 years down the line something good often seems to come from these relationships – and almost never in a transactional kind of way.

 

WHY DOES THIS METHOD WORK?  - Because you will get recommended 
A trusted recommendation carries far more weight than anything else when looking for a job. Here’s an example. Your best friend, who is the CEO of the leading frozen waffle company, needs to hire somebody immediately for an awesome job. Who do you recommend?
  • Friends you have worked with before (at a company, on a non-profit Board, or in a class)
  • Friends with credentialing signals (a lot of times it’s BS, but sorry that’s how it usually works – if you are getting a PhD from MIT most people will assume you are smart)
  • Acquaintances that come in highly recommended by people you trust, and that you have spoken to at least a few times already (from those conversations, you will often have a perception of whether they are recommendable or not)

I will NOT recommend the random guy who I talked to once at a conference, or the dude from my freshman year Intro to Humanities class who dropped me a Facebook message after not speaking for 5 years.

The only way to get recommended is by getting to know and keeping in touch with a wide circle of friends, so they will think of and recommend you when these opportunities come up.

 

TO CONCLUDE: 

Networking with random people – with the obvious goal of trying to get something out of your conversation - is a complete waste of time. Maybe if you are a supermodel asking a computer nerd for help you can “network” with random people, but for the rest of us it simply doesn’t work.

Focus on getting to know interesting people first, and they will naturally start to recommend you to other people that might be able to help you when the time comes for you to find a job or business opportunity.

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