Mary Anne Kochut, author of “Power vs. Perception: Ten Characteristics of Self-Empowerment for Women,” was hired as the assistant vice president for learning and development at the financial service firm Pershing LLC, as a result of someone she met at a networking group.
A member of the group referred her to a recruiter that he knew. When an opportunity soon became available for which she was qualified, the recruiter referred her to his client for an interview. Ultimately she was offered the job.
It is not enough simply to join a networking group though. You have to take advantage of what the group offers.
Christine Bronstein, a Columbia Business School graduate and former CEO of one of the few women-run, venture-backed health and fitness companies, founded a networking group after finding herself a new stay-at-home mom.
Despite her wide-ranging background, no matter how varied the activities she involved herself in, she always seemed to find herself with the same people.
Bronstein felt that women needed a networking platform that provided a diverse, multi-generational mix, including working women and stay at home moms, as well individuals reflecting a broad spectrum of political views. So she founded a Band of Women, which has grown, in just a few years, to a community of over 7,000, with both an online and event-based presence.
Bronstein believes that to use networking groups effectively, you first need to find the right groups. “What is the right fit for you? If you are looking for friendship, for example, an entrepreneur group is likely to disappoint,” she notes. If you can’t find a group that satisfies your needs, you can always start your own, like Bronstein did.
The Ladders’ job search expert, Amanda Augustine, points out that benefits are not derived from joining a networking group but rather from what you do once you join.
“If you join online groups, choose one or two in which to become an active participant,” Augustine says. “This means monitoring online discussions on a weekly basis, sharing relevant articles, posting questions and commenting on conversations when you have something valuable to add. If you’re attending a live event, come with a game plan and business cards.”
Review the agenda, research the speakers and study the list of RSVPs. Then, she suggests that you create a goal for yourself, such as meeting three to five new people or learning more about a subject that’s relevant to your goals.
Business coach Eric Lopkin advises, “Networking is not about the people in the room. Most of the people that you meet at a networking event will never buy from you or hire you. Networking is about getting to know people well enough that they feel comfortable recommending you to people they know.¨
Networking is also about giving, according to Fabian DeRozario, a trainer for the National Society of Leadership and Success. That requires following up. To do that you need to be organized.
DeRozario utilizes his smart phone as a repository for information about the people he meets. Taking notes after each interaction, he is able to capture and recall spouse/partner’s names, children’s ages, career history and other personal information. He also assigns himself “homework” at the end of each conversation
Mike Fishbein, author of “Business Networking: How to Build an Awesome Professional Network,” offers the following tips:
• Maintain regular and consistent contact with people without being a nag. Continually look for ways to help and promote the people in your group.
•Introduce people in your group to people you know outside of the group. Being a connector is one of the best ways to build your network and increase the number of referrals you receive in return.
•Get to know people on a more personal level by inviting them to join you in non-work activities.
•Build relationships over time. People like to do business with people they like and trust.
Getting the most out of networking groups requires focusing on the people that you connect with and their needs, rather than on yourself and what you want.
DeRozario suggests that you demonstrate that value in all your interactions with members of a networking group.
“Be interested instead of interesting,” he says. “People will find you more engaging and memorable the more they have the opportunity to talk about themselves.”
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com