How would you like to go through your entire career and never have a resume? It’s really something to think about. Creating a resume is tough. Everyone has been through it. You sit down and try to put everything you ever did on paper and hope that it stands out to a hiring manager. But does it really matter, and how much emphasis should be put on networking?
At a recent Adcraft Club of Detroit party, I was sitting and striking up a conversation with a Sales Director, let’s call him Rick, I had met once before on a Detroit River cruise for a similar function. Since the party was starting out slow I struck up a conversation with him on his career, because, to me, knowing how somebody got where they are is priceless to my own growth. Anyways, Rick told me the most valuable thing you can ever do for your career is network. “Networking,” he said, “is about making personal connections.” Without the personal connection you are just another name on a piece of paper.
He went on to explain to me that, fail his first job, he never had a resume. He networked. Not just through networking events but through other means as well. Rick would find someone who was doing something that really interested him, an innovator. He would contact that innovator and ask to buy him/her a cup of coffee. “I haven’t been turned down yet,” he said. “Don’t burn any bridges,” Rick said later. The industry in much too small and tight-knit to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth. It’s not that you will run into them in a future position it’s that you won’t be able to find a future position. Word travels fast. It’s important to keep a positive attitude at work and treat everyone with equal respect.
Here’s a few things to do to improve your networking skills:
- Research the people you want to talk to. For this you have to be creative. Follow their social networking accounts, if any. Get familiar with their work. Read overviews of presentations they have given. Find out as much as you can about them. They will realize that you are resourceful, smart, and driven. You may also be able to make some personal connections by reviewing these kinds of information and that always helps in the process.
- Know what questions you want answered. Don’t just assume they will give you all the information you want once you start talking. Obviously you want to let the conversation flow. It should be that, a conversation. Don’t have your questions come off like a firing line. If you run out of time now you have another reason to follow up. And respect their time. If they give you 15 minutes, don’t overstay your welcome.
- Know your story. Have a quick 15-30 second overview on your background ready. Don’t bore them with the details but when someone asks what you do be prepared with a solid story. This is something you should practice and have ready, your own elevator speech.
- Put yourself out there by scheduling your ‘coffee dates’, attending industry events, volunteering, and following up. The key is to network in as many ways as you can. Schedule the coffee dates as Rick suggests. Attend industry events and get involved in those groups. Also, don’t forget to follow up. Personally, I think handwritten notes are best.
If you are really interested in learning more about this topic I recommend a book by Pete Leibman entitled I Got My Dream Job and So Can You. What else do you recommend is important in networking?
This is Kaizen for your goals – continuous improvement.
Kaizen is about continuous improvement. Japanese automakers used this process to improve processes created by American automakers to steal market share. Now I have created a series entitled Kaizen for Your Goals. It’s about continually improving yourself to make your goals a reality quicker and more effectively. Small steps now = big results later.