The two most common questions I receive from people starting out are:
- How do I get in the door?
- And, how do I build my own professional network
To find the answers, I tracked down two of the best-networked professionals I know to talk about how to get started.
Jen Fleishman and Miguel Perez are account directors at Ologie. Both relocated to this market from New York City. And, not only landed at incredible jobs here, but also quickly built up significant professional and personal networks.
Just to give you a taste of the feats of networking genius these two are able to pull off: Miguel recently signed up 1298 people to HIS TEAM for the Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure.
The #1 tool in networking isn't LinkedIn or Facebook, it's a paper list. Or a lot of little lists.
Advergirl: What's your best advice on how to start building a network?
Miguel: When I came back here from New York, I asked people I know to make lists of people they were connected to in the industry who might be good for me to talk to. I'd have coffee with that person and ask for another list - who did they think I should talk to?
Jen: It's an informational interview. You find the person who has the job you want 10 years from now and find a way to meet them. Through people who you know. Parent networking. Or just getting on the phone.
Miguel: Everyone you come into contact with knows someone who can introduce you to someone. You just take them out for coffee. It doesn't have to be fancy. It's not a big dress-up interview.
Miguel: It's how I met my business partner when I moved to Columbus. I still network this way constantly. I always say yes to people who ask to talk to me about their carers.
Jen: I picked industries I liked and often spoke with women executives there. I'd bounce some ideas off them and get career steering. This is what I'm thinking about doing - is it a good idea?
Jen: I got a lot of job offers this way. By being buttoned up, asking good questions and being genuinely curious about what they do.
Miguel: People love to help. It's as simple as saying: I want to get started and I don't know how.
Jen: You do have to set expectations, you might have 10 painful conversations before you get one meaningful one. You're not making friends. You're making contacts.
Miguel: Networking and getting a job are so different. It's not who you're going to work for. I help people get jobs all the time. I have folders full of letters and cards from people I've met with. My niece graduated three or four years ago and she and her friends knew her uncle was well connected. They contacted me and I met with them and helped them get started.
Advergirl: What about networking events?
Jen: Sure, there are local professional networking events. And, professional organizations, like the National Association of Female Executives.
Miguel: I think networking is a product of being places. Talking to people, not necessarily networking events.
Jen: If you do go, breaking the ice is just a matter of being confident and calm enough to be able to talk to people. Ask questions like:
- Do you know this speaker? Have you heard her talk before?
- What organization are you with?
- What do you do? Why are you here?
- Have you been to events like this before?
Jen: One trick I use at a conference or event is to say I'm conducting an informal survey and ask a question, like: which tradeshow booth has the best giveaway?
Can't I Use Some Technology?
Of course. This is still Advergirl afterall. I can't get away from my technology addiction entirely.
Three ways to use online tools for networking:
- Keep a list: LinkedIn and Plaxo are, fundamentally, great rolodexes. When you get unexpectedly laid off or just need to remember the name of that great writer you met once, those tools put that information at your fingertips. Track down anyone who you respect enough to recommend and send them an invite.
- Make connections: If there's a particular agency who you want to get to know and offline networking hasn't found you a connection, LI and FB can be great backdoors. Search for someone who works at that agency and reach out. Follow Miguel's advice of just being humble, saying you're getting started, you admire where they work, and you'd love to talk for a few minutes.
- Build relationships: The other great feature of all three networking tools is the Updates list. When contacts log a new job, a promotion, etc., you get notice. And, a great opportunity to solidify your network by sending congratulations, a relevant article, etc.
Tomorrow: Questions YOU should ask in an interview to sound savvy and get meaningful answers