Why You’re Failing at Networking…
There is no shortage of advice on how to convert networking opportunities to potential job leads- listen more than you speak, follow-up with every new connection, consistently attend events. However, the challenge for seasoned professionals is not how to network, but where to network.
After years of making the networking rounds, where can high-level, experienced professionals go to make lucrative, impactful connections?
Join specialized organizations
Every professional level has its own unique language, obstacles, and goals. Managers must tackle very different issues than someone at a lower level. Because of this, it’s important to find organizations that not only specialize in your industry, but your professional level as well. Becoming a member of an organization comprised of like-minded and similarly positioned professionals will increase the quality of your networking and bring a much higher return on your networking investment.
Take-on a board position or other leadership role
As a young professional, there is much you can glean from the seasoned men and women you meet at a networking event. However, there will come a time (probably faster than you realized) when you are now the one with the experience and knowledge to share. Taking on a position of leadership within an organization is a very lucrative way to spend your networking hours. Not only will you interact with other professionals at your level and beyond, but you will quickly become one of the “go to expert,” building yourself a strong reputation. In addition, board members themselves have unique organizations, and groups you can also be a part of, bringing even more networking opportunities your way.
Create a group of your own
Recognizing a hole in the marketplace back in 2009, I rebranded my executive search firm to focus on placing Sales & Marketing professionals. Very quickly, I realized this was a highly specialized population with unique professional needs and nowhere to go to address them. As a result, I created the Sales & Marketing Leadership Alliance. This organization is designed to offer career development and networking opportunities specifically centered around Sales & Marketing professionals in leadership roles. Members of our organization are invited to present at our monthly chapter meetings, share content with the group through our website, and connect outside our walls to develop stronger professional relationships. As the founder of the organization, I have grown my reputation as a thought leader within both the Sales & Marketing and recruiting industries and my own network has expanded ten-fold.
Spend some time in the NON-professional world.
Naturally, most passive and active job seekers tend to focus their networking time on professional organizations. But let’s not forget about the NON-professional world. Much like dating, the best place to start a business relationship is while doing something you both enjoy. Cooking class, golf lessons, fundraisers, or volunteering at your local animal shelter are all excellent ways to meet other like-minded professionals. They’re also a lot more fun than standing around a room with strangers, exchanging business cards while drinking cheap wine. These out of the box relationships can easily translate into new business contacts and job leads.
All professionals should be looking for networking opportunities that will do more than deliver a pocket full of business cards and a few faceless connections on LinkedIn. In order to take networking to the next level, invest your time in organizations that are specific to your industry and fits with your level, take on leadership roles within those groups, and if one doesn’t exist…Create one of your own!