The Step-by-Step HBSASC Workshop was a highly interactive program focused on the art of networking in which a wide range of topics were covered. Here are some of the pearls of wisdom that came out of the session.
Building an effective elevator pitch:
A key element to being an effective networker is to be able to describe what you do in 10 to 15 seconds. Most people are familiar with this concept; however, many people have uninspiring sound bits. The objective of an elevator speech is to engage the person whom you are speaking with and get them to ask you a little more about yourself. One rule of thumb that our experts suggest is to speak in terms of what you do, not your job title.
“I work with people who want to feel comfortable when speaking in public.”
“I am a communications consultant.”
“I find people jobs.”
“I am a recruiter.”
A natural reaction to the suggested descriptions is a question such as, “How?” back from your audience. You have successfully engaged them!
Working the room: There are many very effective techniques for networking in a group environment. Here are a few that our experts feel are helpful.
- Always have a goal. It can be as simple as saying I am going to get three business cards from people who can help me.
- Do someone a favor. Networking is a two way street. People will help you if you help them. One of the goals you may want to set for yourself before going into a networking opportunity is to help three people.
- Tell a story to get your point across. Your audience will remember your story if it is a good one and link it to you making you more memorable.
- Carry a pen and write down a few memorable things about each person after you speak with them on the back of their card. Just about everyone in the session had had experiences where they met a number of people a group setting, collected a numerous cards and then, when they were ready to act on the contacts, couldn’t quite remember who was who.
- Always have a business card even if you don’t have a job and make sure the quality is good. Your card is all your audience has after you leave so make sure it reflects well on you. There are a number of on-line site where you can order cards and get them in a few days. One such site is www.iprint.com.
The informational interview: Just about everyone knows informational interviews are a great way to work your way into a company, however, peoples effectiveness in this area varies widely. Here is one way to approach the process.
There are a variety of ways of getting an informational interview, but you must first choose your target. You are better off if you can find a connection. For example, someone who knows someone in the organization and will let you use their name or someone who is part of a club, association or an alumni that you belong to that is in the organization. The more senior the person the better.
Once you choose your audience you need to make sure you get the messaging right. If you position the discussion as just wanting to connect and either get some advise or learn more about the space, the company or a specific initiative you will increase you chances dramatically of getting an audience. Asking for a job before you have a relationship with the person is a sure fire way to get a quick no.
Once you meet with the person get some advice or learn more about the space, the company or a specific initiative. Also tell them a little about you and what you are looking for. At the end of the discussion ALWAYS ask them if there is anyone else they would recommend you speak with either in their organization or in another organization. If they give you someone, ask if you can use their name. NEVER ask for a job. You have just hopefully spent 30-60 minutes with this person, if they liked you and they knew of a job they would have told you about it.
After the meeting, follow-up with a thank you note. If they gave you contacts, make sure you follow-up with them after you meet with those contacts. This gives you a reason to speak with them and is common courtesy.