Are you good at networking? Executive recruiter Sharon Mah-Gin shares her advice on how to be a better networker, including why it’s critical to attend events, how to thrive at small talk, how to leverage LinkedIn, and the ideal networking mindset.
References & Links
MINDSET FOR NETWORKING
- Networking is about an EXCHANGE or RECIPROCALITY
- Networking is a mutual exchange of information, contacts, and ideas.You must offer value (information about your firm/ industry or access to your network).
- The biggest networking mistake people is not offering anything in return. Selfish networking doesn’t work.
- People are BUSY
- It’s tough to get on people’s calendars. It’s not personal. That’s partly why the exchange point is so critical.
- Networking is a LIFE-LONG endeavour
- It’s not just for when you’re looking for a job. When you’re a student, a young employee, or if your career is well-established, we all need to get out of our comfort zones and network. As Sharon says, your network can be your competitive point of differentiation. You never stop networking.
NETWORKING AT EVENTS
- IRL EVENTS are EFFICIENT
- Instead of meeting with someone for coffee for an hour, you can meet with multiple people, all at one event (industry associations, conferences, cocktail parties, galas…)
- It’s the hour before the main event where the real networking happens.
- SURVIVING & THRIVING at SMALL TALK
- You don’t have to do much talking. Just ask Qs and listen.
- Follow the ABCDEs of Communication:
- A = Ask Qs
- B = Breathe – slow deep breathes.
- C = act Confident. Even if you don’t feel it. Act Confident.
- D = no Distractions.
- E – use your Ears, listen.
- Approach groups with an odd number of people. It’s easier to integrate into a group of 3 or 5 people, than a group of 2 or 4
- Go to these events with a friend. Your friend can bring up all of your amazing accomplishments without you sounding arrogant, right? They can also rescue you when you need to move on to talk to someone else.
- If you go to a networking event with friends, don’t take the easy way out and hang out with the people you already know! Sit at a different table!
- Volunteer for leadership role in industry associations. This helps us in terms of networking and also provides us with another line on our resume.
LINKEDIN as a NETWORKING TOOL
- LinkedIn has evolved from a job-searching tool to a NETWORKING tool
- It’s like a business card on steroids. You can provide all the details about you and your career that you want to share. Also:
- Use the PHOTOS to remember what people look like
- Reference your MUTUAL CONNECTIONS
- When you meet someone at an event, instead of giving them a business card, you can connect with them immediately &/or after the event via LinkedIn.
- It’s like a business card on steroids. You can provide all the details about you and your career that you want to share. Also:
References & Links
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonmahgin/
- Executive Search Alliance – http://www.execsearchalliance.com/
- Networking for Shy People:
- ? ABCDE’s of Communication PODCAST – https://talkabouttalk.com/24-abcdes-of-communication-with-dr-andrea-wojnicki/
- ABCDEs of Communication SUMMARY on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-simple-steps-improve-your-communication-skills-abcde-wojnicki/
- FastCompany – https://www.fastcompany.com/90453095/how-to-be-a-networking-pro-when-youre-shy-and-would-rather-stay-home
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- ? Andrea’s email – [email protected]
- ? Free Communication Coaching via the Weekly Email Blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- ? Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- ? Subscribe to the Podcast – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#subscribe
- ? Private Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2512948625658629/
Dr. Andrea’s Introduction
Well, hello there, Talk About Talk listeners. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki. Please call me Andrea. Thanks for listening. Talk About Talk is where you can learn to communicate more effectively, so you can do better at work and improve your relationships with everyone around you.
If you go to TalkAboutTalk.com, you can see the full archive of all the communication skills topics that we’ve covered in the podcasts and email blogs.
Today’s episode’s focused on NETWORKING. No, I don’t mean growing your social media network! We’re talking about establishing relationships with various people as a means to advance your carer progression and ultimately your success.
This is a skill that we all know is necessary, – but that many of us loathe. I remember in business school there was this – common theme that I kept hearing, about how important it was to be a good networker.
What do you think of when you think of networking? For many of us, we think of painfully boring cocktail parties or maybe emailing people to invite them out for coffee. Right? Ugh.
Well, I have great news. In today’s episode you will learn some do’s and donts for networking that will help you not only survive, but thrive at networking.
And this is relevant for absolutely everyone –
- whether you’re starting your career or you’re well established,
- whether you’re looking for a new job,
- maybe you could use some help with your hobby or your side hustle,
- perhaps you’re looking for a nanny or a plumber,
- maybe you’re looking for advice? Or simply to stretch your brain?
Here’s the thing: The stronger your network, the more access you will have to all of these things.
As you will hear from our guest expert Sharon Mah-Gin, Networking is a lifelong still. It never stops.
Perhaps not so randomly, I met Sharon through a work-related group that were both belonged to. Sharon is highly-networked. She is a go-getter with lots of energy, as you will hear. She is also a successful executive recruiter ….
In this episode, you will learn, as I said, important do’s and don’t’s for networking. Specifically, I want to prime you to listen for insights about an effective networking mindset, about networking IRL at events, and the significance of LinkedIn.
So how about I introduce Sharon and we’ll get into the interview right away? I’ll summarize the main learnings at the very end. And you don’t need to take notes because the summary and the transcript are all available in the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website.
Let me introduce Sharon to you now.
Sharon-Mah-Gin earned her Commerce degree from Queens and she is a CPA and CA.
She worked in auditing as and as controller before switching to executive search in 1996, when she started at Korn/Ferry International. During her tenure with Korn/Ferry, she led several practice areas including Healthcare, Professional Services, Industrial, and Consumer & Retail.
Sharon is now an independent executive recruiter having successfully completed engagements in all functional areas including sales, marketing, operations, HR, general management, and financial roles.
Sharon has also served on several boards, and she’s now working with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards program.
To keep her out of trouble in her spare time, Sharon is an active skier and hiker, and she has completed several half marathons
And she has a lot of energy and as you will hear, she’s a lot of fun!
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much for joining us, Sharon to talk about networking.
Sharon Mah-Gin: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you.
AW: My first question is with regards to context. Can you define networking for us, please?
SMG: Absolutely. You can Google it and you’ll find hundreds of definitions. But I’ve always tried to keep things simple. From my perspective, networking is the same thing as reciprocality. What do I mean by that? Networking is a mutual exchange of information, contacts, ideas. And it’s give and take, it’s not about scorekeeping. Like if I invite you to dinner 10 times, I don’t expect you to invite me to dinner 10 times. It is about you know, giving something back in return.
It’s reciprocal. And if you think about it, that is how the world works. The number one key thing I say about networking, is when I’m coaching executives or young university students, I say, “what is it about networking that you’re so afraid off?” And they go “I feel like I’m begging!” I’m like, “excuse me, that is totally wrong.” True networking, it’s not about you. It’s how can I help you? In other words, help the other person. That is what I would consider to be true networking.
AW: nicely put. So when you refer to networking in terms of reciprocality, you’re inferring that there is value that is being exchanged
SMG: Correct. Yes.
AW: So what could the value be? Or the benefits?
SMG: Great question. That could be an exchange in terms of a job lead. It could be in terms of which courses I should be taking at school. It could be about who do you think is the best company you’ve ever worked for, or the best school you’ve attended, or even the best professor. So it’s really soliciting feedback that can be helpful to you in terms of your career, your personal life. I mean, even something as simple as finding a plumber for your house. We all do that right? a housekeeper or nanny? We’re always asking. Our friends are trusted. You know, Friends, family, and who do you prefer? Right? That’s networking.
AW: I hear people when I’m thinking about this topic, I hear people almost complaining about networking. Like, gosh, I really need to get out there and network more, or one of my goals for 2020 is to be a better networker. Why is it so important for us to be networking?
SMG: When I’m coaching executives, or I’m interviewing the, I always ask them, take me through your various jobs. How did you go from one job to the next? And a lot of times, it’s because a colleague told me about it, an ex boss hired me, you know, etc. So it is through the network, because the reality is that there are so many people out there. So how do you differentiate yourself? you differentiate yourself through the network. There’s someone out there saying, I know you are. I’m happy to help you or to refer you.
AW: And it works both ways, right? Research shows that it’s typically within your network is the way that you find your next job right?
AW: It’s a friend of a friend.
SMG: Yes, absolutely. There’s a great book, I highly advise everyone to read. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s a great, easy book to read.
AW: I have to admit I have seen it. I have not read it, but I definitely will. Based on your recommendation.
SMG: I send it out to CEOs. I send it out to young university kids. It’s a really fun read. And it really breaks things down in terms of very simple terms.
AW: Can you share with us any stories about people who are great at networking?
SMG: That great networker are the ones who really – if you watch them in a room, they have a natural friendliness about them, they’re easily approachable. You’ll see them walking around the room talking to people, talking to two to three people at a time, maybe spending anywhere from five to eight minutes. And when they’re exiting, they’ll say “it was wonderful meeting you and you probably want to meet some other people…” and then they move on to the next person.
So there are those are people who are just really natural there. It’s really about how can I help you. And if you listen to them speak, this is what’s really critical. It’s never about them. It’s always – studies have shown that if I were to meet you at a cocktail party, and I said, “Hi, my name is Sharon. I’m in executive search.”
Then you’d Introduce yourself, “and what do you do?” And you said, “I was a former professor, and I do TalkAboutTalk.” I go, “Oh, that sounds really interesting. Tell me more about that.” And then I’d ask you another question. I now I’ve asked you three questions. And yet if you got pulled away, and someone came up to you said, “Andrea, what do you think about Sharon?” You’d say, “Wow, she’s great.” And yet, if we watch the video of it, not once did I talk about myself?
Because the reality is people like to talk about themselves. I don’t know if you watch Oprah Winfrey? In her very last episode on TV, she talked about, “I have interviewed over 100,000 people from convicts, to royalty, to kings, to navy seals. And what is the one thing that I found that every single person wants? They want to know I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters.
AW: I think I remember that!
SMG: Yes, exactly. So that’s what it’s all about. There’s another great book, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. You know, it’s been around for many, many years. But he talks about the same idea – that people enjoy talking to us. That’s why your name is very important. That’s why people really don’t like it if you get their name wrong. And that’s why if you when you’re doing it, when you’re networking, you say their name three times, there’s that actual connection. It helps in terms of the networking. You see them, and you value them. So that’s another technique that one might use in terms of network.
AW: I have heard that that is the number one favorite word for most people is their own name, although they would never say that if you ask them directly.
SMG: That’s so interesting! I didn’t know that, but I just know that from my readings and from my own experience.
AW: I wonder if there’s research like with an MRI or something where they can prove that? they could you know what… I bet you they could. What about stories about people who fail at networking?
SMG: Oh, yeah. There’s a lot! I coached this one individual who I had placed at a company, he was a fantastic individual. But networking really wasn’t his thing. And this is actually probably a great story that can be shared, and a lot of people can learn. But this was an individual who I placed, whom I had a lot of respect for. He was leaving a company and we had to talk about networking. So his idea of networking was to go out and phone people he knew, which was fine. But my idea of effective networking because there’s only 24 hours a day is to network in terms of groups, associations, industry events, etc.
So there was an event that was going on, and I asked them to attend it with me and I said, I could show you how to go about networking. And I said, plus, I know that five people there know you from your previous role, and it’s a great chance for you to touch them very quickly.
He said, Well, no, Sharon, I, I can’t make it. And I said, Well, why? He said, Well, I have a meeting. I said, well who’s it with? He goes, Oh, it’s with the outplacement firm. I said, you absolutely can reschedule that meeting! This breakfast meeting, you must come with me. And I said, you will know some of the people who are going to be there.
I said, Have you contacted them? He goes, Well, yes. He says, I called two of those people. And I said, when he said a week ago, I said, have they gotten back to you? No. I said, that’s because they’re busy. They’re busy executives. So he came with me to the event. I took him around, and I introduced him. Hi, nice to see you. I’m gonna introduce you to Mr. so-and-so, he’s actually a seasoned CFO who’s looking for his next role, you know, etc.
So he can see how I was doing it. Then we found the people that I knew he would know because we both knew them. And sure enough, Hi, how are you? They reconnected, and when it came time to say goodbye, I saw him in the corner with one of the other individuals. And I thought, huh, that looks promising. Yeah. And sure enough, that was his next role.
AW: Oh, that’s great!
SMG: Yeah. And he’s sweet. And I just had dinner with him in January. He’s been there now three years. He’s so happy. He keeps thanking me every single time. But he saw firsthand how networking is so important. And that’s where he landed his role.
AW: I feel like that was an I told you so moment
SMG: I didn’t say it. But he did. He did. Another great story, another CEO that I had, she was having a tough time finding a job. And I remember this woman, she was sort of depressed. You know, that happens. It’s sometimes hard for a CEO or even a young person,…
AW: It’s a big part of their identity!
SMG: At that time, I was helping out with a conference and I said, Well, I have a pass here for conference that’s worth $600. But I have a few left that I could give to you. But the promise here is that you cannot just go for two hours. You have to attend the whole conference! You’re gonna feel like only going for two hours. And I want you to network.
You know who the speakers are, I guarantee you, and it’s every 30 minutes. And I guarantee you that that speaker will be in the audience. So you have the right to go up to that person because that’s what conferences are for, or cocktail parties, to go up to that person. So sure enough, she met an individual, and she got a role. And she sent me a case of wine to say thanks.
AW: Oh, nice!
AW: So thanks for the conference ticket and for the job!
SMG: Yes, exactly. So that’s another example. So to be honest, from a networking perpective, it’s hard to ask people to meet you for an hour or they meet me for coffee. The reality is that the world is a very busy place right now. So I always talk about efficient networking. So those are your cocktail parties. When I go to events, it’s that hour before the main event, versus the hour after.
That’s golden, that hour before is precious. you can touch a whole bunch of people and you just need to touch high level, you’ll feel there’s a connection. You can ask them for their card, or what I often do is I LinkedIn right away because I find that LinkedIn very powerful in terms of networking, because there’s a picture of them. I actually will say, great meeting you at this dinner or at this conference. So now I have a record off so that next time when I’m meeting you.
AW: So on the weekend, I was on a zoom conference call with I think about 25 podcasters. And about two hours after the meeting, I got a LinkedIn request from someone who was on the call. And I thought that’s brilliant.
SMG: Yeah, so that’s one really great strategy. And LinkedIn is the way to go. By the way, if any of you out there in the audience don’t have an LinkedIn account, you must have one! 10 years ago, from a search perspective, I would say 10% of the people had LinkedIn because they felt was you only were on there if you’re looking for a job right?
AW: That’s what people say. I have heard people say that who aren’t on it. They say only people that need jobs are on LinkedIn. And I said, Oh, that was the case before. But that is really untrue.
SMG: Now why I would say that now 99% of the people are on LinkedIn. Even if you only have one contact, you’re on LinkedIn. The reason for that is, that is the way business is done now. And it’s not just about looking for a job. If you’re in sales, how wonderful that the most valuable part of that is that mutual connections. So you might be looking at someone going,
Well, we have 10 mutual connections, you look at those 10 mutual connections, and it just helps you accelerate the process. W e used to do more on an informal basis, right? You walk in, hey, I see that you and I know Andrea, and then right away it becomes a “warm hello.” How do you know her? Well we went to school together . So right away, you now have a point and you bet you if I’m interested in doing business with you, or if I value Andrea, I’m thinking, well if that person knows Andrea and Andrea knows her, this person must be very credible, trustworthy, etc. It’s not just about jobs. It’s about a lot of different things.
The world has changed a lot. And absolutely, with LinkedIn resumes, you can do different versions. But LinkedIn, just a quick pointer is to have that first little piece of it, there’s only a certain number of words. But that’s when you can be warm. It’s really great to tell your story. And that’s what people read.
Then they very quickly can see where you’ve worked and see your mutual connections. And if you really want to be active, you can tie podcasts into it and all sorts of videos, and stuff like that. But it’s even changed our world in terms of search, like the whole mid market and recruiting has probably gone a lot because now people bring it in house and hire some junior recruiters who basically work the LinkedIn.
AW: I’ve heard that.
SMG: Exactly. And it’s got pros and cons because I see it from the side where they try it. They don’t know quite how to get it done. There is something to be said for looking at people, not just what’s on paper, but cutting through some of the stuff . Even though they held this job, you’ve gotta look at the total picture. Where did they go to school, some of the companies, we understand the cultures that the skills that they might have developed from there that’s really impacted our industry.
AW: for sure. Building on the LinkedIn, I guess, and and the associations and everything else that we’ve been talking about. Can you share with us what some of the most important things to keep in mind are in terms of networking, particularly at different stages of our career? So, maybe start with younger folk?
SMG: Yes. So number one, I’m going to say, networking, you do it the rest of your life. You can even start when you’re in your teens, and it continues the rest of your life. You never stop networking. So let’s start with the youngsters. I will start with the university kids right? Sure you finished graduating or you’re almost getting close to graduating, you need an internship, etc.
AW: Should they have a LinkedIn page?
AW: I have to tell you about two weeks ago, I sat down with my teenage son and we created a LinkedIn page. And that was prompted by his peers connecting with me on LinkedIn. And I said to him, buddy, you need to step it up. He’s a teenager.
SMG: Yeah. How old?
SMG: Yeah. So absolutely, you need a LinkedIn page. And in that LinkedIn page, because you don’t have a lot of experience, you can talk about different activities, sports or any leadership roles. At the end of the day, companies hire you for three things, they’re gonna hire you, because you you’re gonna help them make money, save money, or help them solve an issue. So if you’re young in your career, we get it that you don’t have the experience. So we’re hiring for the soft skills. Can they learn? Are they going to be reliable? Are they a hard worker? Did he have a positive attitude? They have a smile on their face. That’s what we’re hiring for.
AW: Yeah. So you’re talking about joining associations. I love that. That’s the kind of explicit recommendation to go out and join associations and then get out there in real life and meet the people I’m thinking, not only are you meeting people, but you’re also giving yourself a line to put on LinkedIn or your resume. Right? So it’s, it’s like, doubly efficient, right?
SMG: So if you’re interested in finance, there’s the finance association at all the universities, right? Take a leadership role in it. So I often say to people, when you do this… I’ve done a few of these seminars on how to build a very successful professional services practice. Whether you’re a consultant or a lawyer or an accountant, and one of the advice that I give individuals is I say, what sector do you want to work in? So she said, such-and-such sector.
I said, you’re going to go join the association that holds these conferences for the association, but you’re not just going to join, you’re going to take a leadership role in it. And in that leadership role, you become the president or vice president, there’s going to be a leadership role, and you can attend all the events. You’re going to go and you’re just going to talk to people, not about yourself, but just have an interest because you like that sector.
And then from there, it’s about likability in professional services, because you’re selling a service. So it’s the same thing in networking, because you are actually selling yourself, aren’t you? In networking, you’re not selling your product in networking.
AW: What about when people are more advanced in their career? It could be mid career or even towards the end of their career. I know from observation, actually looking around at some of my peers and people that are a little bit older. I feel like people get a little comfortable in terms of their networking. They have their buddies, they have their one sport that they do. right. Do you have any advice for older people as they’re networking?
SMG: Absolutely. Get out of your comfort zone. That’s the first thing. Go out and learn because you know what, the world is changing a lot. You know, 75% of the jobs that that our children’s kids are going to have, have not even been invented yet. Artificial Intelligence, data analytics. I look at some grandparents – The two year olds know how to use the iPad to call grandma and granddad – like a two year old! Like, you know, they don’t know what button to push.
So you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone. Sure, it’s great to have people that you’ve known, but having people that are younger or be a mentor to them, that that’s a nice segue right there. Start coaching and giving back and being a mentor to those who are younger, share your experience, because you’re gonna learn from them, too. That’s right. It works both ways. Remember, networking is mutually beneficial, right? It’s not a one way street. Right? So that’s what I love.
AW: That’s also great advice to give the younger people like don’t forget your offering to them.
SMG: Yes, that’s what the younger folk are doing. Exactly, exactly.
AW: nicely put. What are the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to network? Back to that person who’s thinking, this is the year I’m going to get out there and network. What are some mistakes that people make?
SMG: I see it all the time. Like for example, this is a bit of a pet peeve – from a search perspective, when someone calls me up or sends me an email and says, “Hi, I’m looking for my next job. And I was wondering if you could give me an hour of your time so we could talk about the market.” I actually almost feel that that’s an insult to think that I have nothing better to do than to sit there for an hour with a random stranger to talk about the market.
AW: So in other words, what’s in it for me, right? So like back the reciprocality.
SMG: You got it. It is. And so it’s people who do that, or where they sit there and they think all they’re supposed to do is talk about themselves and what their needs are. Or when they say hi, could you introduce me to some people, and I’m going, I don’t even know who you are.
AW: So you’re reminding me of some of my brilliant friends who maybe had been laid off or quit a job and they really aren’t sure what they want to do next, and they’ll start doing what I’m sure you’ve heard of as information interviews. What are you offering to someone when you are seeking an Information interview?
SMG: Usually the information interviews are done through a referral. Because that’s furthermore why you should be networking – because you have something to offer them. And that’s goes back again to the reciprocality. Right? So in other words, when someone is asking for example for me to do information interview, I look at them and I go “Hmm, MBA from Harvard, McKinsey, etc. So I’m thinking pretty great person, probably fun to talk to.” So I might do that. Or where I really tend to do a lot of my information interviews is through a referral.
AW: So you’re actually doing someone else a favor in your network – so it’s leveraging that network …?
SMG: It goes back to networking, and you know why? The reality is and I get a lot of people who are frustrated, unemployed, and they go, “no one’s getting back to me and blah, blah,..” and I’m going, huh? So let’s talk about this. When you were gainfully employed, working full time, I’m sure you must have done or had a few of these requests, correct? They say Yes, and I go, Hmm. So after you did that information interview, or I’m assuming it’s because someone asked you to do it and they acknowledge, yes. Like either a boss or a friend or whatever. How much did you think about that person after that?
Well, I really didn’t. And I said, so it’s not personal. It’s just that people are busy. We’re busy! And there’s 24 hours in a day. The reality is, most people are busier than they ever have been. So it’s not personal. So what I often suggest to them is to go within the outplacement firm. There’s different groups of unemployed people take that as an opportunity to network.
Because the reality is that you are a very highly accomplished individual, but you have the luxury of time now. So you’re frustrated. And so why don’t you network with some other people, because the reality is those relationships will continue after you land your next role.
AW: That’s brilliant. It’s also a great place to start. It feels like a safe place to start.
SMG: Exactly. And so they go oh…, and I say, think about that, right? Then what a lot of them will say to me is, well, Sharon, you’re right. When I land, I am going to be extra sensitive to this.
AW: like in terms of wanting to help?
SMG: Exactly. It takes going through the experience to understand true effect of a network. Suddnly it’s like, How can I help you? and I can really see the people who come up with that mindset.
AW: They’re positive
SMG: You have to be genuine. You cannot fake it. Networking you cannot fake. You have to be genuine. Read that book. Never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi.
SMG: absolutely critical. People know, especially at the senior levels, they know. And I think if you’ve got high emotional intelligence, you can pick them out. So what I do is I really try to get out to as many events. So if I’m in an industry sectors like say Life Sciences, I will go to their gala in February because in that gala, they had the Lifetime Achievement Award. They have the Volunteer of the Year award. They have the Company of the Year Award, and they have the Social Responsibility Award.
So frankly, anyone who’s going to be anyone, especially with the Lifetime Achievement Award, is going to be there, right? In the company of the year. So in that cocktail party, there’s usually about 600 people. I can just quickly touch base with a lot of people very quickly. So sometimes they’ll pull me aside. Sharon, Sharon, I’m looking for my job. Okay, I’ll catch up with you later on. Sharon, when you have a search, I’m here. Okay. I’ll catch up with you later. But it’s just a great way to be seen. So that I’m again, top of mind. And then it’s…
AW: Sorry to interrupt but it’s almost like brand resonance. Right?
AW: The brands are out there. They’re in our face. They’re on our computers, they’re on billboards, they’re in magazines, they’re across different media, and it’s almost like you’re selling your personal brand out there and you’re trying to increase or maximize exposure.
SMG: Absolutely. Networking. And that’s what you have to do is be out there. You can’t hide behind your computer. And that’s why to be honest with you, Andrea, there are very few female partners in law firms, CPA firms, even management consulting firms. Because a lot of it requires, you know, sitting on committees or attending a lot of events, which are usually in the evenings, right? If you’re the female, if you have a family, you can’t do that as much as, say, the male.
AW: It’s changing, but it’s definitely that way.
SMG: That’s one of the biggest reasons why you don’t have that, because you have to be out there at all sorts of events, and ideally, in a leadership role. So that you know, you can be a sponsor for it ,if you want an easier way of doing it. But even as a sponsor, you should be at that event.
I’ve gone to events where there’s been a major sponsor, and there was nobody there from that. And I’m going Oh, my goodness. And then the other thing I pass on to you is: so say you’re a guest, you know, at a table or I’m hosting a table what I often do is I will provide to all my guests, two or three days, nothing earlier than that.
It’ll get lost in the email. I will actually provide a name of all the guests at the table with the company name. And so it’s on you, if you’re smart, to Google or and look up their LinkedIn and sort of figure out what they do. And if it’s someone that you want to meet, make sure you either sit next to them, or at least introduce yourself when they’re at your table. You know a little bit about them. Because the reality is when you sit down at that table of 10, usually it’s the person to the right and the left, the other people introduce themselves, but you don’t really know what they do. AW: What a great hostess!
SMG: Yeah, so I always do that. And people really thank me for it. And then the other thing is certainly from a networking perspective, if you are hosting an event or you’re at an event with a bunch of colleagues from work, please don’t hang out together or sit together! I mean, another pet peeve: when I’m at a table, and half the table’s from the Bank of Montreal, I go, oh my gosh, like you don’t have anything else better to do? This is an opportunity. To me it’s a wasted networking opportunity,
AW: Again, getting out of your comfort zone.
AW: Not sitting with your besties. But actually meeting new people. So the most efficient way of networking really is getting up and attending, whether it be conferences or cocktail parties, or gala industry events, etc.
SMG: Yeah. And to be honest, it’s a lot easier than doing a one-on-one – is asking someone, can I have an hour of your time, or even 20 minutes for coffee? You can do that at a cocktail event.
AW: I’m imagining someone listening to this, who may be an introvert and or who may be shy thinking, Okay, easy for you to say, but I can’t stand the small talk. Do you have any advice for those people?
SMG: Well, first of all, I keep going back to this. The networking is not about them. So the small talk, it’s really about asking the questions of the other person you’re meeting. If you’re an introvert, it may be tough, so I always say go with a friend because it’s always easier if that’s the case. Someone like me – I’m a huge extrovert.
Look, I could walk into a room with 500 people, not know anybody, and say, Wow, 500 potential new friends! Whereas an introvert will go: I’d rather have a root canal than walk into that room, right? But so if you’re an introvert, my advice would be go with another friend. And approach groups that have an odd number. Because usually there’s an odd number, like there’s three or five, there’s usually one person out or whatever, that you can quickly engage.
AW: I hadn’t thought about that!
AW: I actually have a podcast episode and a paper about the ABCDEs of Communication. And it’s really it’s five steps to get you through that awkward small talk. Right? And the first one is “Ask questions.”
SMG: Yes, that’s right.
AW: But I love your point about approaching groups, because there’ll always be an odd person out because you know, you’re trying to have a conversation with three. But if you’re, there’s that odd person, you can you can see it, they’ll be standing there quietly or whatever. And if you went up to them, they will be forever, you know, grateful. Thanks for saving me.
AW: Is there anything else you want to add, Sharon, about networking before we move on to the five rapid fire questions?
SMG: Oh, that sounds like fun! Well, just that honestly ,networking it’s really not about you. It’s about the other person and taking a genuine and authentic interest in them and trying to help them. And that networking never stops. It is a life long skill. Like I said. It’s not even just for your career. It could be something as simple as finding a plumber or a doctor or, or whatever. It’s just, it never stops. It’s not just related to finding a job.
AW: Okay, are you ready for the five rapid fire questions?
SMG: I am.
AW: First question. What are your pet peeves?
SMG: My pet peeve is people who are not lifetime learners. There’s so much out there to learn, in terms of technology, and just the way the world is going. So I’m such a lifetime learner. I’m always curious, wanting to learn. So that’s one. And number two are just people who are takers – who are not genuine, who just take-take-take, and it’s all about them. I would say those are my two top pet peeves.
AW: So I have to ask you about the lifelong learner thing. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re doing a search and you have a candidate and then it registers with you that they are not a lifelong learner. Have you ever called someone on that and said like, Buddy?
SMG: so yeah, well, I just see the facts. I’m not gonna try to call them out but I might ask them.
AW: You’re like a psychologist.
SMG: Sometimes I feel like … sometimes I truly feel like I actually find out more information than I really need to know.
AW: Okay, question number two, what type of learner are you – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or some other kind of learners?
SMG: Definitely visual. I have to see it. I have to see it and feel it. I’m definitely that type of learner. You can talk to me and talk to me. And I just won’t remember it. But I can touch it, feel it. See it. That’s how I learned.
AW: I didn’t know how you’re going to answer that. But now that you’ve said it, I think that’s true. Because you do comment on color and arts a lot, don’t you?
SMG: Yeah, Yeah, I do. Colors make me happy.
AW: Me too. OK. question number three, introvert or extrovert? Bahaha! Like that’s not obvious!
SMG: Definitely an extrovert.
AW: Moving on.
SMG: I definitely get energy from people. I’m an energy giver versus a taker. And I have many people comment on that, too.
AW: Yeah, it’s true. I feel energy around you. But here’s maybe a more insightful question to ask you about that. Is there anything because you’re an extrovert that you have to sort of work on or gauge within yourself?
SMG: Yes, absolutely. That some people may not be as passionate about things as I am. And not as action orientated as I am.
AW: You have to cut them some slack.
SMG: Yeah, I have to slow down sometimes. You know, be more patient.
AW: These are words that I need to internalize myself. Okay. Question number four. Communication preference for personal conversations?
SMG: Definitely face to face if it’s a serious conversation. Face to face. In person.
SMG: Because of the body language and it’s about being genuine and authentic. And I think that if you can do that in person, you can see it.
AW: What about for casual conversation?
SMG: Emails, texts, urgent texts. Well, I’m trying to plan dinners and stuff like what who’s bringing what food? Definitely email.
AW: So it’s kind of a hierarchy there, in terms of urgency.
SMG: You got it. Yeah.
AW: Number five, podcast or blog or email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most?
SMG: Of course, it’s Talk About Talk! Do we need to ask that question?
AW: Not including Talk About Talk?
SMG: Okay, well, then maybe TED Talks. I love watching them, It’s about self improvement or learning or getting better at something. I love watching those. It’s like the we have to make so many decisions. So “top 10” is a favorite word in my vocabulary.
Anyone who knows me who travels with me, when we go to restaurants and stuff, I always say, what are your top three sellers? Not what you like. But what three items do you sell the most? So I don’t want to make that decision because there’s just so many decisions that we all have to make already.
SMG: So that’s sort of being like a standing joke amongst many of my colleagues and friends and stuff. She was gonna ask her, one of your top three sellers,
AW: Brilliant, that’s a great insight. Great advice. Thank you very, very much for sharing your advice and your time with us, Sharon.
SMG: Thank you. My pleasure.
Dr. Andrea’s CONCLUSION
Well, I hope you’re inspired now, to get outta your office, to get outta your house, and go met some real people IRL – to grow your network.
Thanks again, to Sharon Mah-Gin, for sharing her networking advice. And her energy! My goodness she’s an inspiration, isn’t she?
Now I’m going to briefly summarize three of the main points from this episode to keep in mind. They are : Th networking mindset, the importance of getting out to real-life networking events, and the significance of LinkedIn.
So the first point is your
MINDSET ABOUT NETWORKING
- The main point here is that networking is about an exchange. Sharon talks about RECIPROCALITY and she says that networking is a mutual exchange of information, contacts, and ideas.
- Simply put, you have to offer something. It could be information about your firm, information about your industry, access to your network, or maybe helping someone brainstorm.
- Sharon says that the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to network is that they don’t offer anything in return. Selfish networking just doesn’t work.
- This exchange mindset relates to another important thing to keep in mind when you’re networking. Here it is: PEOPLE ARE BUSY. No kidding, right? Of course they are. It’s tough to get on people’s calendars. And usually it’s not personal. that’s partly why the exchange point is so critical. What’s in it for them? People are always weighing how they should be spending with their time.
That brings me to the second main point.
Effective networking means getting out to EVENTS.
As in IRL. As in industry associations and events, conferences, cocktail parties, galas, and yes, so-called “networking events.”
- these group events are definitely the most efficient way and they can also be an effective way to network.
- Here’s the thing: these events, sometimes with 100s of people are:
- You can spend 8-10 minutes with someone, connect with them on linked in, and move on. Instead of meeting with someone for coffee for an hour, if you’re lucky enough to get on their calendar, you can meet with multiple people, all at one event.
- As Sharon says, it’s the hour before the main part of the event where the real networking happens. That’s true, isn’t it?
- But what if you’re like many people and you can’t stand the small talk? Well guess what? you don’t need to talk. Sharon and I both have advice for you here. Trust me, these tips really work.
- The first and most important point is that you actually don’t have to do much talking. Just ask Qs and listen. Asking Qs and listening is like a small talk superpower. Trust me.
- Asking Qs and Listening are the first and last point in the ABCDEs of communication that I introduced a few months ago. You can find a link to the podcast or the blog about that in the shownotes, but here’s the summary. Whether you are at a cocktail party or an important meeting and feeling a bit awkward or self-conscious, just run through the ABCDEs:
- A = As Qs (like I just said and like Sharon suggests)
- B = Breathe. As in slow deep breathes.
- C = act Confident. Yes, ACT Even if you don’t feel it. Act Confident.
- D = no Distractions. Focus on why you are at the event or sitting at the table and what you want to accomplish. Don’t let yourself get distracted. And last
- E = Use your ears, listen. You are more likeable when you are listening more and talking less.
- OK – got it? (REPEAT). Trust me, it works!!! If you want to learn or you can find it on the TalkAboutTalk website.
- Sharon also had a fantastic point that I’m going to try next week at a networking event I’m going to. She encourages us to approach groups with an odd number of people. Like say 3 or 5 people. Then you can more easily integrate into a conversation. I love that point. I remember being at an event recently and looking at two groups of people, trying to decide which group to approach. This odd number tip makes a lot of sense and its easy.
- Sharon also suggests that you go to these events with a friend. Your friend can bring up all of your amazing accomplishments without you sounding arrogant, right? They can also rescue you when you need to move on to talk to someone else.
- So bringing a friend is a great idea. But that said, if you go to a networking event with a friend of a group pf people, don’t take the easy way out and hang out with the people you already know! Remember your objective is to make new connections and strengthen other relationships. You definitely need to sit at a different table! Sharon said it drives her crazy to see people from one firm all seated at the same table.
- These IRL events also include industry associations that meet regularly. Sharon encourages us to volunteer for leadership roles. This helps us in terms of networking and establishing relationships. IT also provides us with another line on our resume.
Speaking of our resumes, the 3rd and last point is that we all need to be using LinkedIn
Simply put, LINKEDIN is a tool that can accelerate our networking
- If you don’t have a LinkedIn account or if you have on but it’s not updated, you need to understand – LinkedIn has evolved from a job-searching tool to a networking tool.
- It’s like a business card on steroids.
- LinkedIn is where you can provide all the details about you and your career that you want to share.
- There’s also a photo, so you can remember what people look like.
- And when you meet someone at an event, instead of giving them a business card, you can connect with them immediately or after the event – or perhaps both – via LinkedIn.
- And you can reference mutual connections, which might also help with the networking.
SO there are the 3 main takeaways from this episode: your mindset (specifically remembering it is an exchange and that people are very busy), Going to IRL events as much as you can, since they are most efficient and effective, and last, leveraging LinkedIn.
I want to close by reminding you of something that Sharon mentioned a few times – that I think is really important. Networking is a life-long endeavour. It’s not just for when you’re looking for a job. When you’re a student, a young employee, or if your career is well-established, we all need to get out of our comfort zones and network. As Sharon says, your network can be your competitive point of differentiation. You never stop networking.
So – What was your favourite point here about networking? Do you have other ideas? I’d love to hear what you think about this episode, any ideas you have for future episodes, or anything else. You can email me anytime at [email protected],com.
I also hope you’ll signup for free communication coaching through the weekly Talk About Talk email blog. Just go to the talkabouttalk.com website or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list.
Alright that’s it for this episode.
THANKS for listening – and READING!
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