We know that we need to connect with others in the job search. We’ve heard that “people hire people they know, or people they know know — referrals.” Yet we break out in a sweat when we think of reaching out to people we don’t know and ask them for help.
Networking just seems such a huge barrier to success. We can’t imagine going to networking events, meeting strangers and asking them for help in our search. We’d rather stick pins in our eyes.
That’s why Heart At Work Associates created Networking Made Easy for our clients and their guests. Each month, we host an invitation only event in our office and facilitate connections among the participants. At our last event, the 10 participants shared over 50 connections and offers for introductions. The energy in the room was electric, and it wasn’t fueled by the homemade chocolate chip cookies we provided.
My colleagues — Barbara Babkirk and Amy Jaffe — and I facilitated the event. We talked briefly about the importance of a statement of professional value that you can articulate verbally, virtually and in writing. We gave everyone time to draft their initial statement, focusing on their current situation, what they brought in terms of skills and value, and what they were looking for. We worked with participants to help them craft their statements; and we had everyone write their name and contact information on six index cards.
Amy then led the group in an exercise where each participant introduced themselves and presented their statement. Some of us asked a few clarifying questions, then if we had a lead, we wrote it on one of the index cards and gave it to the presenter. After everyone had presented their statement and collected their cards, they had the opportunity to talk with the participants who had provided the information. A number of folks collected several cards with several names as potential leads. And often, they had the commitment of an introduction from the source of the lead.
The final part of the evening stressed follow through and accountability. Once again, we went around the room and each participant stated specific actions they would take in the next week with the information they received that evening.
At the end of the evening, people were excited to get started. In a supported, dynamic, two hour session they met people just like them; they were able to provide leads for their new contacts; receive leads themselves; and have an action plan to take advantage of those leads.
Networking doesn’t get much easier. And there were cookies.