Networking Up

Networking Up and Down the Food Chain

I’ve been thinking about networking lately. Recently, I had a great meeting with a young lady I met maybe five years ago, when I revived a volunteer relationship with her organization. I found the volunteer activity personally rewarding and I took it seriously. There was an opportunity to sharpen a seldom-used skill that I find highly desirable and I saw to it that my work met or exceeded expectations. Scheduling prevented me from donating services for a couple of years, but I always responded to her outreach. When she asked to pick my brain about a program-related matter, which turned into a request for a face-to-face, I was happy to say yes.

Little did I know that the volunteer service, that is pro bono consulting work, would now pay a stipend. There is also an effort to grow the program. The organization has had trouble selling to the new target market and I was happy to suggest some talking points that should produce results. She took lots of notes. Sometime over the next few months, I expect that I will be invited to provide more pro bono work, this time with a very helpful stipend and a chance to gain access to individuals that I would like to add to my client list.

What’s the moral of this networking story? First, strategic volunteering can pay dividends and second, don’t hesitate to selectively network at both ends of the organization chart. Don’t assume that lower ranking people are never in a position to help you.

This young lady was the program coordinator, not a decision-maker, and she’s half my age. Nevertheless, I treated her with respect and always enjoyed working with her. When asked, I offered to give her some much-needed insights, without knowing that she is now in a position to help me make money.

Of course, we all dream of meeting a powerful person who will miraculously agree to become our sponsor and shepherd us into a fabulous career. That happens for some people, but it has yet to happen to me.

So how might one network successfully at the top of the organizational chart? I’ll propose that directing your networking overtures to the higher-ups toward those inclined to respect you and your professionalism, regardless of the obvious difference in job titles, is Rule #1. Remaining aware of the difference in power and status is Rule #2. Understanding how you might position yourself to be perceived as a valuable asset to an individual who has many resources is Rule #3 and effectively communicating that value proposition to Mr. or Ms. Higher-Up is Rule #4.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for networking up the food chain, but I’ve noticed that interacting with higher-ups is most successfully achieved on volunteer boards, in houses of worship, at the fitness center and in other non-work related venues. There are many people tugging at the sleeves of influential higher-ups and as a result, they seldom drop their guard. If networking is on your agenda, it’s preferable to get to know them in social situations that facilitate participating in shared priorities that can lead to organic relationship-building.

Networking Event

3 Benefits of Attending a Speed Networking Event

Who you know is just as important as what you know when trying maximize your success. There are countless stories of the person who did not deserve a certain position based on talent but got it anyway because of who they know. We often hear leaders say “attend networking events and meet more people. Grow your business” however we have all gone to an event where we wanted to meet people and network but the room is separated into small groups making it difficult to approach anyone. In this format the popular folks and groups with the bigger names get a lot of the attention. It becomes more of a mingle and no real networking is done.

A format of networking that is taking the world by storm is Speed networking. In this organized event you will get the opportunity to talk to every single person in the room. Therefore Giving you many chances to build connections, earn new business and put your name out there for future business consideration.

These are my top three favorite things about Speed Networking and why if you are looking to build new connections this is the way to do it.

1. Meet Everyone in the Room – This is huge! I can not tell you how many events I’ve been to where I want to meet the great presenter from earlier but never get an opportunity because of the long lines and crowd. With the Speed networking format you get 4 minutes or so to talk to each person and at the end of the session you have mingle time to further talk with anyone you may have connected with. This is my favorite of all the benefits.

2. Organization and structure – Parties are fun and create conversation for a day or two about how much of a great time you had, however they create very few meaningful connections. In a networking event that operates under the “party” format, one person goes in front of the room thanks the crowd for coming out and tells speaks about what they do for a living and how to contact them. Now that person effectively marketed themselves to everyone in the room but how about you?

3. Fun – As professionals we often neglect fun. We are laser focused on our career, our brands and our businesses. At a Speed networking event you will have a great time while interacting with people with similar goals as yours. Win, win.

Networking for Startups

Networking for Startups

Networking is an essential tool for startups. Sometimes overlooked or undervalued, it can create opportunities to fuel your business innovation or product. A word of caution, make sure that your networking is up to par. This involves establishing a plan, having goals, aligning with the right individuals and being consistent in your endeavors.

Listed below are a few helpful tips for mastering this incredibly effective art.

Build Your Social Capital

Time and time again, you have heard the common saying that people do business with those they know, like and trust. Well, much has not changed in that aspect. Utilize your networking to gain trust and credibility with potential customers, partners, investors etc. Focus on building quality relationships to develop understanding and gaining opportunities.

Build Your Communication Skills

This is such a critical piece in networking for success. It is so important to be clear, concise and marketable. Whether it involves making a pitch or presentation, explaining a business initiative or sharing details about your startup, use language that is relevant, distinctive and engaging. Having sharp skills and abilities improves the perception and brand of your product or service.

Build Diverse Networks

There is power in heterogeneous networks. Developing different business and social ties can greatly increase your startup goals. It can be a source of introductions and referrals, provide a competitive edge and contribute to time and resource management. Fostering these diverse networks can also expand your reach, creativity and exposure.

The Networking

The Networking Ambassador

It is a networker’s dream to be able to attend effective and productive networking events on a regular basis. It is their high hope to meet quality, like minded individuals who are serious about their development. But it is impossible to attend every single event or connect with every single ideal person. Once a savvy networker comes across this obstacle, the next thing to consider is creating a way to make the most of their networking.

Consider having a team of supporters who are constantly networking on your behalf. These individuals are your trusted advisors who are willing to incorporate you to their existing networks. They can be colleagues, co-workers, friends, partners etc. Being able to have people to recommend you to others is also an excellent and credible form of word of mouth.

Before you enlist your team of supporters it is important to create a platform for them to properly network on your behalf. The first thing you should do is build quality relationships and trust. Show that you are committed and dedicated to your success and their success, as well. The next step is to share your goals and objectives for networking. Get them excited and engaged in your vision and mission. The final step is to go for the ask. Use etiquette and sensitivity to properly approach them and make your reasonable request. Hopefully, it is accepted and is a win-win for both parties.