5 Reasons to View Networking as Community Service

25 10 2010

I consider attending networking events to be my volunteer, or “community service” time each month and my goal is always to make it easy for people to ask for the help they need. Why? Here are five reasons:

View networking as community service1) You gotta give to get. (It’s called karma people!)

2) You’re creating opportunities to reinforce your personal brand.

3) It will make your efforts feel like a great use of your time as opposed to a waste. And, besides, don’t you feel good after a shift volunteering at the senior center?

4) “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

5) You just might offer help to the husband of the elusive business owner you’ve been cold calling since last spring.

Besides, more often than not, the majority of the people at a networking event are there because they need help with something. Otherwise, they’d probably be home watching Dancing with the Stars or the World Series or maybe their kid’s soccer game.

What I’m wondering these days is why we make it so difficult for people to “get to the ask” when we’re at in-person events, or worse, force them to launch into a canned or fake-sounding elevator pitch? I even question why people bother attending mixers, socials, networking events, or whatever else they’re called in your industry, if they’re not going to offer whatever help they can to the people they meet.  What is the point of attending then? To be seen? To look for a date? Never mind, I don’t really want to know why.

Bella Domain's Pay It Forward Party @ NextSpace SF

I want to further evangelize the pay it forward approach to networking, and get more people to start thinking about attending networking events as a form of giving back to their communities and simply consider it “community service.” It’s something that can be done a few times a quarter, month or week, or whatever your lifestyle allows.

Unfortunately, my lifestyle right now doesn’t allow me to donate time at the senior center or with a local Girl Scout troop, but my business requires me to do a certain amount of networking each month, and turning those scenarios or encounters into a “How can I help you right now?” conversation turns it into an act of community service, and that not only helps the other person (just even asking can indicate support to some people), it also helps my karma, which always feels good! 🙂 p.s. Here’s my community service event for November.

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Oh, by the way, give me some referrals even though I’ve done nothing to deserve them

23 07 2010

Okay, so that was not exactly what the sticker said on the outside of the handwritten note (not a thank you, btw) we received from what I’ll just call a “grey collar” worker we have in our lives right now, but it might as well have.

What it actually said was, “Oh, by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals.” And, yes, it was on a black and gold very old-school-looking sticker almost exactly like the one below and it was stuck on the back of the envelope.Lame handout sticker

My first question is simply where does one get the chutzpah?! The reality is this person has done absolutely nothing yet to prove that he’s good at his profession, let alone deserving of some of our social capital in the form of a referral to a close friend or valued business contact. Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a thing? But wait, it gets better. At the bottom of this person’s emails you can also find the phrase, “Business is good, but I’m never too busy to serve a referral from you.” Everyone that receives an email from this guy sees that? Where are they teaching this stuff?! I’m afraid to think about how many other people in his industry see that and then cut and paste that sentence to add it to their own email signature. Shame on all of them.

Plenty has been written about classier and more effective ways to ask for a referral (here’s a good post), so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I did want to offer one of the best ways I’ve found to ask for a referral:

AFTER I’ve delivered or completed a job well done or did a temperature check with a client to which they responded positively, I ask if they personally know of anyone else that might benefit from what I’m doing or have done for them.

You can also ask if, by any chance, they have recently mentioned you or your company to anyone in a positive way (this tactic is noted in this intelligent post). I’ve found that people often do this, but don’t always have the time or even remember to provide an introduction or contact info to the party in need. And there are also cases where they don’t tell you when they’ve paid it forward on your behalf (kind of the point of paying it forward). Whatever the case, sometimes they respond with a, “As a matter of fact, I was just telling Barb over at TON Productions what a great job you are doing for us when I sat next to her at the Ad Club lunch last week. She asked me if I knew any biz dev pros well worth their fee.”

Then, if you know the contact, or even you if you don’t, ask your client if he’d mind if you followed up with Barb and mentioned that he shared that he gave you a glowing review. I’ve never received an objection to that request, and, btw,  if I’ve landed business because of a client’s good word of mouth on my behalf, there’s usually a handwritten thank you note along with a nice gift card sent priority mail to them stat.

Bottom line: I believe it is never appropriate to ask a client for referrals until you’ve proven your value to them, and you’ve confirmed that they’re happy. If you’ve had any examples of this not being the case, please share them with us because if someone is advocating this as a tactic, I want some real proof that it is effective. Although, I guess it is possible that this guy has just gone rogue, but I doubt it because it wasn’t too hard to find that lame sticker online. Sigh.

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Pay It Forward Networking – Denver style

12 04 2010

What a great experience I had in Denver last week while co-presenting (along with SMPS board member, Stan Wagner) to the Denver chapter of the SMPS during a 3 hour workshop on the importance networking plays in truly effective business development. We used quite a bit of content from my book, and also incorporated plenty of new information and tactics for this knowledgeable and  sophisticated group.

Our agenda for the event looked like this:

I. Recap of BD Process – 1:00 – 1:15
A.  Sales cycle
B.  Where You Fit In
C.  Reality Check
II. Your Personal Brand –  1:15 – 1:45
A.  Definition
B.  What it is/isn’t
C.  Where do you use it?
III. The Productive Network – 1:45 – 2:30
A.  Network model
B.  What it is/what it isn’t
C.  Etiquette and Best Practices
IV.  Break – 2:30 – 2:45
V.   Building Your Network – 2:30 – 3:45
A. Strategy
B. Techniques
C. Worksheet
VI.  Question and Answer – 3:45 – 4:00

The session was then followed by the first Pay It Forward Networking Party

Have a PIF Party!

in the Mile High City where workshop attendees and other SMPS members connected and networked by learning what each was currently working on and the things they needed help with right now. You can read more about the event HERE, and as soon as we receive our session feedback forms, I’ll hopefully be able to share some great feedback here as well.

I’m looking forward to doing more of these for other SMPS chapters and various other professional associations across the country. Please contact me directly if you’d like to discuss your upcoming event or feel free to share this blog post with others you think might be interested in inviting me to present to their group. You can just click HERE to email me and/or request a copy of my speakers packet.

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Learning to Love LinkedIn Tip #2

30 03 2010

Don’t wait for folks to initiate a request to be introduced to your other contacts. Review your contact list regularly looking for introductions of potential value to your key connections. One good way is to offer to intro them to potential clients or partners via LinkedIn. I like using LinkedIn’s functionality to do this so people can see and learn more about the other party, but some people find it’s easier just to email both parties and suggest they make the connection on their own.

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Learn to Love LinkedIn Tip #1

24 03 2010

Make a practice of regularly scanning the LinkedIn status updates of your network in order to keep an eye out for opportunities, expressions of interest or stated needs where you might be able to offer help. I note needs like:

Job candidates needed
Spread the word or re-post requests
Vendor resources requests, etc.

It’s a great way to practice pay-it-forward style networking and is something I see reciprocated more often than I ever expected. I use about 10-15 minutes each day to complete this worthwhile task.

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Quality vs quantity focused networking?

4 03 2010

Regardless of an actual increase in the number of “jobs filled” in WA state occurring for the first time in a very long time (according to Jan 2010 stats), I’m amazed by the proliferation of events, sites, programs, webinars, groups and individuals out there offering to provide opportunities for connecting you or teaching you how to connect with that ideal person/class/company/recruiter/connector/coach/guru/innovator or expert that can land you that elusive new job.  It’s mind boggling to me, and especially in such a relatively small metro area like Seattle! How do you choose where you’ll focus and/or spend your precious energy and time? What factors go into saying “yes” to an invite, meeting or writing a check?

And, if you take the leap, which do you practice and/or prefer? bella domain networking Quality-oriented connecting opportunities or skills development programs OR quantity-focused groups or events? Please share your comments here or on Facebook and you’ll help me figure out which resources out there I should support and/or refer people to, and, just as importantly, which to avoid if you’re a quality and relationship-focused connector like me. I’m going to include some of the data in an upcoming white paper I’m working on as well as in my next book. Thanks all!

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PIF Networking Workshop – March 2, 2010

13 02 2010

Having  just wrapped 3 really well-received book related events in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, I wanted to give y’all the scoop on an upcoming pay it forward style networking event that’s taking place in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at Twist in Belltown:

Here’s what one of the co-hosts, Steve Paul, has to say about it:

“After reading Sandy Jones-Kaminski’s book (I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???), I had an opportunity to meet her recently and became even more impressed. The result is that along with Career Horizons and Bella Domain, we will be hosting a PIF Networking workshop on March 2 and I couldn’t be more excited.

One of my earlier posts characterizes “Job Socials” as way too similar to a Jr High School Dance, just swap the boys and girls with recruiters and job seekers and the picture is complete. What we will be doing at this event is teaching a way skip that whole thing and providing an opportunity to network with a variety of folks.”

Pay it Forward Networking Workshop, March 2. RSVP at the Meetup group Notes From the Job Search.

UPDATE: Feedback about this event can be found HERE. What a great group!

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