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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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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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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7 Savvy Networking Tips for 2010

25 01 2010

7 Savvy Networking Tips for 2010:

1) Don’t take networking too seriously. It can and should be fun. Connect with the intention of helping others rather than simply expecting to find the elusive perfect job or client. Relax, take the pressure off yourself and focus on what you can bring to the party or offer in the form of contacts, knowledge or resources.

2) Improve your outlook and your fortune will change. If you have a negative outlook on networking, you’re probably sabotaging your chances at connecting with the “right” people. Put all the negative or disappointing encounters behind you and focus on “what’s possible.” As Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”

3) Take a proactive approach and get off the couch or out from behind your screen and get out there! Remember, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” You eventually have to meet people to know if you’ll really connect with them, and the more people you meet, the more likely you are to find the “right” people for you. (It’s almost like dating, isn’t it?)

4) Keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum if you’re at an event where it’s being served. Being relaxed is good, but having your buzz on and then acting inappropriately is not a good way to be memorable at any event. A phrase that comes to mind here is “The more I drink, the cuter you get.” Yikes! Do I really need to say more here?

5) Be the person to include others into the conversation when they join the circle. What a great way to create a good impression and set an example for others. As Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

6) Be polite and considerate. Good manners never go out of style. Leave your ego in the restroom after you’ve checked your appearance (make sure there are no traces of your lunch in your teeth) and also leave the office politics at the office. A networking event is a time to be non-competitive and social in a professional yet friendly way.

7) Be sincere, open and follow through on your commitments.  Authenticity leaves a lasting impression, and even if you don’t find a way to assist each other immediately, you never know when someone might introduce you to a key new contact down the road.

I cover a lot of this in my book, but wanted to share some of this content here and before I attend a few networking events myself this week. Can’t hurt and might help!

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Back to the Bay Area – Feb 2010

4 01 2010

Announcement:

Happy New Year! And, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share that I’ll be in the Bay Area again for this book related event on Wed, 2/10/2010 (cool date, eh?), and then another book/Pay It Forward/Valentine’s themed happy hour event in San Fran on Thur, Feb 11.

Why not show some luv to your network and try to attend if you’re in the area or maybe consider this an easy “pay it forward” and help spread the word with your peeps in San Fran/Silicon Valley? 🙂 Thanks a bunch and watch for the announcement on the SF location which will be confirmed soon! p.s. If I haven’t spammed you about my book yet, here’s the link on Amazon.

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Networking myths debunked

16 12 2009

This morning I had the exciting challenge of living up to the introduction I received below at an event hosted by Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons:

Topic: Networking Tips, Technique & EtiquetteI'm at a networking event--Now What??? by Sandy Jones-Kaminski

Guest Speaker: Sandy Jones-Kaminski, President of Bella Domain & Author of “I’m At a Networking Event: Now What?”

In this next meeting, we’ll be joined by a good friend of Career Horizons and one of the top local experts on professional networking, Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain.  Having recently published her new book, mentioned above, Sandy has agreed to come share some of her top tips about how to win friends and influence people in the modern marketplace.  A huge proponent of the “pay it forward” philosophy, she’ll be discussing some personal stories of how she’s leveraged her network of relationships to great effect and how her constant attempts to assist others have brought her many levels of personal/professional prosperity, in return.  It should be an exciting discussion, and in the first hour of the meeting, we’ll also be engaging in some networking exercises and icebreakers designed to help all of you make some new acquaintances and become more effective at this important interpersonal aspect of the job search process.

One of the things I reviewed with the group had to do with some networking myths (included below) which I believe I adequately debunked during the presentation. My goal was to set the stage for all 47 of his guests to read the gift copy of my book (he provided them) with a much more open mind. Based on the feedback I received at the end of the event, as well as Matt’s kudos, it appears I did fairly well and I think I even achieved my goal! 🙂

What a great time I had and what a wonderful group this was to be part of today! Thanks so much Matt – you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan than moi!

Myth #1: Networking means you’re looking to use people to achieve selfish goals, or opportunistically ask people for help.

REALITY: The definition of the word network according to The Oxford Dictionary:

nétwerk n. & v. a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.

Networking can be defined as one’s efforts to create this group, and of course it can be done honestly and considerately!

Myth #2: You have to be a born networker or a natural at it.

REALITY: The skills needed to be an effective networker can be learned by anyone. Get comfortable asking folks you meet, “So, what are you working on these days?” or, “What do you need help with right now?” Then, just read my new book titled, “I’m at a Networking Event—Now What???” for more ways to further develop your networking muscle.

Myth #3: You must have above average charisma to be a good networker.

REALITY: You merely need to be thoughtful, sincere and genuinely helpful. You get offered a job or opportunities from people who are trusting of you. There IS a hidden job market out there, but you have to be willing to be open and giving to be part of it.

Myth #4: You have to be a good talker or an overly chatty “schmoozer” to be a good networker.

REALITY: The truth is it is almost the exact opposite. According to Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Garage Technology Ventures, Forbes columnist, and author of the recently published, Reality Check, “The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot. Thus, good schmoozerʼs are good listeners, not good talkers.”

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It’s not you, it’s them

10 11 2009

I just received confirmation that my first “real” book is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, so I felt it appropriate to commemorate the occasion with a blog post that explains why I wrote the book in the first place.

The first copy of "I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???" by Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain, LLC

The 1st copy of "I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???"

Also, since I’ve started having to explain what my new book is about to total strangers (airplane seatmates, wedding table mates, and so far 1 press person – OMG!) I’ve become acutely aware of exactly what it is about the book that initially appeals to the folks that don’t know me or what I refer to as my “How do you not know this?” corner of the world. So, I thought I’d share a few of the questions I’ve been asked and how I answered them.

Stranger:  So, what’s your book about?

Me:  Well, the title is, “I’m at a Networking Event—Now What???” (I usually then pause and wait for the giggling to subside). It’s a practical guide to getting the most out of any networking event, and if you read it you’ll feel like you spent some time with a fairly entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is networking coach.

Stranger: What made you want to write a book about networking?

Me:  There were 2 things:

1)   I was tired of all the bad behavior I was encountering at the majority of the networking events I’d been attending and I also wanted to help the folks in the 80% group of the Pareto Principle out there that just don’t seem to be fans of the activity. I’ve found that besides some of them being shy, most usually aren’t fans as a result of having been on the receiving end of some of the aforementioned bad behavior such as watching someone scan the nametags of others while they’re supposedly listening to you, and

2)   Then, there’s the fairly well-documented phenomenon in the Seattle area called the “Seattle Freeze” (you can Google this) which relates to the arms-length-only friendliness of the Puget Sound area in general, and the lack of genuine welcome many new settlers to the area often experience.

Both factors motivated me to start hosting what I started calling Pay It Forward (PIF) Parties, and then I wrote a few white papers earlier this year on my “12 Rules of Networking.”

The response to the above generated lots of interest (1200+ downloads of my white paper), as well as the encouragement to write a book, and that gets us back to where I started.  As I was working on the book, I was always on the lookout for supporting evidence for my own theories and beliefs about networking best practices, and while I liked to think of them as rules (as in etiquette), I kept finding proof that they’re also the most effective.

For instance, one of the studies I site in the book comes from the folks at Upwardly Mobile Inc. and the Graziadio School of Business Management at Pepperdine University. They conducted a study on the habits of what they call, “elite networkers” and their behaviors as they relate to networking in general.

Finding worth sharing #1: 70% of executives credit networking as THE activity that leads to career opportunities, and 75% of study respondents said they spend fewer than two hours each week directly managing their networks. Bottom line: If done right, you can spend a manageable amount of time on it.

Have you actually developed reciprocal and quality relationships with your contacts? Can you count on them when you need a favor? Do they know that you’re there for them when they need the favor? These are the key questions most elite networkers can answer positively.

Finding worth sharing #2: Not surprisingly, the study notes that most people approach networking fairly ineffectively. They focus on quantity of contacts instead of the most important factor—the depth of the relationship (or my interpretation – trust between the 2 parties a.k.a. good social capital[1]).

I’ve noticed loads written about whether people will recommend you or not as the ideal measure, and while that matters if your only goal for networking is getting more leads (whether they be job or biz/sales related), I believe that good social capital should be the real goal. I strive to cultivate quality relationships that often turn into friendships where a natural by-product is that I know when/if I need some help or a favor I can unhesitatingly reach out and ask for what it is I need, actually receive it directly or indirectly, and then work to make certain that others know they can count on the same from me.

But back to the idea that “It’s not you, it’s them.” I also wrote my book because I wanted to encourage reluctant networkers to recognize that it’s not their fault that the person scanning the other nametags is doing so. You’re not boring — they’re just RUDE! And, I believe that we can help rehabilitate these people at the networking events we attend by “flipping the script,” and instead of being passive and waiting for someone to ask what brought you to the event, so that you can launch into what probably feels like a canned elevator pitch you may have even paid some coach to develop for you, you can act as if you’re walking into a gathering of your closest friends, and simply beat the other person to the punch and ask them what they’re working on these days and whether they need help with anything in their life right now. The idea is that by setting the example of showing genuine interest, and potential assistance, the recipient will hopefully follow your lead and respond in kind so you can actually have a meaningful conversation. And, if they don’t, you’ve just learned that you should save yourself a whole bunch of time, follow-up and trouble, and politely move on.

pif_logo1Based on my own experience, many of the Google alerts I’ve been reading, and the popularity of the PIF Parties I’ve hosted or attended, offering help to others first appears to be an approach that’s really starting to catch on. Hopefully, my book will provide the encouragement to get folks confidently back out there, and maybe I’ll get to meet them at an event soon because, quite frankly, I’m a little tired of running into most of the same usual suspects (a.k.a the 20%) at the networking events I attend. 😉 I welcome the opportunity to meet some new people in the New Year!

[1] Social capital is defined as the resources such as information, ideas or support that individuals are able to procure by virtue of their relationships with other people. The uniqueness of social capital is that it is relational…it only exists when it is SHARED.


 

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