During this past month I have presented on the topic of networking two times: once at my alma mater to new grads and current students and once during my 5 Day Career Kickstarter live series. The most common question I received was “How do I know who I should be networking with?” There isn’t a magic answer as for every single one of us the answer is slightly differently. But there is one thing to keep in mind: a good percentage of the people you should be networking with should be people who are relevant to your goal.
Let’s break this down into three strategies: Your Goal, Your People, Your Pitch
The first step to figuring out who you should be networking with is to identify your goal or purpose for networking. Ask yourself: What is my reason for networking at this point in my life/career? Is it for a job search, for a promotion, to gain new clients, to grow your professional network to help you build influence, to promote an event you are involved in, to make new friends…? The reasons can go on and on.
The people you would seek to network with when seeking a promotion would be quite different from the people you would network with when you are looking to gain new clients. By understanding what is motivating you to go out and network, you will be better able to identify who your target audience is.
Now that you know why you are wanting/needing to network, you can zero in on the who. The people who you should be seeking out are people who can help you achieve your goal. There are the obvious people and then there are the not so obvious people.
Let’s create a scenario: You are looking to start networking because you are getting ready to begin a job search. Who should you be reaching out to?
- People who are working in the kind of position you aspire to
- People who hire people in the position you aspire to
- People who work at the companies you desire to work at
Those are people in the ‘Obvious List’. They can provide you insights on how to get the job and current or upcoming opportunities. What about the ‘Not So Obvious List’?
- People who you know that are connected to anyone on the Obvious List
- People who you have no idea if they are connected to any of the Obvious List
These people could be seen more as connectors. They can help to connect you to the people you need to be targeting (the Obvious List). That last one is tricky though, because really, how do you know who all can be helpful? How do you know that your Aunt Sue’s neighbour’s daughter is the manager of the team you really want to join at your ideal organization? This is where the next part, Your Pitch, comes in.
When we think of networking, most people think of either online networking or networking events. We develop specific introductions for ourselves that explain who we are, what we do, and what we want. When in a specific networking environment, it’s easy to know what to say to who.
What about Aunt Sue though? You aren’t just going to launch into a formal business conversation with her at the next family dinner. When you are in the midst of your networking mission, you should be armed with a variety of versions of your pitch. Some should be formal, some should be direct, while some should be more relaxed. You can have a relaxed conversation with Aunt Sue about what’s happening in your life and share with her what your goals are. After all, if you keep it to yourself, you’ll never find out that she’s the connector to your goal.
The most important part of your pitch – in any scenario – is that you identify what you are seeking. This allows the person you are speaking with to understand how they can help you. You decide the depth you go into on how much you share about what you are currently doing, what value you provide, and why with each person.
Interested in crafting an impactful introduction? Download this worksheet to help you create your perfect pitch for networking. You can use it as your guide to help you create a few versions to meet a variety of networking opportunities.
Networking can be daunting. Being prepared makes it easier.