Networking has become a buzzword in the professional world. People are networking to get their foot through the door, to get that resume on the manager’s desk or to see that 500+ on their LinkedIn. What people tend to forget, however, is that networking is an exchange. You are not in it to take, take, take, but it is about building meaningful connections. I am a networking STAN! Everywhere I go, I look for opportunities to build my network. When I approach these situations, however, it is NEVER to meet a people quota but to try and make as many genuine connections as possible.
Picture this, if a hose is not connected to a pipe, there is no way it can bring water to its destination. Yes, there are other ways to get the water over, however, we are working smarter NEVER harder besties. Similarly with networking, if you go into it trying to receive without first establishing a connection, you will not get to your destination.
Now bestie, I get it, connections are not your thing. You don’t know where to start, you are introverted. I created this video with my friend, Yinka to help you navigate that. Right now, we are going to walk through 3 questions you should NEVER lead with when trying to network.
1. Can I work with you?
cAn I wOrK wItH YoU? Firstly, who are you? Why do you want to work with me? What do you have to offer? Remember, networking is an exchange.
This question has no substance and to lead with it you would be selling yourself short. I am sure there is a reason you want to work with this person and there are some skills you have to offer them. Even before that, try to build a connection, NEVER lead with a request. What about this person interests you? What about them caught your eye? Communicate this before making a request.
I attended a conference once and I really connected with what one of the speakers had to say. She then mentioned that she would be hosting her first conference. At the end of the session, I reached out to her and asked if I could help create a marketing plan for her conference – but I didn’t lead with that.
Instead of asking right off the bat, “can I work with you?”. I said, “I love what you are doing with your events series. I currently work as a marketing manager, and I would love to create a formal marketing plan for your event so that you can reach as many people as possible. When she heard that I was willing to offer value, she was more willing to offer me something in return.
Three simple steps you can follow are:
1. Express interest.
2. Tell them how you can add value.
3. Ask them if they would be willing to have you on their team.
2. Can I pick your brain?
Great question, I see the intention behind it, but the problem is that it is too general. Believe it or not, people love talking about themselves and are often open to having coffee chats to share their experiences. I would suggest that you be direct and tell them exactly what you are hoping to learn from them instead of plain ole’ “picking their brain”.
Here is what you can say :
Hi, my name is X. I have learnt so much about digital marketing through a course I took, and I am interested in learning more about the field. I see that you are currently working on a digital marketing project, and I would love to have 15 minutes of your time to learn more about what you are doing. Would you be open to this?
In this situation, you are not asking for anything that they would need to whip up in a lab. You are simply asking to hear more about what they are doing. This is a great way to build connections and show that you are willing to take the initiative to learn more about a field.
3. Can you get me a job at your workplace?
Bestie, nobody in their right mind is going to hand you a job from these 9 words. I suggest you be specific with your interest, and I know that I may sound like a scratched record but before anything, try making a connection. You can’t move unless you are connected.
Ask about a specific project that this person is working on and ask if you can help with it, then if that goes well, ask for a job. Always give before you take.
Here is how I would rephrase this question after I have made a connection :
Hi x, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. I really appreciate it. I am very interested in marketing and I just applied for the role of Marketing manager at your company. I saw that you are connected to the senior marketing manager, Bob, on LinkedIn. I would appreciate it if you could hand over my resume just to get my name through the door. No obligation to do this, but if you are willing, I would appreciate it.
Remember, nobody is obligated to give you anything and being invited into somebody’s network is a privilege.
If you would like to hear me talk more about networking, feel free to check out the video below.
What are some questions you wish you think people should avoid while networking?