Saturday, January 21, 2012

What To Do After Meeting Vendors at Our Networking Events

The Importance Of The Coffee Date And Other Informal Networking Tips

Kendra T. Anderson is a digital strategist with over five years experience in marketing, content distribution, social media, and brand building. 

Networking is like the teethbrushing of career growth: you always have to do it, even when you’re tired; the more you do it, the healthier you are; and sometimes, it leaves you with a minty fresh feeling. And informal networking is like the flossing that always gets skipped even though it is recommended strongly by your dentist.

I’m kidding, but only partially. Most women understand the value of networking, but don’t do enough of it.  It’s easy to push it off when you’ve got a lot on your plate, or when you’re exhausted, or really, for any reason. It’s not until you have a specific career-related need that you remember the value of tapping into your professional network, and often, that one-time ask isn’t effective.

The key is to incorporate informal networking into your regular schedule: coffee dates, phone calls, email conversations, etc. Why are these meetings important? They improve your networking skills and grow your professional contact group; and in a casual environment, stakes are lower, so it’s easier to absorb valuable knowledge.

Jen Scott, Senior Director of Career Management at The Advisory Board Company, offers this advice:
“Cultivating a good professional network will provide you with a proven advantage as you navigate important career moves, gain critical feedback, and develop essential skills.  (While formal networking, sponsorship, or mentoring programs are also helpful, the opportunities for that are more limited – although if you are invited to be part of such a program, accept!)  It’s a great way to build key relationships.”
But most of the power of a network is harnessed informally – through casual and organically-formed bonds with others – perhaps a shared interest or favorite sports team as well as a common area of professional or career interest.

You know it’s important, so how can you make the most of informal networking? Here are three tips:

1. Get out of your own way
Networking is prey to all the pitfalls of social interaction – we feel constant pressure to make a good impression and say the right things. But while timidity can hold you back when going to a party, this is business, and it shouldn’t interfere with your goals. In a professional setting, networking is about marketing yourself, and the more confidence you have, the better job you’ll do.

Joanna Lindenbaum, Owner of Soulful Coaching for Busy Women, puts it this way:
“Connecting with colleagues, contacts, and community members is vital to creating a successful career or business for yourself. This is because at its heart, marketing (networking) is about creating relationships and connections. Marketing isn’t just for business owners. It’s for anyone who is seeking visibility, acknowledgement, and recognition in their career.”
Still, it’s easy to be intimidated by the thought of meeting a high level professional in your field. But instead of second-guessing yourself, focus on confidence. A couple years ago, while in a cross-functional role at work, the managing partner of the organization offered to discuss career-pathing with me. At the time I assumed it was a passing comment, and was reluctant to follow up on the offer. When I finally pushed past my timidity and requested a coffee meeting, he was more than happy to spend time answering my questions and offering advice. As a result, I felt more poised and confident, and came away with a lot of great professional food for thought.

2. Have an agenda and a goal
Confidence will help you get your foot in the door, but once you’re there you need to have something intelligent to say. When strategizing for an informal meeting, determine a goal you’d like to achieve as a result of the conversation. Jenn Korducki Krenn of DreamChamps recommends going to the meeting not with the expectation that you’ll immediately have a job prospect, but that you’ll learn something valuable to build on later.

When I moved to New York and began my job search in earnest, I thought an ad agency might be the right fit for me, but didn’t understand the different jobs available. Through a friend of a friend, I reached out to an agency SVP for an informational conversation. Going into that meeting, I knew I needed to find out two things: what roles exist in an agency setting, and which are a good fit for me?

On top of working towards your meeting goal, it’s helpful to have a personalized agenda or list of questions you can ask your professional contact. Do your research on the person’s background, especially if he or she is a high level executive, and think of related topics that would be interesting to him or her. I often start the conversation reiterating my appreciation for taking time to speak with me, emphasizing an aspect of his/her background I think is especially interesting. From there I’ll ask how his or her experience has led to this current role. Discussing his or her professional accomplishments is a great way to break the ice, and leads to a candid conversation.

3. Stay in touch
Your meeting doesn’t end when it’s over. Send a follow up note thanking your contact for a meaningful conversation, and express your intention to keep in touch. Gratitude goes a long way.
Lindenbaum says “The more you establish and deepen relationships with others, the more you get to know them and let them know you, then the more likely you are to be seen in big ways.”
Keep in touch with this new member of your professional network. You can choose to include him or her in your newsletter updates, email a link to a relevant article, or even just send a card on his or her birthday. Casual, sporadic touchpoints help keep the relationship warm, and keep you top of mind.
And now for a challenge: Identify a professional contact you’d like to meet or get to know better. Using the tips above, create a strategy to approach this person – how you will you reach out, what you will say, what your meeting goal will be. Now that you have your action items, get to work, and report back to let us know how it went.

What are your tips for making the most of informal networking? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Follow this author on Twitter or visit her website to learn more.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Networking's Gender Gap

Gender and work styles
Men and women handle networking differently -- "let's make a deal" men vs. "let's build relationships" for women, according to a new book, "Business Networking and Sex." (Blend Images / December 9, 2011)

I recently received an advance copy of a book that has the word "SEX" in the title in big, red capital letters and, because I'm a sucker and a guy, I opened it and started looking for pictures.

Finding none, I grunted and settled for second-best — looking at the words. Turns out they are quite interesting, and not in the way you might imagine.

The book is called "Business Networking and Sex," and it's a fascinating examination of the ways professional men and women interact and network. Based on data culled from about 12,000 online surveys and interviews with an array of experts, the book provides refreshingly pragmatic takes on why women and men interact differently in the working world, as well as suggestions on how to improve those interactions.

Here's the bottom line: Most men approach their business dealings like men, most women approach their business dealings like women, and neither side seems particularly interested in understanding why there's sometimes a disconnect.

"The biggest thing we found, I think, is that we're really not that far apart, men and women," said co-author Hazel Walker, a networking strategist. "We want the exact same things, we're headed to the same destination, we just use different techniques and tactics to get there."

The book explains how men tend to use a "transactional" approach to business — very direct, cut to the chase, close the deal, with a good amount of highlighting one's accomplishments mixed in.

Women more often use a "relational" approach — getting to know people, building a relationship first and then getting down to the business at hand.

"If you think about the history of mankind, men were the hunters, women were the gatherers," Walker said. "Women were the keepers of the fires, the builders of the community. Women understood they have to have relationships around them to survive."

And the bad news for my fellow men is, not surprisingly, the women's approach seems to be more effective.

"When we really looked at the data, women fared much better in the results," said co-author Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of Business Network International. "The bottom line is women spend less time networking and still get a greater percentage of their business through referrals. Whether you're a man or a woman, focusing on the professional relationship will get you farther than focusing on a transaction."

Misner said that to test this theory about the importance of relationships among women, he asked a large audience he was addressing whether they had a relationship with their dry cleaner.

"Ten times more women raised their hands than men," he said. "Men view something like a dry cleaner as a transaction. 'I give them money, they clean my clothes.' Women will get to know the people that work there better and view it much more like a relationship than a transaction."

So why is this a problem?

"The problem is that women speak to men to relate and men speak to women to impress," Walker said. "Because women speak to relate, men think they're not serious about their business, they always get personal. They're just as serious as the guys are; they just do it differently."
And guys acting like guys — puffing out their chests or sidestepping relational topics and getting right down to business — can be off-putting to a woman, who thinks the man is flirting or not taking her seriously.

These disconnects are often made worse by two false stereotypes — that men mainly want to stare at women's chests and that women dress provocatively so men will notice their chests.

The book puts forth a "98/2 rule," which says that, "Two percent of the population in each demographic creates a reputation for the remaining 98 percent."

"The overwhelming majority of men at a business event behave appropriately," Misner said. "It's that 2 percent that do not, and that becomes the perception of the gender. Most women dress completely appropriately at business events — it's that 2 percent that don't that become the water cooler discussion. Small percentages can lead the discussion."

And those false perceptions put up immediate — and unnecessary — blockades to smooth interaction.

So how can we get past the differences in our gender-specific approaches to business? (This all starts to feel a bit like a grade-school dance, with girls on one side of the gym, boys on the other and nobody having a clue how to break the ice.)

Walker and Misner say it boils down to the simple axiom that knowledge is power. If you're a man, recognize that the way you typically approach another man in a work situation might not work as well with a woman. Ditto for women.

"The guys need to slow down, listen to her — find ways to find common ground and you will build business with her," Walker said. "And women need to be more clear in their communication. Say what you want. Be more direct and men will respond better."

Undoubtedly some folks out there — male and female —will view this advice as sexist to some degree. And certainly the assumptions made in the book, which comes out in January, do not apply to every man or woman.

But I think we're better served dropping any pretense of political correctness and taking an honest look at our natural tendencies. Men and women are different. We comport ourselves — at work and in our personal lives — in ways that don't always mesh.

Personal relationships between men and women work best when there's compromise and a mutual understanding of how each person functions.

Why should it be any different in the workplace?

You can learn more about the survey data and the book at

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at, like him on Facebook at and find more at

Men and Women Network Differently!

Deborah Gillis credits an encounter with a former colleague for a 'career-changing' opportunity to join Toronto-based Catalyst. where she is now senior vice-president for membership and global operations. - Deborah Gillis credits an encounter with a former colleague for a 'career-changing' opportunity to join Toronto-based Catalyst. where she is now senior vice-president for membership and global operations. | The Globe and Mail


The serendipitous side of networking

LEAH EICHLER | Columnist profile
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Deborah Gillis had just returned to work leading a business consulting practice, after being treated for breast cancer, when a former colleague invited her to lunch out of the blue.
“She asked me the big question: How has this experience impacted your life?” recalls Ms. Gillis. She replied that it had forced her to re-evaluate all aspects of her life, including her career. She explained that she wanted to find work that was more meaningful to her but hadn’t thought it through yet.
Ms. Gillis’s lunch date told her that she knew of a headhunter looking for someone to work for anot-for-profit organization in Toronto focusing on issues facing women in business. Because that’s a mission Ms. Gillis strongly supports, she agreed to connect with the recruiter. In less than a week, she was asked to lead Catalyst's Canadian operation. Today, she is Catalyst’s senior vice-president for membership and global operations.
“It really feels like one of those serendipitous, meant-to-be situations, because I’ve not seen that woman since that day, five and a half years ago,” Ms. Gillis said of the luncheon encounter.
“You really don’t know where and when someone that you have met, or worked with, or been introduced to, may present an opportunity that may not only be career-changing but can be life-changing,” she added.
Most professionals know that networking is an important part of building your business and career but few place the appropriate emphasis on developing their contacts.
At the risk of generalizing, women seem to spend less time cultivating their networks than men do, for a couple of reasons. One is that networking is a time-consuming activity and for many women, time is a commodity in short supply. Also, some women find it insincere to meet people to explicitly to look for business, and believe that hard work and determination will be enough to get them ahead.
According to a Harvard Business Review research report published in early 2011, 77 per cent of women surveyed believed that hard work and long hours, not connections, would secure their advancement.
Men network differently than women, according to Hazel Walker. She is one of the authors of Business Networking and Sex (Not What You Think),and an executive director of the Central Indiana region of BNI, an international business networking association. Their different approaches may render the experience less beneficial to women at organized networking events, she added.
“Women network for relationships. They are not really good at asking for business,” observed Ms. Walker, who noted that men ask for business very quickly and feel that a relationship forms while working together on that transaction. When men approach women using this tactic, she said women find it “too sales-y.”
“Business is about business for men – it’s about doing the deal, selling the product and getting the money,” said Ms. Walker. And when women emphasize relationships over transactions, men interpret that to mean they don’t take their business seriously, she said.
I worry that Ms. Walker's argument places a larger onus on women, instructing them on how to network like men. Hopefully, men will learn from the book that women do indeed take their businesses very seriously, even if they tread more cautiously before entering into a business relationship.
Ms. Walker said the inspiration for Business Networking and Sex came to her a few years ago after observing a networking event where people were being instructed on ways they could help others, and ways others could help them. The women in the group embraced the chance to help others but felt resistant to asking for assistance, Ms. Walker recalled.
She advises women not to be afraid to directly ask for what they want, especially when dealing with men.
The other piece of advice she gives female networkers is to talk up their accomplishments.
“Men speak to impress one another and women speak to relate to one another. But when a man speaks to a women, he’s trying to impress, she’s trying to relate – and they walk away frustrated,” Ms. Walker said.
“Don’t tell [him] you’re the Mary Kay lady, because [he’s] going to think you sell lipstick. Instead, say, ‘I run a cosmetic organization. I have 250 people in my organization and I probably bring down $65,000 to $75,000 a year doing that.’ That’s what a man wants to hear,” she said.
Leah Eichler is a senior editor at Thomson Reuters who writes about women, their careers and success. E-mail:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Networking -- A Worthy Goal for the New Year - Business Monday -

By Laura Kozelouzek The Miami Herald

The thought of networking can be intimidating, awkward and unpleasant. Yet the ability to connect with other professionals and make a positive impression is not only important for your career, it can be fun and exciting if approached with the right attitude.

It’s a good idea to start the New Year off on the right foot by building relationships that can lead to new business or new business contacts. Remember networking is about the follow through, building trust and longevity.

Here are some tips for building and expanding your network.

Be charming and approachable.

We’ve all heard the saying, “People want to do business with people they like.” So when given the opportunity to connect, be likable.

Networking should not be one-sided.

Be a resource to others, understand their needs by asking open-ended questions and then listening. If you approach networking as how you can help others rather than what you can get out of it, you will get much further.

Start with the base hit.

Building relationships takes time, and you need to be respectful and build a bond over time. Don’t jump right in and ask for help; you may come across as insincere and pushy.

It’s not how many relationships you have, it’s the quality of the relationship that matters

We have all seen the “turbo connectors” attending events, spending no more than one or two minutes jumping from guest to guest, and collecting hundreds of business cards in a single evening. They then load the names into a database and start sending usually annoying emails. These “players” give networking a bad name. I have found that it is better to invest time and effort into fewer connections in which you have identified ways you can help each other. You’re going for a meaningful relationship — not the shallow and superficial playing the field approach.

Deal with rejection.

If you follow up and do not get a response, then maybe they’re not interested or they are just busy. It’s OK to be persistent to a point, change it up, maybe drop in to talk face-to-face; use humor. Don’t take it personally if your contacts don’t respond, move on.

Nurture the rela-tionship.

Make it a point to follow up with a brief email and do it with personality. The best correspondence is directed, relevant and with purpose, and it helps anchor the previous interaction. Make it a priority to reach out to new contacts on a regular basis. Recognize their achievements, offer assistance when appropriate and remember that all good relationships require attention. Networking can help you build your business in the new year.

Laura Kozelouzek is president and chief executive officer of Quest Workspaces.

Read more here:


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