Late last summer i wanted to find ways to practice the skills i want to enhance: marketing in specific. I also realised that my network of contacts was not large, despite living in a relatively small and definitely close-knit city.
Networking Is Easy
It really is. Every phone number, email, Twitter handle, and YouTube channel that has a person’s name attached has one this in common – there is a human being on the other end of of the line. Yeah, theyre not the same as you, but if theyre anything like most people i know, they love to share their stories. If you want to know more about an industry or career, it’s as simple as asking. So that is just what i did.
Just over a year ago, i reconnected with a lady i had met in high school at a friends’ wedding by asking an obvious question: “how has your life been going since high school?” She had been running her own marketing and graphic design consultancy. We connected on LinkedIn shortly after the wedding and i noticed she had been running that business for 7 years (before she had graduated high school, infact).
Every person has expertise. When i realised my lack of contacts and real world practice, i asked her for an informational interview about her experience in the marketing industry. It would be a lie to say her experience was intimidating, so i tried to consider that experience as a resource for me to tap into.
Reaching Out The hardest part of anything is the first step, as the cliche states, and is even harder is one has stumbled before. For a period of time, i earned my keep cold calling businesses in an attempt to sell them a product. Honestly, that work scared me off making phone calls for a long time. Eventually i got over that fear.
Professors are a great place to start. Ask your favorite professor to coffee or spend a few minute chatting with him or her after class. They are often well-connected, and will gleefully respond to any interest in learning from their life experiences.
The value of a network of contacts cannot be underscored enough. All my current work and every step i have made towards a career has come from an acquaintance.
While i was in networking mode, my father made a suggestion. When job searching, he requested three things from every willing member of his network: phone numbers. He would call every number, state how he got the number (name dropping is a good idea), and then ask for a meeting. In the case of an answering machine, he always stated a follow-up date.