The Communication Series: 5 Myths About Networking

One of the most important cornerstones in developing a successful career is networking. Networking can help to make new connections and find more opportunities. It can also give the opportunity to help boost others’ careers. Although networking is imperative to one’s career, there are some myths about networking that could do more damage than good. Take a look at these five myths about networking that need to be busted:

Myth #1: Attending Networking Events Constantly is a Must

Although attending a networking event can lead to new contacts to add to your network, it’s not something that needs to be done very often. Many people will proclaim attending three to five events a week is the best way to meet new people and make connections. On the contrary, attending these events are not all that effective. At networking events, many people tend to stick to people they know or people more like them. Much of the time, events that are not made for networking can often be a better place to make new connections.

Myth #2: Asking for Help is Desperate

Sometimes, asking for help can feel desperate and childish. Many people will struggle instead of getting the help they need. There is a way to ask for help in a network without looking desperate. The best way to ask for help is by sending out a networking letter or email to the connections who know and trust you. This works especially well when looking for a job. The letter should exclude a resume but include an executive summary to highlight your best skills and achievements without actively asking for a job. Next, set up informal interviews with any new connections this could lead to.

Myth #3: Relationships Form Naturally, Not Through Networking

Although a popular belief, building new relationships don’t often happen organically, especially in business. Most relationships built organically aren’t often too friendly and less about business. Building a network must be strategic and diligent. Adding new connections for a network should be deliberate and intentional. The whole point of networking is to build and strengthen a career, not build new friendships. This may seem a little too calculating to some, but this practice will is the best way to develop a successful career.

Myth #4: Stronger Connections Are More Important

The idea that the best and most useful connections are from the ones that we know and trust the most. This type of thinking can hold a career back and possibly derail it. It’s imperative to acknowledge the importance of all connections in a network, even the smaller ones. Connections of the “outer circle” of someone’s network can be much more helpful. Sometimes the closer and stronger connections will typically supply the same information and perspective as you. By looking to smaller or weaker connections, it can open up to new information and resources.

Myth #5:  Business Cards Make Connections

Simply put, handing a bunch of business cards is not the way to build a network. Most of the time, business cards will get lost in a junk drawer and forgotten about. Without making an actual connection with someone, a business card is completely useless. A business card is only good for showing contact information. There needs to be a reason and motivation for someone to make contact and build a connection. In order to create a strong network, it’s important to make real connections.

Your Guide to an Informational Interview with a C-Suite Executive

informationalinterviewAn informational interview is a great way to learn more about an industry or company you may want to join. It’s also a natural way to form genuine connections with leaders in your field.

The first step of an informational interview is asking for the interview. Making the initial ask can be nerve-wracking, but your mindset can make all the difference in your approach. Remember, you’re not an inconvenience. Being a life-long learner is a beautiful quality. For professionals, an informational interview is the equivalent of an investigative journalist consulting an expert for their latest article.

Many CXOs and company leaders love to share their expertise and would be honored to connect with an inquisitive mind. After all, everyone likes to be reminded that they’re important. Seeking an informational interview sets you up for success while giving industry experts the opportunity to share their stories and knowledge. It’s a win-win!

To ask for the interview, send a friendly, concise message indicating that you’d like to chat about their professional experience. It doesn’t hurt to tell them why you’re seeking the information (thinking about a career change, etc.).

If you can naturally work it into your ask, I would also recommend including a compliment regarding their accomplishments. For example, say you’re reaching out specifically because of their interesting experience with handling XYZ so well. If you want a bold introduction, you could instead use a pain letter as a way to ask for an interview.

Successfully setting up the meeting is only half the battle. After securing an appointment, you need to switch your focus to think about the interview itself.

If you fail to prepare, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Don’t ask questions that can easily be found in interviews or blog posts the executive has already participated in. Instead, find that information and use it to go deeper. Focus on motives and how small details feed into the bigger picture.

Have questions and topics prepared, but don’t forget that this is a conversation and not an investigation. Be casual and flexible, yet professional.

You should also anticipate certain questions you might be asked. For example, your opinion on hot topics in the industry or your own experience. You may not be the “expert” in the room, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to add value to the conversation.

Even the best conversations must come to an end. It’s best to be respectful of the interviewee’s time. When there are 5–10 minutes left in the interview, casually mention that you want to be mindful of the time. This gives the executive an opportunity to gracefully end the conversation.

If they choose to extend the interview or schedule a follow-up conversation, that’s even better. Either way, it is a testament to your professionalism that you respect another person’s time and schedule.

Neglecting to follow up is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Send a thank-you note that explicitly shows your appreciation for the opportunity to learn from the executive’s hard-earned experience.

A handwritten note has a nice touch, but an email has other advantages. For example, you could send an article link related to a topic you discussed, showing that you truly absorbed the information and used it to continue your professional development.

Your first informational interview may be awkward, but they get easier as time goes on. For this reason, it may be best to become a seasoned interviewer before reaching out to a professional you’re especially interested in sitting down with.

A simple conversation can open so many possibilities. Don’t be afraid to go for it!

Originally published at http://clarelemortimer.com.