It’s a vital part of any professionals’ career. Networking! The people we surround ourselves with, the relationships we build and the connections we make are the secret sauce to a long term successful career. In fact, networking is one of the best things we can do to advance our careers. If networking is so important why is it so many of us go about it all wrong?
For the better part of the last six years I’ve had the great opportunity to be a part of a non-profit professionals association called DeviceAlliance. It’s focus is simple - help people elevate their game professionally through impactful connections and education in Southern California. Needless to say we do a lot of networking. The time I’ve spent with this organization has opened my eyes to a lot of learning opportunities which I wouldn’t have been exposed to in a typical corporate setting.
One of the biggest learning lessons has been why networking is so important.
Over time I began to also learn that so many of us, including myself, went about networking all wrong.
Networking professionally is a fine art, one that takes practice and consistency. In order to be an effective networker we need to keep top of mind these two important considerations:
When we are in a time of need this is the exact wrong time to start a networking. There seems to be a common misconception that networking should only be done when we’ve ‘hit the skids’ professionally. We’ve lost our job, hate our boss or company for that matter and finally make the decision we need to get out in the world. We’re going to give it the old college try, shake some hands and kiss some babies, to hopefully wrestle up a new opportunity and get ourselves out of the mess we’re in presently.
Professional networking is most effective when we do it proactively, not in the moment of need. On more occasions than I can count I’ve heard people say, “I’m in transition so I’m networking to find my next gig.” Often times these people go to one event and then stop networking altogether once they land themselves a new opportunity. They’re failing to see the bigger picture which is networking is not something to do just when you need it in the moment.
Long term career impact comes from a steady stream of professional networking. It becomes a constant part of your to-dos just like that morning cup of coffee you have every day. Be proactive and be consistent in your approach.
2. Quid Pro Quo
I’ll do this if you give me that. When our focus is to help ourselves people can smell us from a mile away. It’s uncanny how quickly people pick up on this when they meet someone at a networking event. It’s like they’re wearing cheap perfume bought from the Dollar Store. As your unflattering fragrance permeates the air we know all too well that your intent for networking is entirely self-serving. What’s worse is that people, without realizing, can build a reputation for being self-serving which produces counterproductive results.
The best approach to effective networking is to take the approach of ‘The Go-Giver’. This book has impacted my life more so than any other book I’ve read. It talks about how a genuine interest in helping others can lead to a life of fulfillment and prosperity. Essentially, if we put other people’s interests before our own what we find is that through helping others we actually benefit in the long run.
Using this approach to networking helps build trust quickly which then leads to fostering new relationships and friendships. Think about it this way – the more deposits we make into the professional lives of others the wealthier we’ll be in our own careers.
When it comes to professional networking timing and intent play a huge role in our success. Now that we know how to be a successful networking the next thing we need to do is get involved.
Action Item: find an association, peer group or industry event you can get involved with. You’ll be glad you did. (If you are a part of the life sciences industry check here for events in Southern California)
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a medical device consulting firm, providing end to end engineering and compliance services. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years and has been recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.