The old adage says “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. That spells bad news for me, as I don’t really know anyone. I grew up in around a cricket club and based my life around it. Everyone I know plays cricket. If I played for City of London Cricket Club, then that’d be great. I don’t. I played for Radcliffe, North Manchester. The most well connected person who played for my team was a copper. He was connected to criminals. Not in a corrupt way, just physically. Usually by handcuffs.
Building a network of people who can help you with your career is HARD. This is because the conversation with a potential new addition to your network is AWKWARD. I mean, ridiculously so. In a networking conversation, there’s always that undercurrent of “What’s in this conversation for me”. There’s a point at which you realise that your co-converser isn’t going to add much value to you. That’s the point you gaze around the room for other more interesting people. The conversation stalls. There’s an awkward silence. The unspoken narrative is “we both know this is pointless, but we’ll have to carry on as we don’t want to appear rude”, and so you do. Time is wasted and no one has any fun.
Approaching networking with a selfish attitude is unhealthy and leads to icky conversations such as this. The best networkers all share one trait – they are GENUINELY interested in other people, regardless of their perceived value. What do interested people do? They ask QUESTIONS. When you ask a question of another person, and listen intently, you show you are interested in what they have to say.
As a young person, it is difficult to feel comfortable doing this. Also, where do you meet the people you need to ask questions of? That too is difficult. However, here’s a little tip to improve both your questioning and build your network at the same time…..become a journalist.
Journalists are great at asking questions. It’s part of their job. In order to get decent information, they have to ask good questions. You might not want to be a journalist, but whilst you are a student, you should pretend to be one to help with your network building. Here’s what you should do: –
- Find interesting people in the career that you want to be in
- Send them an email asking if you can interview them for your school / college / university blog – tell them you want their help in providing information to people they who want to follow their career path
- Arrange a time to call / meet this person
- Prepare some meaningful questions
- Call / meet the person and ask the questions
- Write your article based upon the answers – if you feel confident, edit the conversation into a podcast or film it for a YouTube video
- Once you have finished your article, post it ti the internet (blog, Kloodle Profile, Social Media etc)
- Send the article back to your interviewee, thank them for their time and ask them if you can keep in touch
Et voila, you have one new person in your network. What’s more, this person will remember you as you’ll have added value to them. Follow up from time to time, ask how they’re doing. You never know when this person will be able to help you!