Young Money: Networking like a champ, not a chump
blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty • September 19, 2012 @ 9:47am
At a recent event, I found myself selling one of the attendees on the benefits of networking. Until the words were coming out of my mouth, I didn’t realize how much I truly believed them. One of my first blogs for buffalo.com was on face-to-face networking, but I think the value of doing it well is so important that the topic deserves another blog.
In my particular situation, the person I spoke with worked in a specialized industry where not all members of the business community—in fact over half of the business community—might never need his services. He wondered what, if any, results a business networking event like the one we were attending would ever yield for him.
I told him he was, quite frankly, missing the point.
I found myself having almost the exact same conversation once again on the phone today with yet another young professional. This talk was with a family friend who had just graduated from college, has a job in the financial industry and looking to build his book of business. His mom suggested he reach out to me to help grow his network. Five minutes in, I was repeating my advice from earlier this week almost word for word.
Something that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time is that business is really just about building relationships. People do business with those they know. At the end of the day, I’d rather pay $5 more for a service from someone I trust than go with the cheap option I heard about through a cold call.
Another important note to remember is that networking is not about instant gratification. If it is for you, then—I’m sorry to say—you’re just not doing it right. Don’t be a piranha, and we all know who I’m talking about—the person in the room who stalks out their “prey,” moves in for the kill (handing over a business card) and is gone before you can even introduce yourself properly. Their MO is to make as many contacts as possible as quickly as possible. Trust me—you do not want to be the piranha.
Instead, recognize that networking pays off over time. In fact, I may never be able to use your service or buy your product, but you don’t know who’s in my network that could. Often, people discount the young professionals in the room. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, big mistake. Big, big mistake! While I may not be the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to making a purchase or engaging a service, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a direct line to the person who is. If I tell my boss that I think we should work with someone, nine times out of 10 she’ll seriously consider my advice.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, either. These days, more young professionals than ever are going into business for themselves, and just because we look young, it does not mean we aren’t building our own mini-empires.
To me, networking is about more than just closing a deal or selling a service, it’s about building a relationship and forming a positive reputation in the marketplace. I guess I just never realized how important I think it is until I found myself defending the benefits to a new generation of professionals.
Photo from Flickr / 4nitsirk.