Written by Bob Howard-Spink
On Wednesday I went to my first networking breakfast in almost a year. I arrive late at the new venue – a prominent football stadium – and drive in ironically cheering the one and only directional sign I have seen on my entire journey?
Being late I miss the preliminary socialising and that's not good for me. Any hint of social exclusion brings out an anarchic rebellious streak. I have a "Reggie Perrin moment" and will the Breakfast Club host to fall from the chair where he commands attention during his opening remarks. A video cameraman is filming proceedings – I innocently obstruct his view and get asked to move.
Breakfast is finally called. In the scrum for table places I see from the side the Retro Bookmaker's suit of the local networking pariah – and successfully avoid eye contact!
Surely a camouflaged look would help him avoid the Billy no mates (no) networking table?
Then I settle at the breakfast table between two welcoming and easy to chat with business women – a graphic designer and an HR and Change Consultant. I feel included once more – suddenly all the angst has gone and those rested networking skills are up and running.
After the customary "what do you do?" exchanges we refresh thoughts on successful networking techniques, talking about:
– The essential Elevator Pitch – how it must make clear what it is that you do and what that does for your customer.
– The essence of the elevator pitch – your "special widget" …the distillation of what you do that distinguishes you from others doing the same. This we agreed is the bit that networkers will remember and encourage them to recommend you.
– A story – a case study or anecdote that illustrates your widget at work and shows what it achieved.
Later on that day I was talking with a colleague about the challenges of getting back into work. Recalling my earlier conversations we quickly agree that business networking offers a terrific opportunity for securing employment – and the disciplines of business referral are entirely relevant as well:
– Nothing works better than a personal recommendation.
– And nothing makes making a recommendation easier than a memorable success story.
Although initially amused we also see the relevance of those "moments" I'd had earlier:
– An unfamiliar journey made difficult by inadequate signs!
– The feeling of "socially exclusion" by an established group.
Because these are the feelings that many experience when seeking employment after years in a secure familiar role. But just like my moments this morning – they are illusional. We create these perceptions ourselves. Once set aside we find that all is familiar and we are as good as we ever were.
So that's the message to every jobseeker then-
Find your "widget" …create your story …get out there networking …be early …and don't wear a Retro-Bookmaker's suit
Bob Howard-Spink is a supplier of positive attitudes. He runs OnWeGo; a website for people who think they've done as much as they ever will in life and work. Bob supplies inspiration and ideas on work, health and play. He is an advocate for making the rest of your life, the best of your life!
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