I hate the thought of schmoozing. Going out of my way to develop false relationships with people I don’t really care about on topics that I’m not interested in with the goal of obtaining someone’s money is the epitome of time wasted. That’s a level of flakiness that’s best saved for a toaster-strudel.
What I’ve struggled with over my career is balancing a need to network with a strong desire to be natural and unobtrusive.
What I’ve discovered is that intentional networking is my answer to that pain. I used this technique recently to land a new job with an organization that I greatly admire, and from a recruiting perspective it never fails to grow referrals and reach. It’s a fantastic way to get noticed by the employers you want to work for, or the companies that you want to work with.
Here’s the process I recommend following when networking intentionally:
- Pay attention. Watch LinkedIn, read the news, attend events and listen carefully to the stories that other people tell you about the places that they work or the companies that they do business with. Write down the names of places that are doing things that fit with where you want to go and who you want to deal with. Networking involves regular activity and attention.
- Know your brand. Everyone has a personal brand that they put out to the world. Is your brand to “like” and share Eeyore articles on bad bosses on LinkedIn, or is your brand to share how-to and practical solutions to dealing effectively with day to day issues? Once you know your brand, it’s a lot easier to find companies that match what you value. Recruiters and companies will naturally either gravitate to your brand or steer clear of it and that’s ok. Spend your time on places that fit.
- Do your research. Find out what metrics and news stories are out there in the world about places that interest you. Add contacts from companies you admire to your LinkedIn network, then share articles and thoughts that match what their brand values. Align yourself with that company. Don’t forget that other people can see what you “like” so it’s an easy way to make an intentional connection or two before reaching out without being false.
- Reach out and connect meaningfully. I have a stack of thank-you and congratulations cards in my desk to send out when something meaningful has happened for a member of my network. Never underestimate the congratulations card that you send, or a quick email to thank someone for the great presentation that they did (that was how I got the attention of my current boss). People remember when you’ve taken the time to say thanks or have shared an article that is in keeping with something you both value.
- Keep the connection fresh. You’ve gone to a lot of work to get to know the company or the person in your network, so keep in touch. I don’t mean every day (that’s annoying), but when something jumps out at you that reminds you of a conversation or an article that they posted recently, reach out and offer up your thoughts. Being genuine means that you care about making them better, and that you are contributing to their success.
Connecting meaningfully and intentionally isn’t schmoozing. It’s adding value, and that will always build up your personal brand. Some people swear by smarmy sales tactics that practically make you slide off your chair they’re so smooth, but I personally adhere to the “schmooze and lose” school of networking. Adding value is never out of style and being intentional means leaving the people in your network with new tools and techniques that make them better.
It really doesn’t take long before your efforts at intentional networking will result in a small pod of people at in-person events that you can connect with and whose networks you will quickly become a part of. Doors open when you have productive things to say, and when you do so genuinely and with purpose.
Good luck and happy networking!
Cheryl Krestanowich is a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Acuity HR Solutions where she executes on client’s staffing needs by matching them with suitable candidates. For more information about Acuity HR’s current job postings, visit https://acuityhr.ca/for-candidates/