How successful executives leverage the old boys’ club
Skip the rubber chicken dinners and adopt a new perspective to increase your ROTI (return on time invested) of professional networking and land your next opportunity faster.
Over the years, my executive clients have lamented over who to talk to and what to say while networking, especially when they are launching a job search or career change. Rubber chicken dinners and cocktail receptions leave them scratching their heads. “Maureen, I don’t know what to say. It feels unnatural and disingenuous to do this.” Because my clients have seldom had to think about networking as they’ve been rapidly promoted and repeatedly recruited, it is completely foreign to them.
Get into the mindset of reciprocation
The power of reciprocation is cleverly documented in Robert B. Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Think about how you can help your benefactor during your meeting and this will remove that it’s-all-about-me feeling. Offering to provide your lunch date a future benefit will take the sting out of having to network at all. If your networking date is a foodie, provide him with a list of your favorite restaurants. If he likes to travel, provide him with information on little-known travel destinations. Use your imagination. Always pay for lunch.
Be strategic about who you invite to lunch
Ensure that you are targeting the right people in the organization. Connect with people at least one level above your report point. These are individuals who can help you identify who you need to speak with in the organization (avatars) or decision-makers who are in a position to invite you into the organization for an important conversation with the team or the board.
Avatars are those individuals who are not necessarily decision-makers but who know you, trust you and like you and are willing to provide information that will help you identify decision-makers. They may be a go-to expert in the organization who have influence and are insiders. They are powerful individuals and if you can identify who those people are, take them to lunch (and pay!) and then offer some other benefit after your meeting. This is especially true for key clients or major customer avatars who are influential with key corporate people.
Decision-makers are those individuals who have authority and the ability to introduce you to the executive team, the board of directors or the board chair. In a study led by the Society of Human Resource Professionals in 2001, about 45% of respondents viewed favorably the statement that employee referral programs generate more quality candidates than other recruiting methods. Being introduced to your targeted industry by an avatar who can refer you into the organization can be immensely successful because the entire process is based on the know-like-trust factor.
Understand your objective for the meeting
Getting in front of the right person is only half the battle. Understanding what to ask for and how to ask it is another matter altogether. Knowing and articulating your value proposition and unique offer of value (your “brand”) will give you confidence for this important conversation.
Never, under any circumstances, ask your avatar or decision-maker for a job. Savvy business people will understand your motivations. By bluntly asking for job opportunities, you will put your lunch date on guard and will demonstrate that you are disingenuous. Instead, seek to understand the current problems the organization is facing and adopt an interest in your date’s work. Most people like to talk about their work and accomplishments. By understanding your date’s position and his work, you will best position yourself to ask intelligent questions that will demonstrate your business savvy and improve your personal brand.
Ask intelligent questions by doing your homework
Your interest in the organization needs to go beyond what you read in the recent chamber magazine or what you can get from the company’s website. Understanding the company’s business, placement in the market and their customers is only the beginning.
What else do you know about their unique challenges? What do you know about their recent acquisitions, stock price, products, etc.? Consider the following question:
“Elon tell me about the recent launch of your recent Tesla Model 6?”
And then consider:
“Elon there is talk in the media that your Tesla Model 6 may be in huge demand over the next 5 years. How do you plan to scale your business so that you can produce enough to keep up with this demand?”
Think about diving deep into a topic rather than skimming the top. A detailed question shows respect for the other person and demonstrates your interest in their work.
Plan your call to action
The goal of the meeting with your avatar or decision-maker, in addition to collecting information, is to ask for more referrals to other individuals in their own networks. Here is how you can say it:
“Elon I appreciate your meeting with me today. I enjoyed the conversation about your new Tesla Model 6. I wonder if you might know someone else in your organization or industry who I could speak with. I know you are busy—if it’s okay with you, I could follow up directly. I also understand that this may not work for you. No is okay and you can simply follow up with me at your convenience.”
Create a system with targets
You need to have enough smart conversations with the right type of people in order to generate a job offer. Commit to meeting or speaking by telephone one target per week. Always ask for more people to speak with and, please, follow up with your network. Let each and every person you meet with know what’s going on. You will want to make your networks look good to their referrals.
Skip the rubber chicken dinners and the big cocktail crowds. Increase your ROTI by identifying targeted avatars and decision-makers. Do your research in advance. Ask for referrals. Follow up. Pay for lunch. Repeat until you get the job offer for your dream job!
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