Last week my son sprained his ankle. Sounds like no big deal, huh? Yeah well, this is my son so it is not that simple. He sprained it Monday night, Tuesday morning it looked like it was removed, beaten to a pulp and put back on his leg crooked. So Tuesday x-rays, Wednesday an MRI and Friday a visit to an Orthopedic Specialist, a week on crutches and now he’s in a boot.
Good times had by all. At first, he wasn’t minding the crutches because, well, I can’t tell you how many cute young ladies looked at him and said (with heartfelt sympathy and “poor baby” eyes), “Oh no, what happened?” and offered to help him – with a door, with his books, if he wanted them to get him anything – yeah, it was kind of nauseating. As a 17 year old charmer, he was kind of enjoying this. Then a couple days on the crutches and he was over the whole thing. His arms hurt, he could not get around very fast and he could not work out or practice. When he was first enjoying all the attention, I just kept waiting; because I knew the day would come where he would look at me and say, “This stinks!” And it did. And I laughed, because that’s the kind of mom I am!
So where is the point in all of this today? If you have read any of my blogs then you know it takes me a while to get to the point and I normally have to tell a story before I get there. Hey, you are the one that keeps reading so don’t blame me, you should have figured this out by now!
Networking, it can be a wonderful thing or it can be an activity that sucks the life out of you. But you have control over that. I know some people who are professional networkers. They attend everything, know everyone and can tell you in great detail all about it. For those that are in business I ask them how much many leads it has generated for them. For those that are in transition, I ask how many opportunities it has brought them. For both categories those professional networkers normally answer that they have a huge rolodex of contacts.
Yeah, well, I can go to any event and get a boat load of cards but that doesn’t mean a darn thing. In fact, I do not offer my card when I network. If there is a genuine interest then the individual will ask for it. When you network you must have a goal, and it is not to get as many cards as you can at the end of the night – this isn’t business card bingo!
Let’s take a step back before we discuss an event. Before you even go to a networking event, do you know what your goal is for that night, for right now in general? What are you looking for? And those of you that answered, “a job” just to let you know, I am sending a mental head slap out to each and every one of you! NO NO NO. Not just a job, but what job; what industry; in what capacity; what skills are you wanting to utilize; what are your strengths; what makes you happy; what drives you crazy; what city, state, or side of town do you want to work in; what are your challenges that you are willing to overcome? Where are you going? If you can’t answer this, grab some happy food, a pad of paper, a comfortable chair and get to work. You are not prepared to network. Prep work here kids.
Now, to the event. Have you done your homework – do you know who will be attending? Did you know that you can call the organizer to find out more information about the event and the attendees? Really, try it! It is much better than wasting your time. Do you know who you would like to meet, either specifically or in general (I want to meet Mr. Smith or I want to meet someone who is works for X company, even better if they work in Accounting), and do you have a goal in mind? If not, go back and read my previous blog about setting goals – look here it is in a convenient link: https://lisakmcdonald.com/2010/01/17/hey-new-year-wait-for-me/.
You see, if you go in unprepared to a networking event, you are going to be like my son on crutches. You are going to get a lot of attention and it will feel great. But all those looking at you with “poor you” eyes are just trying to get names to spam with their emails or waste your time with meetings to tell you all about them. You will be bogged down with all this useless information and irrelevant contacts that will slow you down worse than if you were on crutches.
Go in with purpose, have a goal, know what you want. The event may turn out to be a bust; maybe you do not meet the right type of contacts. That is okay, you did very well in being prepared and walked out with a great practice session rather than hobbled out with arms that hurt and two to three weeks stuck in a big clunky boot. Oh wait, that is my son…