Below is a list of the website pages where you can access information on upcoming events hosted by local networking organizations. These links are being updated regularly so if you spot a broken link, please let us know! You can also find information on networking events on our Events Calendar and Activities Calendar for Adults.
by James Cullinan, Founder of Busnet
When we’re searching for a new job, we tend to devote most of our preparation to processing information. Yet, as the old adage claims, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know that matters’. Even in the information age, the evidence shows that networking can play a significant role in landing your ideal position.
Great jobs are like beautiful houses, the best ones are usually already occupied. Business networking, however, is one of the tools you can use to position yourself for the best jobs available and the meteoric career path that follows.
Your prospective employer is looking for candidates who have both the technical ability to perform the required role and the interpersonal skills to fit the cultural dynamic of their company. Nick Staheyeff, Vice-President and CFO of eBay International, spends only 10% of an interview validating the technical skills and 90% of the time assessing the cultural fit.
It’s clear that in Suisse Romande most people prefer to work with those they already know and trust. When we network, we strengthen existing trust relationships and we build new ones. Since trust is such an important factor, this is a powerful component of your job search programme.
Also, big opportunities often emerge through people who are just outside of our personal network – through a contact of a contact. Attending events in the region allows a powerful network to form around you, which extends your reach and helps to create fresh opportunities.
Searching for the ideal job is complicated by the problem of information asymmetry: You know your unique combination of values, skills and talents, but you don’t know who needs them. On the other hand, there are employers out there who know what skills and values they need, but they don’t know which candidates offer these qualities.
The value of face-to-face networking events is that they help cut through the problem of information asymmetry, because they bring people who know about your unique talents into contact with people who know about current job opportunities. Some people are particularly good at making this link and putting you in touch with those who could help you. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes these people as connectors.
To help this process along, you need a clear résumé-pitch: a simple way of presenting your objectives, values and unique talents in order to win the support of those you speak to. People are more likely to hire you if you can provide the solution to a problem that is causing them pain. Where possible, you should tailor your messages to each specific discussion to keep them fresh and relevant.
Informal conversation is probably the oldest mechanism for developing, expressing and spreading ideas. A one-to-one discussion is great for investigation (e.g. uncovering the salient details of a particular employer’s current needs) and it can also provide a helpful forum for presenting your pitch and getting feedback (there are no mistakes, only lessons!). Vocalising your ideas often forces you to structure and clarify your thoughts more succinctly.
Often a networking event will have a guest speaker or a theme. It makes sense to prioritise the events that are closest to your desired area of work, since this is where you will come into contact with those who presently work in your target field and are most able to help you with topical information and warm leads.
Initiating conversation doesn’t have to be funny or profound. Most attendees of a networking event are there for similar reasons, so it’s perfectly acceptable to approach someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Normally you will discover an area of common interest within about five minutes. After all, many of your friends today were strangers once.
To broaden your base of contacts, and get a range of fresh perspectives, you need to meet as many people as possible (what politicians call ‘working the room’). This can seem intimidating at first, but it becomes an easy habit.
Most conversations start with idle small talk and rapport-building, however there are some broad guidelines that can help you become more artful, for example:
- it’s often easiest to start with a topic that connects you
- it’s usually better to be neutral or positive in your outlook
- give the other person the time and space to feel comfortable talking to you
- build the conversation gradually, and try to keep monologues short
- try to stay attuned to the needs of those around you
- reciprocate another persons interest with genuine curiosity about their topics
- think of ways that you could help others achieve their goals
- try to keep the conversation flowing, without monopolising anyone
- if you end the discussion, try to introduce them to someone else
- always give a respectful reason for leaving
After some preamble, it’s perfectly acceptable to share your job search plans. Networking is a bit like speed dating, and you may not have long before that person moves on! Your pitch should be eloquent and clear.
Many job searches begin with a low-intensity phase, when you are still forming your ideas of exactly what you want to do next, and how you plan to get there. It’s fine to share your ‘work in progress’ provided you keep it interesting. You are the captain of your ship, so ensure that you don’t come across as too indecisive or rudderless!
Try to exchange business cards with each worthwhile contact, as this provides a simple way of resuming contact at a future date. Having a good filing system for business cards is a great time-saver. A useful technique is to write a few details about that person on the back of their card soon afterwards, to help you remember the context of your discussion. If you have discovered a topic of mutual interest, that can make it easier to send a follow-up email.
You can only know the true value of a networking discussion long afterwards. It’s a small world, and someone who may not have inspired you when you first met may one day hold the key to your next career move. The personal connection comes first, and the business rationale usually only emerges later.
Try to renew good relationships at regular intervals, as this will make it easier for you to ask a favour of your new contact when they are in a position to help you. Using your network is all about reciprocity. Unless you are very lucky, you normally need to give help before you can get it.
Building your network is a bit like planting a forest. As we all know, the best time to plant a forest was ten years ago, the second best time is today. It’s highly likely that networking will play a central role in finding your next career move, so it pays to embrace it and to enjoy the process of making new contacts and sharing ideas. This is an essential part of what makes your job search pleasurable!
James Cullinan is the founder of BusNet [‘biz’net] a ‘network of networks’ designed to help individuals collaborate. Based on the mantra of 'Right Place, Right Time, Same Wavelength' they provide an ‘at-a-glance’ listing of business events from over 50 business networks in Suisse Romande [www.localbusnet.com]. James also writes a fortnightly blog on networking.
Top 10 tips for event networking:
1. Know what events are on [www.localbusnet.com]
2. Prioritise those meetings with a relevant theme
3. Do your background preparation [desk research]
4. Clarify your résumé-pitch
5. Work the room, captain your ship
6. Find areas of common interest
7. Connect with the connectors
8. Speak with confidence and purpose
9. Swap business cards
10. Follow-up afterwards