Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Networking Isn't Like Dating

I usually go to at least one networking event a week... to speak, moderate a panel, or simply schmooze and troll for story ideas.

Inevitably, I meet a few people at each gathering who are unemployed, and have decided to start networking because they need a new job.

Could anything be tougher than making new professional connections while being known, first and foremost, as someone who is desperate for his next gig?

My advice to all of you who are gainfully employed is: don't procrastinate. Building a healthy, broad network ensures that you know about job opportunities at big companies and small. It ensures that you have options, whether a layoff is looming or not.

Employees and execs at big companies are the worst when it comes to building their external networks. My theory: they have so many people to suck up to inside their company that they don't have time to meet anyone outside it.

I'd suggest that a good goal is to go to one networking event a month. Rotate among different groups. If you're a biotech person, go to the occasional healthcare or medical device event. If you're a software person, go to the occasional cleantech event. You get the drift.

Set a goal of having five substantial conversations, or introducing yourself to three of the speakers from the evening's panel. And if you need to understand the mechanics of working the crowd, you'd do well to read one of Diane Darling's books or listen to one of her audio recordings.

Too many people believe that networking while you have a job is like dating while you're married.

It's not.

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