Networking might sound like a dirty word for many of us. It sounds transactional, salesy, even sleazy, but it isn’t. Professional networking is a vital skill if you want to keep business relationships whole and viable. So what does it look like? Sam, Jules and Char discuss this with career transition coach, Greg Roche. Greg talks about losing his job and starting from scratch, and how he rebuilt his career using his professional network. Tune in for more networking strategies in this special episode.
Thanks for hopping on and joining us. If you’re new, to give you a bit of an idea about what the show even is, it’s a fantastic room. It’s a mastermind of leaders dedicated to creating workplaces where people thrive, employees reward and customers love. We have a very special guest. We’re going to have a fabulous presentation on professional networking during a global pandemic. Hang tight for that. Our panel here, if you’re not familiar, we have Char here, who is a People Strategist and HR Consultant with CompTeam, but she is also a coach. Hang out until the end because we do a little poll. We’ll give you an opportunity to connect with all of us.
We have Sam, who is the Founder and CEO of CompTeam. He puts the People Strategy Forum together and is a global certified compensation consultant as well. A little bit about me. I’m an on-camera coach and a video expert. I help people show up confidently on camera. It ties into what we’re talking about with Greg. Let’s get onto our fabulous speaker. We have Greg Roche. I’m very excited about this because he is a total rewards expert. He is the author of a book called The Fast and Easy Guide To Networking For Introverts. I love reading in your bio, Greg, that you mentioned you’d rather go to the dentist than a networking event. I thought that was very funny.
What I love about Greg is what differentiates him is he teaches people to network differently. Without having to go to those networking events that can be awkward, without cold calls because they can be a little scary, and without the spammy emails because that can be a little cringy, those DMs that we get on Instagram. We’re going to be doing things a little bit differently here. Greg, if you’re ready, I’ll let you take the floor.
Thanks so much. Thanks, Sam, Jules and Char, for having me here. It’s funny you mentioned the dental thing because I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned. I was thinking about that whole comment that I’ve made that I would rather get dental work than go to the networking events. I am an extreme introvert from the standpoint that being in a group of people I don’t know is very draining for me. I don’t have any problem talking to people or having conversations or being on camera and presenting. This idea of going there and meeting people cold and finding a person to talk to is something that I don’t like to do.
I wanted to mention how excited I was to find you, Greg, and have you on the forum. As being a fellow compensation practitioner, a lot of people in our field are very introverted. We’re data geeks. We like to work with numbers and do those analyses. We’re often buried in our spreadsheets. I thought it was wonderful to find a practitioner that has looked into this issue of networking and trying to connect with people. I thought that you definitely fit the bill. I’m glad to have you here.
Before we jump into your presentation, can you tell us a little bit about your journey? As you started out in your career and you were going through your career, how did you come to the realization that networking is important? I have been working with some of the professionals in the compensation or total rewards area or in HR. I’ve never thought about networking until they need to find a job. They’re often at quite a disadvantage.
Before I get into that, I want to plant a question with our audience to get you thinking about this. My question is and this is something I always ask people, when you hear the term professional networking, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? You can think about it. While you’re thinking about that, to answer Sam’s question, the reality of why I got into this was I got laid off in 2012. My boss walked into my office one day and said, “I’m eliminating your position. I’m restructuring the department and your position has been eliminated.” I’ve been there for almost ten years.
In those ten years, I had never thought about networking again. As an introvert, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do and to be a part of. All of a sudden, I had to go find a new job. I thought you just apply and put your resume out there. As we all know, if you’re going to dump your resume into an ATS or apply to jobs online, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. Through that process, I learned how to network with people, find some people to help me. The happy ending of the story is I landed a job. It took me about three months, which wasn’t too bad in terms of job search, but I did find a new job. When I found that new job, I made a promise to myself that I’d never been in that position again. I would never be un-networked, so to speak.
As I went through the next few years, I worked on connecting with people, staying connected and opportunities started to find me with other roles. I’ve got some different jobs. I kept going through the process of keeping the network alive and going. When I got to a point where I had moved a couple of times, I had started teaching other people about this and showing them what I do. People said, “Would you coach me on this?” I started doing some coaching with some executives who were in transition who were looking for their next opportunity. I started to run some group coaching programs. During all of this, it was all on the side. I still have a day job. I’m a compensation and benefits person and leader.
Sometimes I do both. Sometimes I do one or the other. I’m running a compensation department or a Fortune 7 healthcare company. I have a great team and a great situation there but on the side, I’m still doing a lot of this networking work. I never intended to write this book. About this time in 2020, I was noodling over it and thinking about it. I never could figure out how am I going to write a book about networking. That sounds like probably one of the most boring books in the world, but I did hit upon a way that I could do this and make it come alive for me, at least as the writer.
It is another way for me to get my ideas about networking out into the world and to share them with people because there are a lot of people who are getting information about networking that may not fit their style. It may not be for them. If you Google professional networking, you’re going to get a lot of articles about elevator pitches, your value proposition and all those kinds of things. If you’re an introvert, that’s not what you want to do.Networking is a skill and it takes practice. Click To Tweet
In 2020, as I was writing the book, the world changed. We went from having actual networking events, conferences and things where we could meet a lot of people to having to do things online or not at all. I think a lot of the ideas I have will help people, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, with that new world we have, where there aren’t a lot of opportunities to go into a room and meet new people. It’s worked out so that it’s not for introverts anymore. It’s something that anybody can use and should be using all the time, not just when you need it.
If I may interject here, I want to say a short snippet of my experience in this area. I am an extrovert and everybody who knew me would probably tell you that. I was also one where I was happy in my little corporate jobs for twenty-plus years. I’m not going to say how many of the classes are, but I did not take the time to network or even build up my LinkedIn or do any of those things. In 2016, I was one of the victims of being exited from my organization. Although I had a little cushion with a six-month severance, I ultimately had to educate myself on how to network even as an extrovert. It built my new business, which took a good six years to build. It’s been doing very well right now.
If it had not been for myself, my business partner and my fiancé retooling our skillsets and abilities to network, there’s no way we would’ve been able to build the company that we’ve built now. I know the two of you talk about introverts. It also is the extroverts because both my fiancé and I are very outgoing people, but we were doing it all wrong. We were doing all wonky and walking around into networking sessions and not knowing the purpose of exactly what we were trying to build. Knowing what you’re about to share with us would have been so helpful.
I have to be very candid with everybody as an actual HR person, I’m sorry to let you know this. Your job will probably change in the next six months, one year or five years. Learning this now, even if you’re gainfully employed, please take the time to hear what Greg is saying because it will change particularly during these times. I’m living proof of that. Thank you, Greg.
The world has changed since then in this pandemic. Greg, tell us a little bit about how networking is different now. What should we be thinking about?
Let’s come back to the question that I originally asked. Usually, when I ask people what they think of professional networking, they say it’s meeting people, making connections, exchanging business cards or finding a job. A lot of people say it’s awkward or feels salesy and sleazy a little bit. A lot of people have these views of it. I don’t think anybody would ever say networking is not important. No matter who you talk to, whether you’re running a business or you have a career, it’s important to network because we all know you’re going to have to work with other people. Even if you’re a solopreneur and running your own business, you’re going to have to have professional relationships in order to run that.
When I define networking, that’s what I talk about a lot. Networking to me is creating professional relationships with people you know and trust for mutual benefit. That definition is important because we’re talking about professional relationships. We’re not talking about the people you’re going to hang out with on the weekends. Those kinds of relationships are almost more difficult to form than your close friends. You may see them infrequently, but you still want to stay connected with them.
You want to be able to know and trust them with a few interactions. You want to make this about how can you help them and how can they help you. It’s not a one-way street. When you think about it like this, it gets you past the idea of this is a sales transaction or this is a transactional relationship. It’s more about an actual professional relationship.
It’s also something you have to practice. It’s a skill and it takes practice. You can’t just sit down in my webinar or read my book or anything, and know everything you’re going to need to know about networking. I can give you ideas of what to do, but you have to go out and do that. I say that about my book. My book is very short. You could read it in probably an afternoon if you wanted to. It’s only about 100 pages, but that was intentional because I wanted to write something that people would take and then go take action. I didn’t want you to spend days reading through it. I wanted to give you the ideas and then get out and start.
Back to your question, I always think that the worst time to network is when you need to find a job. That’s the worst time you can try to network. As Char said, it’s very important you’re doing this all the time because things will change. It’s hard because everybody else in the world thinks that if you come and say, “I want to network with you,” that you’re coming to them because you need a job.
Some of the students that I’ve coached have said, “I’ll approach people and they’re like, ‘What do you want?’” The whole world thinks of networking in the wrong way. They think of it as this transactional thing where you’re coming to take something from them, as opposed to this professional relationship that we’re going to build to help. If you run into that, there are three reasons why you should network, even if you’re not looking for a job. The three reasons are knowledge, talent and what I call career insurance. The first two are a little more obvious and I’ll get into what the third one is.
Knowledge is something that a lot of us have and share. If I take myself in the total rewards space, I network with other people who are compensation or benefits professionals and I build relationships. I want to be able to ask them, “How are you solving this problem?” They’ve probably already addressed it or solved it, or maybe I’ve addressed it and solved it, and they want to ask me.
If I go out to somebody on LinkedIn and I find out they’re a compensation professional, and I send them a message saying, “I’m struggling with this. How did you fix this?” They’re probably not going to respond. I sound like I might be a vendor or somebody who’s trying to get competitive information from them. They’re not going to share their knowledge. If I’ve worked to build a professional relationship with them, if they know and trust me, they’re going to be a lot more willing to collaborate with me. It’s a good way to tap into the knowledge that you may not be able to get or to get a very specific dialogue going, and also almost build these communities of knowledge and trust, where you can share information between you. That’s one of the reasons.
The second reason is the talent pipeline. This happened to me a few years ago, where I had started a new job. An HR leader for a hospitality company here in Denver invited me to coffee. She said, “I’ve heard you’re somebody I should talk to.” We were talking and she said, “Our company has a talent imperative.” I thought “That’s a weird term. I’ve never heard that before.” I pushed her a little bit on that and said, “What does that mean?”
She said, “All of our executives have been told to go out and find talent in our area that could one day join the company.” She said, “I don’t have an open position and I’m not recruiting you. I’m not asking you to come work for me. I’m sitting down to get to know you to see if you’re somebody that I can put in my talent pipeline.” We talk about talent pipelines internally and finding succession planning and things like that. This was a company that was trying to identify top talent in the area in advance so that when a position opened, they could add those people to their team.
If you lead a team or a department, if you could have your shortlist of people that you would reach out to, and they may or may not be available, but think of how much easier your talent acquisition process is. Your recruiting team would love you if you could give them a list of like, “These are my three people, go call them. These are the people I want to hire.” They’ll still be going to go through the interview process. They’re still going to go through all the applications. They’re going to follow all the steps, but at least it gets you to a point where you already know and trust those people and want to bring them into your organization.
That’s a great point, Greg. When we think about this even in a business context, sometimes when we identify key talent out in the industry around us, they may not be ready to make that transition to a new role. Having that relationship with them, you’ll be top of mind when they are ready. They may need to be flexible in both directions. You might bring a person on board, but if you’re into obtaining the best talent for your company, that’s an excellent way to do it.
We are living proof of the biggest challenge of reopening during the COVID reopening process. We have about twenty employees. Several weeks ago, we were more at sixteen employees. We are opening a new location. We hired a professional recruiter who is phenomenal. He’s one of our former speakers, his name is Monty George. Even he was saying that there is such a shortage of talent that wanted to move into public-facing positions such as what we have.
It was restricting the ability for us to open our new location to get the right talent in place. We realized that we needed that talent pool and that talent pipeline because a lot of employees are working for corporate organizations that are expecting layoffs and changes in the design of the organizations. They are looking for an opportunity such as ours that can pay as well and provide as good benefits, but they’re not quite ready to jump ship.The worst time to network is when you need to find a job. Click To Tweet
It’s a good point to what Greg is saying. We’re in an age where we all need to be more agile and be prepared for change.
A lot of it is the relationships. I would like each of my six leaders to have that pipeline and those relationships and the talent pipeline, not to steal people away from their current organization, but to be welcoming the new talent coming onboard. We are a different employer than even their current employer would ever see. It truly takes strategy because the talent pipeline is not going to happen this month. We’re talking 3, 4 months from now. These are the talent that we bring onboard at that point. It’s great to know them by name, where they work, their talents and skillsets. We know them and care about them long before they start working with us.
It takes a long view of it. You’ve got to play the long game in this talent piece and establish those relationships. If you’re approaching somebody else for a job and they don’t know you, they’re like, “Great, I’m flattered.” Everybody likes to be asked but if they don’t know you, they’re like, “I’m not sure. Do I want to work for that person? Am I ready to make that move?” If you develop that relationship in advance, it makes it a whole lot more comfortable for them when they are ready to make that move.
One thing and I think, Greg and Sam, both of you are starting to see this. A big trend that’s happening now is that we’re getting ghosted. This could go for particularly any service industry or any public-facing industry. We are getting to know the candidates. They’re doing the interview process and they’re going through the whole phase with us. All of a sudden, they’re gone. They block us. They stop texting. They don’t show up for interviews.
It’ll avoid the ghosting problem of acquiring talent if you could build those relationships way in advance. The person would be at least courteous to say, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not quite interested in this opportunity but I didn’t want to ‘ghost’ you.” It’s like dating and blow you off, “I wanted to be upfront with you and tell you that I made a different direction.”
The last reason that I would tell people why you should be networking all the time or networking even if you don’t need a job is what I call career insurance. We insure everything we have. We insure our homes, cars, health and lives. We can get an insurance policy for all those things, but we can’t buy an insurance policy for our careers. Your professional network becomes your career insurance policy. What I mean by that is it’s what’s going to help you find the next opportunity and find it more quickly.
I told you about my story when I lost my job the first time and it took me three months because I didn’t have a network. I told you how I went through being employed and having a number of other jobs. Before the role I’m in now, I was working for a different company here in Denver. It was a private equity-owned company. They had switched owners midway through the year. The new owner was coming in. You could sense that there were going to be some changes.
In a short period of time, they came in and said, “We are going to need to take out that middle layer people.” Guess who was in the middle layer of people? I was. For the second time that my position was eliminated, I was already networked and had already been talking to my network who were people that already knew me. We had stayed in touch. We talked about what we were working on. I already knew about some opportunities that were potentially out there.
These were somebody who was talent pipelining me but because we had kept that relationship. I went from a three-month job search the first time to a three-week job search the second time. It only took me three weeks from the time I left my old employer to the time I started with my new employer. In job search terms, that’s fast. That’s because I cut down all the time from them getting to know me and wondering if I was the right person. They already knew.
It was then more procedural to get me through all the processes so that they could give me an offer and get me hired. People will sit there and say, “My job is great.” I would say that in the job I’m in right now, my role is great. My team, my boss and the organization are great. It’s not at risk of going away. At the same time, you could have your boss get a new job and move on to something. Your company could get purchased. That happens all the time.
You could have a global pandemic where the entire industry shut down overnight. Entire industries disappeared literally overnight in 2020. If that was your industry and you hadn’t already had your network going, you were starting from scratch. Who knows what could happen? That’s why you need this career insurance and the idea that you already have these relationships through your network that you can start to activate those and move forward in your career instead of starting from zero.
Think about it. If you waited and this global event happens, everybody else is in the same boat as you are. The whole channel is getting clogged where people are trying to clamor for work or develop these networks. You need to do this ahead of time.
That’s the hard thing because we get in our jobs and feel like, “I’m great. I’m set. I hate that job search thing. I’m glad I’m past it. I’m going to take a break from it.” This isn’t job searching. This is continuing to maintain professional relationships.
I have to say this because this has happened to me twice in my career. I was one of those that did that traditionally. I got my undergrad degree, my graduate, my Master’s degree. I worked my way up the ladder, sitting at the corporate table with the executive team and I have been let go twice. It’s not something I’m proud to say but I don’t care because now, I’m happily and gainfully employed with my own company and working with my partners such as CompTeam. I was also one of those that leaned back even in 2016. I had a LinkedIn profile and maybe I talked to a couple of people that called me and wanted to get to know who Char Miller was.
Looking back, I was so lackadaisical and I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I needed to be working on my resume. As you said, it goes into some portal and never gets seen, so just making sure that I start networking. It is extremely devastating because I also do career coaching on the side. I talked a lot about this in my career coaching. I call it HR of the Heart. I spoke to a lot of my career coaching clients, and they are devastated. I’ve had career coaching clients the day that they’ve been laid off or let go or whatever phrase they want to call it, re-operationalized or whatever. They are extremely lost because they have not built career insurance programs for themselves.
What I’ve said to all my friends, my family, my clients and even my employees are you need to build your own career insurance process. Even my company may close down and I’m not going to guarantee to my employees that it’s going to last forever. I might get a call tomorrow and we might be shut down. I want each of my employees to have this type of thing put in place for God forbid if something happens tomorrow, which now we’ve learned in this day and age is going to happen.
It’s for reasons completely out of anybody’s control. This isn’t like your company made the wrong deal or something happened and you had to shut down. This is the whole world changed in a matter of weeks in 2020.
It is part of our values as a company. I believe in what I call compassion, dignity and respect. We are transparent to a default that we tell our employees every single thing that’s happening day to day that ultimately, our company can be shut down tomorrow. Please have your plan in place. I would say to any employer out there, help your employees have a plan in place because even if you are a 1,500-employee company, your company can change tomorrow. The most compassionate thing to do is to give them career assurance so that they can be prepared if their job goes away tomorrow.
I generally come at this from the employee’s angle, helping employees do this for themselves. Even from an employer standpoint, it’s something we probably struggle with a little bit as employers. You’re saying, “Make sure you have a network so that you can find another job if something happens.” You then think, “What if they leave?” If you’re worried about them leaving, you should ask yourself, “Why would they leave? Am I doing something as an employer that would make them want to leave?” That’s probably a whole another topic for a whole another session.Everybody has the same thing they can give, and that's their attention. Give people your attention. Click To Tweet
We could probably do a whole another session on this topic but I have learned and you can tell I’m very passionate about this whole issue. Many employers don’t care if their employees lose their job tomorrow, even if it’s an operational change. I’m a former HR person so I don’t care if other HR people don’t like what I’m saying. We need to be more compassionate about the fact that our businesses will change on a dime. We should focus on helping our employees prepare for the changes. We went through an epidemic and we should all understand that it can happen.
Let’s jump into some of the things you can do to create this career insurance policy. These are my top five tips that I generally give to people that I talk about in my book and go into a little more detail. Some of these will seem a little bit either counterintuitive or obvious. I explained this information to people and I was doing this with some colleagues of mine. They said, “Give us the quick version of your book.” I went through this. They’re like, “They sound obvious but they’re things people don’t do.” It’s a reminder of things you need to be doing as you’re trying to build your network.
None of these requires you to go to any networking events or conferences. You can do these all the time. You could do any of these any day of the week in a very short amount of time. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do. My top five tips and I’ll go into a little bit more detail about what these are. Start with who you know. You can connect online, but you’re going to build relationships offline. I’ll talk a little bit more about what that means these days.
Come at this with a giving mindset and be easy to help, and then make this a habit. Do this every day frequently and keep it going. Don’t make it a one-time thing that you’re going to do and then forget about it. Let’s start with the first one, which is to start with who you know. This is one that people go, “If I start with who I know, they’re already in my network, why would I talk to them? That seems like I’m not growing my network.” I get that.
Think about all the people you already know in your life. How did you meet them? You probably met them from somebody you both know. You were probably introduced to them or in geographical or physical proximity to this person. In our careers, that means you probably worked with them. You know people from work, from your neighbors, from organizations you’re in, but most likely it’s through a common organization you were in or it’s somebody who was introduced to you.
When I say start with who you know, it goes back to Adam Grant who’s a professor at Wharton and has written a number of books. He’s got a new one coming out, but written Give and Take and Originals. In Give and Take, in the second chapter, there’s a concept that he introduces called Dormant Ties. He didn’t come up with that. It was part of an MIT Sloan School of Management study they did where they had executives go back through their contact lists.
Back in the day, they were looking through their Rolodex. They went back to people they had not talked to in a couple of years. They reached out to these people and found that the people that they hadn’t talked to in a couple of years came back and were more willing to help them and provide advice to them than people that they even had been working with on a day-to-day basis.
He came up with this concept of you have a lot of people that you have worked with, whether in business or in your job that has moved on and you’ve lost touch with. You can easily reconnect with those people and start a relationship. They already know who you are. They know what you do. Those barriers of knowing and trusting somebody are a lot lower. You could reach out, start the conversation and start talking to them about what they’re working on and what you’re working on.
People don’t think about this and they don’t think that if I’ve been in a job for 5, 10, 15 years, think of all the people who have come through that organization and moved on to another. Think of all those people who work in other places. If you went through and found that list of people that you would be interested in connecting with, you could probably find a good 10 to 20 people to reconnect with. That is a good start to building your network if you could start having those conversations.
I tell people sometimes to go into LinkedIn and you can do a search for past companies. You’re looking for your 1st or 2nd-degree connections that worked at the same company you worked at and bring those up. Go through that and be like, “I remember this person, this person.” You’d be surprised what people you’ve forgotten. When you see them on the search results, you’ll say, “I remember them. I wonder what they’re up to.”
Going through that is a good way to reconnect with people. Once you’ve reconnected and you may do that through LinkedIn or you may do that through email or however you can connect with them. It’s okay to start the relationship and say, “I was thinking about you the other day. I was wondering what you’ve been up to.” It’s as easy as that. This doesn’t have to be a long email that you’ll read online, “Here’s the perfect introductory email to send through LinkedIn.”
This is a simple con conversation opener like, “How have you been? What have you been up to? We’ve lost touch.” Some people will take some time to respond and won’t respond but you’d be surprised. A lot of these people will say, “I was thinking about you the other day.” It’s amazing how that happens. That starts the conversation, but then you want to move to the idea that pre-pandemic, you get together and have coffee or lunch. Even now you want to have a voice-to-voice or a face-to-face on the screen conversation with somebody so that you can have a human conversation about what people are working on.
When I say offline these days, I mean offline from the sense it’s not a written communication that you’re trading back and forth. You can’t get into the nuances of, “Are you struggling with anything? Have you had challenges? What’s going on with your life?” and building that relationship. People will often say, “Yeah, but what are we going to talk about?” They overthink this. They try to come up with templates of what to talk about. I always say, “Ask them what they’re working on. Ask them what they’re doing.” As the initiator, your job is to listen. Your job is not to sit there and tell them what you need or what you want. Your job is to listen for what they’re working on and what challenges they have.
As you’re listening, think about how you might be able to help them. Don’t come into this with like, “I need to ask them to introduce me.” Come into this and think about how you can help. When you do it from that, it takes a lot of the pressure off of you. It takes the pressure off of feeling like this is transactional, that it’s a sales relationship, that it’s more of a professional relationship. We’re trying to reconnect and restart that relationship.
Once you’ve done that, as you’ve listened to people, come in this with a giving mindset. You’re listening for things that you could help a person out with. When I say help, I’m not telling you to help them find a job. You don’t have to help them find a new piece of business. This can be advice. Did you read a book that this person might be interested in? Do you have a person you could introduce them to when they talk that you say, “I know somebody who’s good at that and I can introduce you?”
Do you have any other recommendations or ideas of what this person could do? You’re giving this to them first. There are no conditions. There’s no, “I’m expecting them to do anything for me.” You’re coming into this with a giving mindset. To me, this is an important key because this is one of the reasons why people don’t network. They feel like they’re going to take advantage of somebody. They feel like because of that, they don’t want to be that person so they don’t even do it.
If you can get to the point where you’re thinking, “I’m going to make connections out in the world. I’m going to work on building relationships. I’m going to figure out what I can give to the people that I connect with.” Why would you not want to do that? It does take time and effort, but why would you not want to help other people out? We all want to help people that we know. If you can’t think of anything to give because people are like, “I don’t know.” They get a block. They’re overthinking this.You need to make networking a habit. This is something that has to happen every day. Click To Tweet
Everybody has the same thing they can give and that’s their attention. Give the person your attention. If you’re sitting there talking to somebody and they’re listening, and you can tell that you have their attention, what does that make you think of that person? It makes you want to be around them. It makes you like them. It makes you want to have more conversations. If you give people your attention, they’re going to want to talk to you more and continue the relationship.
They’re going to turn around and say, “You’ve given me a lot,” or “I love these conversations. What can I do to help you?” You’re at the point where they’re going to ask to help you. You’re not even going to ask them for anything. You are but you’re not going to have to say, “I need something from you.” They’re going to say, “How can I help you?” This is the other thing that you have to plan and think about. You’ve got to be easy to help. We all want to help people, but if it’s hard to help them, we’re going to find reasons why we can’t do it.
Back to your conversation about the resume, Char. A lot of people think when you get in this situation, you say, “Here’s my resume. Could you pass it to somebody?” That is a very hard thing for somebody to do. Even if you have a relationship, it is hard because you have to take that resume. Now you’ve got to find the position they’d be good for if they’re looking for a job.
You’ve got to go find the recruiter who’s working on it, which isn’t always easy. You’ve got to tell this recruiter, “I’ve got this resume from this person that you’ve never met that I know. I think they’re great, but you’re going to have still to call them and assess that.” You get to put that on their desk or in their email. It’s probably going to sit there. I’ve had people give me theirs and it sat on my desk. I’ll admit. I’m always like, “I got to take that down to recruiting.” It just gets buried and then I didn’t help that person.
Doing something like that makes it hard to help. Something that’s way easier to give to somebody so that they can help you is your list of target companies or industries or people that you want to be introduced to. I always tell people this has to be an actual physical list. Back in the day when we were having coffee, which hopefully we’ll be doing again, I would tell people, “I want you to print this list out on a physical piece of paper and make it look nice.” Not like I just typed out some text and printed it out, but the format is almost like your resume that says, “Companies I’m interested in,” and then list the companies or “Industries I’m interested in” or “People I would like to meet.”
The reason why it’s got to be a physical list is twofold. Number one, if people can look at it, they’re going to process. You’ve given them a prompt or a way to start accessing things that are in their mind. If I were to say, “Tell me who you know,” “Where do you want me to start?” If you say, “Tell me who you know that works at any of these companies,” I might go, “I know one person at one of these companies. I could introduce you.” You might say, “I noticed all these companies are in a certain industry. You’ve forgotten X, Y, Z company. By the way, I know somebody there.” “Great. Could you introduce me?” You got to give people a place to start so that they can easily access that mental database they have.
When I first was let go of my last job in 2016 and I had to represent myself, I met a wonderful executive recruiter who I couldn’t believe was sitting down with me in a coffee shop because he was very tight with the guy that let me go. It was odd but he sent me home with homework. When I said that he gave me a gift, he taught me how to go into LinkedIn and do research on the companies that I want to work for and target those organizations. He taught me the tools to identify the key contacts to start networking with and do it in such a way that it wasn’t like begging or needy.
He taught me how to go to these social networking opportunities to meet those people face to face at the time before COVID. He gave me the gift and there was no reason for him to do that. Now I’m so thankful for him because he helped me to build a business. The other tip I want to say is every time you go to a restaurant, there are now business cards that you can order. You can have one little business card that you can stick in your wallet. Essentially, it’s on the back of your business card because people hate business cards.
I’m not here to advertise the company name, but you can essentially get these business cards. When you meet someone at a coffee shop, a cocktail bar, a restaurant or golfing, you can flash this little thing on their phone and your contact will be saved on their phone. They don’t need to carry around a business card. There are all kinds of technologies like this to help you.
There were two points that you made. One, give them a gift. I learned that from a gentleman that gave me a gift. Two, how to make it easy to help you. That particular tool right there makes it easy for people to remember you. I happen to be on the beach and I met some fabulous HR IT expert guy that I wanted to introduce Sam, because Sam and I are partners through networking. Unfortunately, he was not around. I don’t have my business card. I don’t have my contact, and I didn’t have my cell phone because I was trying to be on “vacation.”
Had I had something like this to flash, I would have had his contact. I can’t remember his name now. I could’ve said to my partner, “Could you take a quick little flash of his little barcode?” I would have had his information linked up to his LinkedIn and being able to connect him to Sam in a heartbeat. The point is there are all kinds of new technologies out there right now that you are practicing in restaurants and everything that we can use in our job search.
For the target company list, it may not be companies. Even if it’s not companies, it may be industry experts or people you know that you’re trying to trade knowledge or locate that talent. You could email people the list, but I like the people to have the list because there’s something about looking at it and taking it that it absorbs and goes into your brain. What we do is we take advantage of what’s called our recency biases.
Our brains access the information that’s most recent. If you’ve looked at a list of companies as you go through the day, the strange thing is going to happen. You’re going to start seeing those companies, either on social media or in news stories. They’re going to pop up. Your brain is going to latch onto those and say, “I saw that company’s name. I saw a job post for that. Greg was looking at that company. I should tell Greg about this.” You create what I call opportunity scouts out in the world who know what you’re looking for. When they see it, they connect you with those opportunities.
Are you suggesting that we have paperless? How would we carry this list around?
It can either be a paper or email. When we were meeting in coffee shops when we do this, I would always make people write it down because that means you have to commit to doing it. You can also give it to them and they can take it with them. They may throw it away, but they’ve got something that will get in their head. It’s like when you buy a new car, you suddenly see that car everywhere in the world. You may not have seen it before but once you buy a car, you’re going to see your car everywhere because that information is more readily available in your brain.
If it was an email, that’s fine too. There is no issue there. I try to get people to do the actual list because it’s easier to give some people that than to give them your resume. They don’t have to walk away with your resume and then worry about that. They might walk away and say, “I heard about an opportunity here. I need to connect you with that opportunity.” To me, that’s a lot easier to do than try to take your resume and find somebody to give it to.
My challenge is that I meet people all the time and they rattle off all these companies. By the time I get home, I completely forget.
It may not be practical in the sense that you just meet somebody and they give you a list like that. This was an example of how I tell people, “Think about the easiest thing somebody can do for you. That’s to introduce you or make the connection. It’s not to go find the person you need to talk to about getting the job.”
You can see that the first four things create a bit of a process or a cycle. You’re going to start with who you know, reach out and reconnect, find out what they’re working on, see what you can give to them. When they say, “How can I help?” You’re going to ask them to introduce you to somebody or connect you with somebody. You’re going to start all over. You get introduced. You go through the whole process and it sounds very one-to-one, but this is how the network grows.
This is how your network gets bigger and how you meet more people. You can go to an event or we used to be able to go to events and you can meet ten people that you trade business cards with or trade information with. How many of those ten are you going to probably connect with or follow up with? It’s probably not more than 1 or 2. While it does seem very one-to-one, these are actual relationships that you’re going for the quality of the relationship instead of the quantity or the number of people.
It also helps more if you don’t like meeting a lot of people all at once or if you prefer to have one-to-one interactions. When you get to the end, you need to make this a habit. This is something that has to happen every day. Do I connect with somebody new every day? No, but I try to connect, follow up, have a conversation with somebody, think of a way I can help somebody or a way that somebody can help me. I try to do some of this every single day.
It takes time because you might send an email and they don’t respond for three weeks. When they respond, you move on. You’ve got a lot of these different processes going with people all the time. My point is you can’t sit down one weekend and go, “I’m going to blast out 100 messages to people that I’ve talked to and that’s going to be my networking.” It’s not going to work like that. You can’t sustain that. You’re not going to be able to continue to do it all the time. You’ve got to find a way to make this a habit. For me, I come from the approach and have gotten coached and trained in the Tiny Habits method, which is BJ Fogg, who’s a Stanford professor. He has a book out called Tiny Habits. It’s how to make a behavior change attainable by making it smaller.
I try to think of what’s the smallest thing I can do in this process every day? How do I make it smaller? How do I remove all the barriers? I continue to do this. What ends up happening when people start out, it takes a little time to get traction with connecting with people. Before they know it, they’ve got more calls than they can handle. They’ve got more people to follow up with.
The good thing about this is if you ever get overwhelmed, you can always dial it back. You can slow it down. You’re in control of how fast some of this stuff moves. If you don’t keep doing it, you’re going to be starting over. If you don’t take care of the garden or if you plant all the seeds and you don’t spend time watering it, taking care of it, weeding and stuff like that, it’s not going to bear the fruit you wanted to bear.
Those are the five things that I would say when people are looking to network and I’ve laid those out in my book. I talk a lot about students I’ve had, their experiences and their stories, and how this has worked for them. I give a little bit more detail on all these steps. If you’re interested, it’s a very quick read. What I did is I used different fables from Aesop to create the concepts in each chapter. Each one starts with a fable and then I weave those concepts throughout the stories from my students and the concepts. I hope that it’s an interesting quick read that people can get the ideas. They can get out there and start connecting with people.
Thank you so much, Greg. You’ve been phenomenal and I can’t wait to check your book out. Thank you so much. I resonate so much with many things. I’ve got so many stories. I could resonate with that. Thank you so much for joining us. You’re a delight.
I enjoyed being here. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for humanizing the networking process. It’s so awkward for a lot. I’m an extrovert. I sometimes feel cringy. Humanizing it is far less anxiety-inducing. Thank you for that. Going into the giving mindset because I’ve noticed that myself. I had to pivot in 2020 during COVID myself when the film and TV industry shut down. I found a lot of people would be like the “me, me” approach like, “How can you help me?” I’m like, “I’m going to endeavor to never be like that.” Thank you for sharing that. That’s so important. We need to spread that word around, change it up, and make it feel a little less awkward and cringy.
Thank you so much, everyone. A special thanks to Greg. I enjoyed the discussion. Get the book.
Greg has been working in the world of human resources for more than a decade. In addition to his day job, he always has side projects. Greg Roche was laid off by an employer he had worked with for almost a decade. He had no professional network and no idea how to start networking.
Through trial and error, he overcame his introversion and figured out how to network in a non-traditional way: without networking events, cold calls, or spammy emails. His approach to networking led him to a new career and business opportunities. Over the next eight years, he showed others his way of networking and his students have used it to find new jobs and new opportunities.