January 27, 2012

As he was getting ready for school this morning and I was getting ready for work, my eight year old son asked me what my schedule looked like for the day.  I told him that I was speaking on a panel, hosting a group of international and domestic guests who became certified Kauffman FastTrac Facilitators this week, attending the Kansas Pipeline Innovator of Year Awards dinner and giving a lecture on CoffeeLunchCoffee.com.  His response, “sounds lecturious.”  Ha!

To summarize, let’s just say, today was a busy day!  But, WOW! What a rush!  This morning, I had the great opportunity to sit on a panel hosted by the Department of Labor for neighborhood job clubs and career ministries.  We talked about ways to bolster the job search experience and the notion that entrepreneurship could be a viable option for those in career transition.  I appreciated the enthusiasm and support of the participants and met some wonderful people.

Later, thanks to the advocacy and partnership of my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Andrew Nemiccolo of Seven Story Learning, I had the opportunity to join him to speak to a group of first year law students at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) about my approach to networking – yep, you guessed it, Coffee-Lunch-Coffee!  It was awesome!  The students made for a great audience and appeared to have taken some good lessons from the content of the talk.

I thought you, dear readers, would enjoy knowing what I shared with them… effectively, a Reader’s Digest version of what I have already shared through my blog platform on CLC.  For you loyal readers, this will all be repetitive for you, but a good reminder nonetheless:

Attitude:  Decide that you are a great networker!  Expect to have fun!  Though the idea of networking can be daunting, the rewards that you will reap from the experience will pay dividends for years to come.  By reaching out to others, by always saying, “YES!” and by helping others, you will build a solid professional network. 

  • “Networking is just friends helping friends.”  — Denise Upah Mills
  • Receive new contacts with enthusiasm
  • Always say, “Yes!”  Great piece of business advice that I learned from the founder of Two Men and a Truck, Mary Ellen Sheets
  • Networking is a reciprocal effort – quid pro quo – I help/you help
  • Take on networking as a full time job… get up every morning on your regular weekday schedule, shower and go through your normal routine and get dressed like you mean business. 

Process:  Determine an approach that will work for you.  Coffee-Lunch-Coffee works for some; others have a different take.  Find the process that makes the most sense for you based on your goals, lifestyle and time.      

  • While Coffee-Lunch-Coffee worked for me and helped me to structure my days, weeks and months, for you, it may be Coffee-Lunch-Continuing Education Lecture where you can meet other, more established attorneys.  It is my understanding that some of the CLU credit courses and workshops are made available to law students at reduced rates.  You could attend CLU courses in the spirit of fish-where-the-fish-are!

Preparation: Create your lists.

  1. People I know in the community   
  2. People who I want to know in the community
  3. Companies that I admire and want to get to know
  4. The top 20 items most important to me in my [career search]
  • Perhaps “career search” is not the right expression for you.  Maybe it is “my accessibility to resources,” “my knowledge of what’s happening in my city,” “my effort to acquire new sales leads.”  Replace those words with the ones that work for you.

Set Goals:  How many new people will you seek to develop relationships with each day, each week, each month, each year?  It starts with just one.  Enlist a “buddy” to hold you accountable.

  • In the nine months between leaving Sprint and taking on a full time consulting client, I had 160 meetings and met 200 new people. 
  • My original goal was to touch – via email, phone call or face-to-face meeting 15 people per week.
  • Buddy concept – find someone else who is also trying to build his/her professional network.  Share your stories with one another…  more importantly, share your contacts with one another and hold each other accountable for achieving your networking goals.   To avoid the discomfort of potentially going after the same opportunities, pick someone who is either a year ahead of or behind you, and/or someone who is focused on a different field of interest.

Know Your Story:  Be prepared with your key stories – those that describe who you are, what you do, what you believe in, how you operate.

  • To get a meeting with a potential prospect, you should simply ASK FOR IT!  I can tell you that of the people who I asked for meetings, only about five turned me down.  Everyone else is trying to build their professional networks, too!
  • When you go to ask for the meeting, be prepared. Take time in advance to craft an introductory email, tell them you would like a few minutes of their time to meet in a networking capacity to get to know them and learn more about their professional journey.
  • Also prepare your personal introduction.  You may have heard the expression 30-second commercial or elevator pitch.  Now is the time to capitalize on that concept.  Be prepared to say who you are, what you do, what your aspirations are and/or any other pertinent information that will help your new contact connect with and help you.

A few other tips…

  • In your networking quest, quality counts much more than quantity.
  • Have a business card with your relevant contact details.  It’s old fashioned, but still hip.
  • Do your homework.  There is plenty of info on the internet about people – LinkedIn, company websites, etc.  By taking five minutes prior to each meeting, your networking efforts will be far more fruitful.
  • Always, always, always send a thank you note.  Handwritten on nice stationary is my personal preference.  I suggest you make it yours, too.  You will stand out from the crowd.

A quick note of appreciation to my buddy, Jack Lerner, Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, who helped me identify the particular topics that would resonate with law school students.  And, thanks again to UMKC School of Law for having me, for the 1L’s for being a great audience and to Andrew Nemiccolo for inviting me to partner with him on this exciting initiative.  I look forward to carrying my message to other organizations who will have me.  I hope you all will get out there and share the Coffee-Lunch-Coffee approach, too!