Everyone hates networking in the beginning. It feels unnatural after we’ve been spoon-fed our friends in high school and college. Nevertheless, I forced myself to go to networking events a few years ago because my boyfriend at the time told me that I didn’t have enough friends. That was the same one who told me I was boring. Quality, I know. But he was right. Honesty hurts:
1. Talk to boring people. Generation Y has the habit of being easily distracted. We defined attention deficit disorder. But that’s not the way life works. You can’t look over the other person’s shoulder. You have to be genuinely interested; you never know who will be useful towards your goal.
Some of the smartest and most successful people purposefully stay under the radar, and if you’re constantly scanning the room, you’ll miss them. Instead, treat each person like they are the most important person in the room. Make sure they have your full attention. Then pat yourself on the back when you discover the diamond in the rough.
2. Say what your dreams are. You’re an accountant, but you really want to be a musician. So, when people ask what you do, say that you’re a musician. The world conspires in your favor when you put yourself out there. I promise.
3. Meet before bedtime. Snookie Jaguar and I met last week, and he made a good impression on me. All the more so because it was 11:00 pm on a Wednesday night, and I was still wearing the same thing I had put on at 7:00 am. I met Snookie about an hour after a meeting with a local politician, and a few hours after a happy hour meeting. In other words, it was well after I had started my work after work – the kind that begins when I close the screen of my laptop.
Late-night is the new meeting time. Deals have always been made outside of working hours, and that is particularly suited towards Generation Y. We work all the time. It would be a mistake to think that work begins at nine and ends at five. If you want to get ahead, nine to five means nothing to you.
4. Heart your waiter. Act like you’re serving the waiter instead of the other way around. Smile, be overly polite and ask for their opinions and recommendations. People watch your behavior around wait staff closely, and many judge you specifically on the interaction you have with the waiter.
Don’t forget to give big tips. Twenty percent (not just fifteen) is a good rule, even if the service was horrible. People always glance, albeit discreetly, to discover how much you’re giving. Be generous.
5. Sober up. At your next happy hour, order a non-alcoholic drink. I don’t drink pop, so I usually just order water. People don’t notice. What they do notice is the lawyer in the middle of the room, swaying in a little too close to his talking mate. Entertaining as it may be, you are forming your reputation and it’s best to keep your tolerance level, however high it may be, a secret.
In one of the many interviews for my new job, the interviewer talked about how he would prefer to take applicants to the bar across the street to discover who they really were. There’s something about a restaurant and bar environment that makes you act differently. That’s the reason people do deals over meals and drinks. You show who you are involuntarily. Outside the office is where people will decide if they trust and like you.
6. First in, first out. Be the first one to call and set up a meeting. Then be the first one to send a thank you letter or email at the end. It shows that you can take initiative, that you’re effective, thoughtful, detail-oriented, and responsible. It’s a successful interview without having to get dressed up.
7. Fake being well-connected. Visit the best hair dresser in town, at least once if you can’t afford it regularly, so you can refer others to him. The information you will glean from your thirty minute appointment will be reason enough.
Or maybe you know a personal trainer, chiropractor, banker, interior designer, realtor, or day spa owner. Whatever. Just pick a few and have them ready to pull out of your pocket so that others will think you are well-connected. The up-and-comers will be grateful for the recommendation and the connected will have the impression that you’re already in their circle.