This is a note to myself as much it is a blogpost for you. These are somethings that I have learned in the last year in Sweden regarding to networking and finding a job. The most important thing, I believe, is to develop a networking mindset. It was really hard for me to look at people as nodes in a network and ask for help. It was super awkward in the starting and I felt it was so odd. Over the year things started to change as I realized that I have things to offer as well. The whole idea is to think of yourself as a resource or a service and try to match peoples needs with demands. I am sure we, as students, know that geeky tech girl or an excellent political scientist. The point is to be able to connect the people you know (friends, professors, relatives, friends friends etc) to people (CEOs, CFOs, start-up people, anyone who is established etc.) who might be interested in them. Thus, you also become a resource, a service, an important node. The tricky part is that you have to build relations with everyone you meet so that you can introduce people in your network to each other. It doesnt matter if you have a 1000 connections on Linkedin or 500 people on Facebook if you cant contact them and spread the word for you.
I have developed a sort of a routine that helps me out in such mingles and here it goes:
Have clear objectives: Far too often I would come back home unhappy with the outcome of a mingle. I didn’t get a single contact or didn’t even feel like mingling. I learned from friends that they had clear cut goals. One friend’s goal is to talk to everyone for at least a minute. Another said his objective was that he would talk to only 2-3 people but when they left the room, he would be the person they would remember. My objective these days is to make one meaningful connection (some leads for the job hunt or being someone whom they would remember) in the mingle and to connect one person in the mingle to someone in my network. Of course, one can start with smaller objectives like collecting 5 visiting cards and start building up to bigger goals.
Prepare a pitch: Once you start thinking of yourself as a resource or a service to company, its important to be able to summarize what exactly you offer in less than a minute. This pitch gets more and more refined as the days go by, but its super important to have s sharp, clear and interesting pitch to get people hooked. Let them then ask the questions. I think its important that people you are mingling with are interested in what you have to offer. If I see people are losing interest, I move on or listen to what they have to say. Another important thing to not always start with your pitch, the idea is to indulge in a conversation and then pitch yourself when the time is right. Like most things, timing is critical and probably comes with practice and mistakes.
Identify the big fish and do your homework: Everyone has different interests and usually every mingle has some really celebs of the business world. These people might have less than a minute to talk with a minion like you or me. In Sweden it is really cool that you get to mingle and dine with heads of large companies. But, of course, their time is really important and being able to pitch to them takes a lot of courage and confidence. I also think doing research about them and their company is critical. Also listening to understand that they are like as a person, or what mood they are in is helpful. These people are usually surrounded by a crowd. I feel its really important not to push people around and squeeze in and cut off other people who are talking just to be heard. Everyone notices a person like this and it rarely works as it comes off as being too desperate and loud. Being polite and kind often works much better in the long run.
Look to help others: This is the easiest part I feel, but it really sharpens the networked mindset. It forces you to look into your network and see what you can find. Everyone loves people who are good at this. You don’t have to be an extrovert to do this and people who connect dots in their network are usually people who can see the bigger picture. I had a lecture by Jane Walerud, who is a very successful angel investor in Sweden, and I was so impressed by her ability to connect the dots. Taken out of context the interactions between the two people in her network would be near impossible but she has the capacity to see that their skills compliment each other, that the two people or organizations are looking for each other and might be perfect to work together. You can immediately see why a person who can do this would be a great resource to anyone! Another example, is my professor Robin Teigland. She is probably the busiest person I know, but her ability to connect people is incredible. I was looking for an internship and she happened to share a flight with an entrepreneur from the Netherlands who was looking for an intern. Voila, a match!
Ask for feedback: This is something I should do more often. At the end of the evening, I want to go around to say bye and ask what they thought about me, anything I could improve in my presentation or general feedback about how I should go about finding a job. People are incredibly helpful, kind, insightful and experienced. Its really good to know where one could improve and do better, you know.
I think networking is really important to find a job. Also, it isn’t something anybody teaches you. And most people are not comfortable doing it. I have always felt like its was super strange. But nowadays I see it differently, mostly because I feel like its a nice way of connecting people and seeing how it goes. All this is so businessy and its such an essential skill to be successful in the business-world.
To end, I would say that its important that you go prepared to these events and with a positive mindset as a person who adds energy and life to the mingle. Also be polite, kind, respectful and spend time listening to what people have to say.
And best of luck! Now go ace the world!