I’m about a month away from graduating from Eastern Michigan University and I learned something Tuesday that was a bit scary. When it comes to networking, I don’t know as much as I thought I did. It took a visit from networking guru Terry Bean to show me how networking is the most important skill that isn’t taught in the classroom.
Bean, an Eastern Michigan graduate, spoke on Tuesday with members of EMU PRSSA about the importance of networking and how it’s important now, and will be for the rest of your career. For those about to enter the job market, Tuesday’s visit was a great learning experience.
His first piece of advice was on why networking works. According to Bean, there are two definitions of networking:
- Leverage the relationships you have to create the relationships you need.
- Meet, understand and connect.
If you aren’t meeting with people, you aren’t networking. This means to properly network, you have to go to networking events relevant to your industry. Make connections with people who have a mutual care about success. It’s important that we understand that we are all connected. Helping connect those within your network who have similar interests is crucial to the networking process, even if the introduction doesn’t help you directly. Becoming a credible liaison can be just as important as meeting someone who works in an industry your looking to break in to.
Bean also has advice for those awkward networking events.
- First step is showing up.
- Bring a wing-man. This allows you to have someone you know to be accountable to. It also will give you a safe-zone to debrief if things get too stuffy. It also double the chances of getting a useful lead, as the two of you can talk to more people and look out for each other’s interests.
- Know who you should be meeting. See that person with the circle of people around them? That’s who you want to introduce yourself to. Asking the host is also a smart move.
- You should never have a conversation with one person for more than ten minutes.
- You give a business card to get one in return. You want to be in control of the follow-up.
The final piece of advice that Bean gave was about the power of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the most powerful business tool because of its search function. Although Facebook may have conquered the status update, LinkedIn is ruler of the search. Filling your profile with keywords, reaching out to prospective employers and engaging with groups is best done on LinkedIn. According to Bean, LinkedIn is currently the most powerful business networking tool on the planet.