John LaBonty speaks at Costa Mesa Connectors–10 tips for networking

On Friday morning, April 13th, 2012, John LaBonty’s spoke at the Costa Mesa Connectors networking group and gave his personal story of career transition.   He inspired the group with his talk on recognizing your own worth and on expanding your network.   I sincerely wanted to thank Debra for putting on the event; for those who did not make it to the event, Oscar Hernandez plans on making a video of John’s talk.  In the meanwhile, in gratitude for John’s talk and to Costa Mesa Connectors for putting on the event, I wanted to offer the group my blog post which summarized his talk.   I grouped his comments according to common themes and applied headlines to each of these themes.   This is my own personal reorganization of the talk I heard on Friday.

1.   Don’t apply for jobs—go out and find them

In today’s world of high unemployment, applying for jobs online is an extremely inefficient way of trying to get a job.   Although it seems counterintuitive, going out and finding a job through networking has a good probability of being a shorter path to employment.  But you will have to put in work for this method to succeed.   In discussing job searches with people at the Career Ministry, many people will put in somewhere on the order of 20 hours of job searching a week, but in reality, the vast majority only spend about half that.   In order to make networking through a job search to work, you will have to put in at least TWICE that, or 40 hours a week.   In other words, your job search needs to be your full-time job.

2. No cold calls—expand your network through referrals

Cold calling is an extremely inefficient way of generating any sales leads.   In your job search, he recommends rather using the core group of people you meet at a networking event to generate your first set of one-on-one meetings, and then using them to get referrals to generate the next set, and so on.

3.  Your face is the ultimate social medium

The means ways of communicating with people are

a) through e-mail (or nowadays through LinkedIn),

b) letter (less common these days),

c) telephone, and

d) in person, or face-to-face.

The further you go down the list, the more the effective the relationship will be.   Unfortunately, when people network, the most common are at the top of the list, not the bottom.   They seek to get 500+ “connections” on LinkedIn.  Don’t go for connections, go for relationships.   When you meet over 500+ in person, then you can truly say you have a network that is deep as it is wide.

4.  Qualify your referrals

To make sure that your referrals have a high probability of agreeing to meet with you, qualify them when you request them in the first place.   When you ask for a referral, ask the person “who is the most successful person you know?”   Then ask the person how well he or she knows the referral:   on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning you exchanged business cards at a networking event, and 10 meaning that they are your best friend, how would you rate that person?    If the person responds that they are less than, say, a 5, then ask them if they someone with whom they have an even better relationship with.   By getting to the people the person knows the best, you will be increasing your chance of getting a “yes” from the referral based on the strength of that relationship.

5.  Put your fears to work—against each other

If you’re afraid of going out and meeting people, because you may face rejection, or you have other issues connected with being an introvert, then realize that you are NORMAL.  If you are honest with yourself, you will realize that you have a larger fear, which is the fear of not being able to support yourself and the fear of being irrelevant in today’s world of work.   Use this larger fear as a motivation to conquer your smaller fear of speaking in public and get out there and meet people.   Take that smaller fear with you on the road, but keep moving.

6. How to prepare for a one-to-one meeting

It takes about 30 seconds, because all you need to ask are two basic questions:  a) How can I help you? and b) Tell me your story.   By focusing on how you can help them, you are not coming across as needy, but as someone who is there to help solve their problems, whatever they may be.   If you ask them about themselves, they will open up and let you know what issues are important to them.   You will come across as personable and likeable, because you have an interest in common:   the life story of the person you are sitting down with.

7. Go to the meeting in “open” mode

No matter what your personal needs and wishes are, you need to have them take a back seat when you are networking, so that you can project calmness and confidence.   By having the right attitude and asking the right questions as mentioned above, you will conduct the meeting in “open” mode.   This means that you are geared towards giving them ideas which may help them, because if the relationship is established, they will want to turn around and do the same for you.   If you go in there projecting that the most important thing on your mind is that you need something from them, that may put them into “closed” mode and the relationship will not be as productive.

8. Practice quality control over your network

To do this you need to develop a series of metrics (# of networking events/week, # of one-to-one meetings, etc.) that you keep track of in a matrix that can be printed out in convenient form and placed in a prominent place, like over your computer or on your refrigerator.   And to guarantee your success, you need an accountability partner whom you can meet at least once a week to go over your progress and analyze what worked in the previous work and what didn’t.   These quality control ideas work in project management; just consider your job search as a project that you apply the same techniques to.

9.  Meet with EVERYBODY and follow up after meetings

If you have connections with people at networking events, you will be making a subjective assessment about who is most likely to be able to help you.   Put those preconceived notions, and try to meet if at all feasible with EVERYBODY with whom you exchanged business cards and had a chance to speak to.   There will be “hidden gems” among them whom you did not expect to be in a position to be of help to you, but who may turn out to be one of your valuable allies on your path to success.   Also, by reaching out to others rather than waiting for them to reach out to you, you will sit down with those who have the hardest time breaking through their social barriers, and be doing the most amount of good in the process.

After the meeting, follow up with a telephone call, or if the person is a baby boomer, a personal handwritten note.   These things mean a lot to those in the generation that remembers such courtesies and finds them all-too rare in our digital world.   E-mail if you must, but make sure the person knows that you valued the time they took out of their busy schedule to speak to you.

10. If you find yourself falling, DIVE!

Going out on a job search is something which is not pleasant, and is very uncomfortable for people, because they need to encounter and overcome their own fears and limitations in order to accomplish it.   Just say “yes” to it—if it is uncomfortable, then MAKE it comfortable by saying to yourself that, rather than looking for a job, you are trying to build a network, and each day say to yourself, “today I am going to make a new friend!”   The worst thing that can possibly happen is that, despite doing everything that was recommended above, they turn out not to like you and will be unwilling to help you.  If that happens, then THEY have failed, not you.

You have to be convinced that you were given certain talents and qualities that make you valuable.   Walk up to the person you are to meet with the conviction that it is the privilege of a lifetime to be who you are,  but you create the relationship by asking for the privilege of knowing them better and letting them know they are valuable because YOU are willing to help THEM.

That’s how it starts—keep working on it so that each night, you can face your conscience and your loved ones and say you did all you could that day to expand your network.   Let God do the rest!


One Response

  1. Jerome,
    I met you five years ago when we were both in transition. I am working with Greg Johnson. I met one to one with John LaBonty yesterday and wanted to get in touch with you. Do you have an email address where I might be able to reach out to you? Or a phone number?
    Best regards,
    Victoria Kayser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: