by Omaid Homayun
As I approached the park I could see the sun beaming between the trees, there were patches of grass and the dirt looked clay-like. The lot was full and the air was smoky from the dust which meant most of the cars had just parked. I was attending my first networking event at a local chamber mixer, and to be honest I was terrified. My wing-woman was my girlfriend. She lit up every room she walked into and her personality was magnetic, if you ask me we were quite the opposites. People loved talking to her, and for the next 60 minutes I was going to follow her lead.
I handed her a glass of wine as she introduced me to a few people. In one pocket was my trusted BlackBerry and in the other a stack of crisp business cards. I wasn’t sure how many I needed so I made sure to bring extra. During that hour I met small business owners, attorneys, and other professionals I would have never met if it wasn’t for this event. Initially I kept close to my girlfriend like a puppy following his owner, but after observing her approach I felt more comfortable with every interaction.
The sun was setting as we walked back to the car; I was confused initially and felt my girlfriend wanted to throw me to the lions, and then she explained the lesson. “It’s not about attending one event. You have to come regularly so people know your name and they’ll think of you when there’s a need for your business.” I nodded my head to convey that I understood.
This lesson was invaluable but I wanted to learn the secrets of networking. I decided to reach out to my friends and networking experts Ron Nash and Jenna Lynch, who met 15 years ago through, you guessed it, networking! Both work together on different projects but if I had to sum up what they do, they help people “connect.” Ron has worked with thousands of individuals and organizations to help them leverage LinkedIn as a business and career networking tool, including the likes of Deepak Chopra, Cesar Milan, and Eckhart Tolle. He’s the author of Jump Start Your Career with LinkedIn and founder of Jump Start Revolution, where job seekers and businesses learn how to incorporate his strategies through his online courses. Jenna is a seasoned Human Resources Executive and a Consultant who coaches and trains individuals and corporations in the areas of leadership development, talent management, and personal and internal branding.
It was my mistake to attend the networking event for the purpose of making a sale, or for my own personal gain. Ron and Jenna explain that networking effectively is like creating the perfect cocktail. You need the right ingredients, and you need the right amount of each ingredient. Ron explains, “Networking is the sharing of information and building of relationships, the best networkers are “givers” because they genuinely want to help others. Most individuals are “takers” and dread trying to “fit in” because their p
Like my nerve-wrecking experience, networking has a negative connotation. Ron says, “If we take the fear out of the exercise we can mutually reap the rewards.” We often have heightened expectations, like when a friend suggests a movie they rave about, and when the outcome isn’t what we expected we feel let down. He explains, “Next time you’re networking, making a new friend should be your main intent,” which is the first ingredient in the networking recipe. It sounds so simplistic, but if you don’t succeed it’s not a big deal and you can move onto making another friend.