I like to attend professional networking events with freelancers a generation younger than me. It’s fascinating how millennials network much differently from boomers. Here is what I’ve observed: http://blogcritics.org/coming-of-age-as-a-self-employed-networker-field-notes-of-an-amateur-anthropologist-among-freelancing-millennials/
Conventional wisdom recommends that the first order of business for freelancers is to determine the service we will offer and whom we will offer it to. We should narrow our specialty niche and our target market very narrowly so we know where to find these prospects, say the universal “they.” We look into our souls and dig deep to embrace our paths.
However, as I observe how people are marketing today, I suspect that it is more realistic and efficient to determine how we will market and then narrow in on services and specialties that work with our marketing channel.
In an initial marketing conversation, you want to get the other person to talk about themselves, especially their business and their business problems. You are using their talking to learn what they are doing, to see if there is an interface between the problems they face and the problems you solve, and to hear the language they use to frame these problems.
Don’t rush into networking groups that don’t feel right. If you attend once and there is no chemistry, they probably are not your perfect community. You may wish to give it one more try. Or simply don’t go back! Give yourself permission to trust your gut. Save your energy for people who are right for you.
What do you say when you meet someone new at a networking event? Probably: What do you do? Let’s explore alternatives that offer a little more originality and take our conversation down a less expected path.
All networking relationships are not created equal. Established, long-term relationships are much more effective than shallow, one-time interactions.
There is a hierarchy of networkers. At the top of the hierarchy are past coworkers. Next in value are long-time personal acquaintances and people known through professional, though not on-the-job, relationships. At the bottom are tenuous relationships such as much of what we see in online social networking.
It is extremely difficult to grow a strong network when you are employed full time. It’s even harder after you start a new job or receive your initial, demanding freelance or consulting assignments.
There are two solutions to this dilemma. The first is to be realistic. The second is to develop current prospecting techniques that do not require extensive past networking to be effective. That’s the great thing about telephoning. Done right–calling the people we can be most helpful to in a professional manner–gets the job done.
There are simple, obvious (when you think about it) reasons that networking by solopros (freelancers and consultants) should be done entirely differently from how those seeking full-time jobs do it. Job seekers narrow their search primarily by travel distance. Certainly a few people are open to moving cross country, but most limit their search to a certain distance from their home. On the other hand, today’s solopros often work virtually from home with little guidance from clients. At the same time, they want to maximize their pay rates through specialization. Therefore, they search out opportunities that closely match their experience regardless of location. This makes a world of difference in how job seekers and solopros should network.
It is ironic that the Chicago Tribune opposes the use of clout in admissions decisions at the University of Illinois, considering its advice on CareerBuilder, partially owned by the Tribune Company, that job applicants are much more likely to obtain a job through networking than by applying for jobs posted on CareerBuilder and similar services.
Back in the 1970s, affirmative action / equal employment opportunity practices required personnel recruiting beyond the acquaintances of current employees. Now experts agree that networking is the most effective way to get a job, but that doesn’t mean the situation is desirable.