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If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you- Zig Ziglar

There is an immense amount of literature on how to network effectively for career and job seekers out there. It includes excellent material with step-by-step guidance to landing a happily- ever- after gig and making the right connections at the right time. All this and more, is remarkably significant but not always ideal depending on the local dynamics or situation that the career seeker finds himself/herself in.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have told this story many times about chatting with my then 4-year-old daughter. Wearing my career coaching hat, I casually asked what she wants to be when she grows up. She looked quite baffled before responding, ‘Mama, I want to be Clara’. This set me in fits of giggles, but after some thought, I decided that it was actually a very perceptive response. Being true to ourselves about who we really are, is the first springboard leap to articulating and attaining our goals, both personally and professionally. Without clear knowledge and understanding of who we truly are, it becomes challenging to understand what we really want. And, it changes the complexion of career development progression even further when we do not know what to say about ourselves and what we are looking for when presented with the opportunity.

Top Tip: Use the clarity of knowing who you are as an impetus to articulating your professional goals in order to attain what you are seeking professionally (or what you want to be ‘when you grow up’). 

Why should you remain true to yourself?

Authenticity, is a critical aspect of successful networking. Following a text book approach may often feel rigid and uncomfortable which is why I believe, working a room for some, particularly for an ‘introvert trapped in the body of an extrovert’, like me,  becomes a stifled and an exceptionally awkward experience. From memorising an elevator speech to dressing the part and playing the role. Note that the text book approach is practical in a structured system designed for networking but may not be the ace in the hole at a party or other social event.

Top Tip: According to Idealist careers, “If you feel inauthentic when you’re networking, you’re doing it wrong.” Bingo! Networking should be a comfortable experience.

Networking in an unfamiliar environment

I recently moved from Nairobi, Kenya to Washington, D.C. in the U.S.A. The transition has not been exclusive of challenges and having given up my day job has brought up fresh challenges to my creativity. Conversations with new people that I meet tend to be centered around my family’s relocation. And people have been tremendously kind because they have been listening to me. So, when I went to my first party last Saturday night, I was really excited and looking forward to the dance floor. I met some really marvelous people and spoke extensively to someone whose children are the same age as my own, we clicked naturally. She asked me what I do and told her ALL about it. She was intrigued (this took me by surprise) and asked me what I did, professionally prior to moving to the U.S.A. I told her all about it and my husband casually interjected, “why, are you hiring?” and her response was “yes, maybe”. I pitched my brand without rehearsing it or following strict networking protocol. The result; she would like to hear more over a cup of tea and see how we can collaborate.

Top Tip: Cultivating relationships in a new location takes time. Get a bit more familiar with the new location and determine where you can add value before you begin to circulate your CV.


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Greatest take-away- Top 5!

My greatest takeaway about highly productive networking is:

  1. Know and be thyself: Be genuine, be authentic, be sincere, be you and let the conversation assume an organic course.
  2. Do not go out to social events with the strategy to  meet potential connectors and decision makers. They will sniff out your plan from miles away and turn off.
  3. Go out and have some fun, let your hair down and take your conversation one step at a time. Relaxation helps the mind to refocus.
  4. Make contacts that you can follow up with later. People generally go out to enjoy themselves, not to talk shop or seek talent. And if they are out for the latter, you will know based on the shape that the conversation takes.
  5. Remember, the art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as being heard.  So be smart and take the cue from the people you engage with-this is not the time to share your curriculum vitae. But, leave them with a compelling message, so that they can seek you out later.

Happy networking!