Six Rules for Effective Networking

Guest Post by: Sandra Buteau, GUAA Coaching Partner

If you cringe as soon as you hear the word “networking,” you should know that you are not alone. Many of us in the world feel the same way. During the course of my professional career as a leadership and career coach, networking has been a recurring theme discussed in practically every single one of my coaching engagements. No matter where you are in your career, you need to embrace networking to expand your professional reach or move up to the next level.

Last month, as a guest Webinar speaker for the Georgetown Alumni community, I encouraged participants to view networking from a different perspective and consider it as a way of making connections, talking to people, seeking information, and building community by interacting with others. Think about it not only as a great opportunity to hear fresh ideas and open doors to help you progress in your career no matter your profession, but also to develop new friendships whether on a personal or professional level.

Some individuals have a natural talent for interacting with other people in professional and social settings while many others struggle and agonize at the thought of putting themselves out there. The good news is that networking is a skill that anyone can learn if you are committed to it and challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone from time to time.

To help you navigate the process of making connections effectively, I present to you my 6 Rules for Effective Networking.

1. Bring your true and authentic self to any networking efforts. Do not pretend someone you are not.

2. Instead of being afraid of making connections with strangers, change your frame of mind to view networking as sharing, learning, connecting, having good conversations and interactions with others.

3. To be an effective networker you must first adopt the attitude of a giver. Give every person you meet your undivided attention. Listen carefully and ask open-ended questions seeking to learn as much as you can about the other person to support or offer your help with no expectation that something will be given to you in return.

4. As you are building and maintaining your personal network, focus on quality of the relationships. Networking is not a numbers game. If you are planning to attend an event, avoid committing yourself to meet everyone that you come across. Be prepared to devote time and energy to develop meaningful and long-lasting connections.

5. Think of networking as a two-way street. Effective networking requires “sharing.” Someone helps you out today and you help them out later.

6. Always be prepared to make connections. Be open to starting conversations and speaking to everyone around you. You will be surprised that when you ask someone to tell you their story, amazing connections can develop.

What do you commit to do today to move forward in your networking journey?

Interview with Halo Top President and COO Doug Bouton (COL ’07)

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

If I had to choose, I think the fact that we employee more than 100 people right now. It’s very rewarding to create great jobs for great people.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

Unfortunately, my “career” has largely been Halo Top so not sure I would’ve done anything differently. I went to law school out of college and practiced law for a year or so before Halo Top. My legal background helped tremendously with the founding of and raising money for Halo Top so can’t say I even regret that aspect of my short career.

What trends do you see in your profession or industry?

There are plenty of trends in the food industry. When Halo Top started, it was in the middle of the healthy eating trend that continues to this day, which Greek yogurt largely spearheaded. In that sense, we’ve been fortunate to have the right product, right time – aligning with food/beverage trends like low-calorie, high-protein, and low-sugar. As far other trends, non-dairy/vegan is a big one that will last for a long time. I suspect things like gluten-free are more fad than trend and will pass but time will tell.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done professionally? 

The first few years of Halo Top were really tough, really stressful. I would’ve been easy for my business partner and me to give up. Persevering through those 3-4 years, in hindsight, was probably the hardest thing that I’ve done professionally. I’m also most proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished because I know personally just how hard and precarious it was. We could just as easily not be here today, Halo Top wouldn’t exist, and I would be personally bankrupt if we didn’t catch a bunch of lucky breaks and keep on keeping on.

What is the best career advice you have ever received? 

If you’re not happy, stop talking about it and make a change.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

Georgetown has shaped me in more ways than I can count. I think the two most important ways in which it shaped me are:

  1. critical thinking (especially as it relates to self-reflection)
  2. holistic education

Georgetown was the first time that I was really challenged to critically think about all of my beliefs and opinions, and the importance of critical thinking – in business and in life – cannot be understated in my opinion. Georgetown also emphasized the importance of a holistic education – focusing on activities, relationships, and social education beyond the classroom.

What was your favorite professor or class at Georgetown?

Professor McKeown – Problem of God

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

House parties, Georgetown Day activities, 2007 Final 4 trip to Atlanta, pretty much all of my theology classes. Too many to count.

Who is a source of inspiration and strength to you in your life and why?

The easy answer is my parents. The values they taught me, the work ethic they instilled in me, and the love and support they have given me are the main reason why I am who I am and have accomplished what I have accomplished.

What is on your desk right now?

Papers, clutter, and more crap than I care to admit.

Who is your favorite author? 

Don’t really have one. I read anything – biographies and other non-fiction, fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. Literally anything.

What are your words to live by?

Pick just about any Drake lyric.

Phone Interview How To’s

Phone interviews are used more and more as a round one screening process. They are time and cost effective. For the most part, preparation is similar to a regular interview. Do your research. Connect with the interviewer. Give specific examples.  Know your story.  Know your strengths.  Listen. Ask questions. Send a thoughtful thank you note. What can be intimidating about the phone interview is the limited visual and verbal feedback we come to rely on in social situations.  While that’s great because they can’t tell if you’re twirling your hair, it can also be a bit disconcerting.

Here are a few tips to make your next phone interview a bit more comfortable.

1.  Don’t drop the call.  If possible, take the call from a land line.  If you need to take the call from your cell make sure you have good coverage and a full battery.  Make sure you have the interviewer’s phone number in case something happens with your service.  And in case we need to state the  obvious: take the call from a quiet location.  No dogs, babies, traffic, wind, or slot machines in the background.  If you are currently employed, step out of the office.  Do NOT huddle in the corner of your office whispering.  Not only will the interviewer not be able to hear you, but you’ll be more nervous about someone overhearing you than the content of your answers. Finally, do NOT take the call on speaker.  There is nothing worse than the vortex of speaker phone.

2.  It’s open book.  Feel free to have notes in front of you, including your resume and cover letter and any research you have amassed on the company.  Hopefully it goes without saying that research should be done prior to the call, not during the call.  That being said having the company website up on your computer can help in a pinch. Take notes during the interview but don’t type the notes.  The noise is distracting and may lead them to believe you aren’t fully focused on the conversation.  Finally, have a glass of water in front of you – you’ll be doing a lot of talking!

3.  Short & sweet.  Phone interviews are usually fairly short – typically about 30 minutes.   Consequently, keep your answers concise. You may not be able to go into every single detail of every single example you provide and your interviewer knows that.  The point is to give them enough information that they want to bring you in for an in-person interview.

4.  Picture perfect. Put a face with the name. See if you can Google the interviewer and have a picture up on your computer screen.  At least then you can visualize the feedback you may be receiving.

5.  Be nimble. Your interviewer may call a few minutes early or a few minutes late – be ready! That being said, an employer also may call you unannounced.  If that is case, and the timing doesn’t work for you it is perfectly acceptable for you to ask to select an alternative time.  Just make sure they know that you are still enthusiastic about the position and speaking with them.

Many people advise wearing professional clothing during a phone interview.   Others advise smiling while you talk in order to convey your enthusiasm and personality.  I find these to be personal preferences and they may work for you or may not. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend spouting your proudest accomplishments while laying on your couch.  Or before your morning coffee. Or while looking the mirror.  Because that’s just awkward.

Any tips we’re missing? We want to know!