NPR Guest Andee Tagle, Byline
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: Switching gears now. You know that old saying – it’s not about what you know, it’s who you know? Now, that seems decent advice as we all try to navigate yet another moment of economic uncertainty. But professional networking is a chore for a lot of people. It can feel inauthentic or opportunistic if you have a job or intimidating and inaccessible if you don’t. And that’s true for a lot of people, whether it’s in-person or online. So, what’s the key to embracing and unlocking the power to schmooze, perhaps more give and less take? Life Kit’s Andee Tagle has more.
ANDEE TAGLE, BYLINE: Robbie Samuels says networking is like giving people rides to the airport. Stay with me. Samuels is a Philadelphia-based virtual design event consultant and a recognized networking expert by the likes of Forbes and the Harvard Business Review. He says the key to networking is to approach it not with that familiar mindset of what you need, but rather what you can offer.
ROBBIE SAMUELS: If you become known as a person who’s always giving rides to the airport, the day you need one, you’re going to get a ride. So I think for me, it’s like I want to be seen as that giver. And I’m most likely to want to give to others who give as well. That’s how I’m thinking about networking. It’s like really broadening the pot of what we all can tap into.
TAGLE: Giving begets giving. And like your monthly insurance premium, Samuels says investing a little time into your professional network on a regular basis can ensure you’re covered when you need it the most. Simply put, networking is relationship building.
SAMUELS: Relationships are the answer to any business or life challenge. So any time we need something, I don’t think, who am I going to pay? I think, who do I know that would know something about this?
TAGLE: We put a lot of pressure on our career-based connections, but think about the ease with which you grow the other relationships in your life – asking after your neighbor’s banana nut bread recipe, attending your nephew’s school play or sending that check-in text to make sure your girlfriend got home OK. Professional networks are built this same way, just time and care.
SAMUELS: Repeat exposure is what builds the relationship.
TAGLE: OK. But how do you even build a network to begin with? First, follow your interests.
SAMUELS: Looking for organizations that host weekly and monthly activities that attract the kind of people you enjoy being around.
TAGLE: When you’ve found that posse and you’re angling to go to your first mixer, make sure you have goals in mind first. Are you looking for a job right this second, or do you just want to know what potential is out there for the future? Could you use a collaborator on your new project?
SAMUELS: The effort up front before you leave the house of doing that kind of planning and strategy work is what will make it more successful.
TAGLE: Then, when you get there, resist the urge to just collect as many business cards as you can.
SAMUELS: It’s not about volume, and it’s not about extrovert versus introvert. It’s about being thoughtful about what you’re trying to achieve in that moment.
TAGLE: And don’t forget to be authentic in your approach.
SAMUELS: Because if they hire you and you were playing acting as somebody else, it’s not going to be the job for you.
TAGLE: Samuels’ mantra for networking success is to show up and add value in every space you enter, whether you’re brand new to the job market or the seniorest (ph) of senior supervisors.
SAMUELS: You get to think really broadly about what that looks like. One of my favorite things do online to stand out is to be a person who shares resources in the chat. If a speaker mentions a book or a website or a TEDx, I will go and find the link and put a thoughtful comment into chat with the name of the book and the link to the book, super simple and a great way to, again, offer value and sort of rise up from the crowd in a really nice way.
TAGLE: And this practice of openness and generosity can be applied in lots of social situations, says Samuels, not just professional spaces.
SAMUELS: So if you’re at the DMV, and you had an interesting conversation with someone while you’re sitting there for 3 hours, that’s networking.
TAGLE: The DMV, really?
SAMUELS: Why not? You know, like, if you mind your own business all the time and have blinders on, you’ll miss opportunities when they are right in front of you.
TAGLE: For NPR’s Life Kit, I’m Andee Tagle.
MARTIN: This is NPR News.