Scene 1: Stumbling Through That First Event
The first networking event I ever attended I lasted five minutes. And that included the four minutes it took me to check my coat. I spent a good 60 seconds standing at the edge of the room at the 21 Club in New York City where this event was being held, scanning the sea of grey suits, desperately looking for a familiar face that I could latch on to, and feeling my heart sink as I came to the realization that that was not going to happen. I knew no one at this event, and worse, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing there. Never crossing the threshold, I spun around, raced down the stairs, grabbed my coat, pushed open the door, and waved frantically for a taxi.
After such an auspicious start, you’re probably wondering what you can learn from me.
Scene 2: Starting Fresh with a Clean Sheet of Paper
Because networking isn’t a talent I was born with (obviously), I knew it was a skill I had to master from the ground up. But I couldn’t network all the time. I had a new business to run. I had just left corporate America to start my own strategy consulting practice. My goal with networking was to find a way to focus on the highest impact activities and do them the best way I could so my efforts would really count; I wanted to get in, get out, and get back to work. So I looked at networking from every angle—poking it, prodding it, diagramming it, and experimenting endlessly with it.
“How could I get 24/7 results without the 24/7 effort?” I asked. Ever wonder the same thing?
Scene 3: Getting Traction with a Strategic Approach
Right away, I approached networking from the practical and strategic mindset drilled into me through my education and work experiences. I studied Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at U.C. Berkeley, got my M.B.A. at Stanford, and worked at places like Goldman Sachs, Disney, Booz Allen & Hamilton, and Time Warner. These years of training taught me how to analyze a problem, think methodically about the best way to solve it, and put together a plan of action to make it happen.
So, if you’re looking for a real step-by-step process for networking, rather than rah-rah “just do it” advice, you’ve come to the right place.
Scene 4: Bringing a New Voice to the World of Networking
I never set out to be a networking expert. I really just wanted to learn how to help myself get more clients more easily for my consulting business. But more and more, I was asked to share my networking strategies with others. I’ve always kept two audiences in mind: the networker I used to be— an introvert at heart and wary about getting out there—and the networker I am today—a busy entrepreneur who’s gotten great results from networking but still doesn’t want to do it nonstop.
Helping people learn to network smart has grown into a passion, and in 2005 I spun off the Center for Networking Excellence as a separate company from my consulting business. My dream is to continue to expand the Center’s products, services and programs to help professionals and entrepreneurs worldwide build the quality relationships that can change their lives…teaching them how to fit networking into their lives, not the other way around. To me, that’s smart networking.