Network Like a Man

by Antonio on May 5, 2009 · 26 comments

in Money & Career

menatlunch

Three months ago a good friend of mine lost his job during the 2nd round of layoffs at a struggling dotcom.  He was the sole breadwinner in his household, had just bought a new home, and had three young boys under the age of 7 (one having serious medical issues).  Like many of us, he faced stiff competition and a market where employers are cutting benefits.  So how did he find fulfilling full-time work in 90 days?

He dove headfirst into a job search and utilized all of his networking talents.  Within a day, all of his 400 friends on Facebook knew his predicament, with a half dozen sending leads his way within hours. He put out his feelers on LinkedIn and reached back to past employers now working in various positions across a wide range of fields.  He jumped on an opportunity when it presented itself and took a job that wasn’t as glamorous but paid the bills.  To his surprise, it was this “consolation” job that led to a dream offer with a non-profit that had in many ways helped save his son’s life years before.

A journey like this can’t be planned – but it can be facilitated by strong networking skills and enhanced by the realization that no man is an island.  We depend on those around us, and the strength of many can overcome obstacles impossible for an individual. Every man’s quest for meaningful work or sales is directly influenced by his network; improving your ability to harness this power is the goal of this article.

Step 1 – Develop a Networkers Mentality

Shout from the Mountain

Losing a job is a major blow to our self-esteem.  As men we often define ourselves by the work we do, and take great pride in being able to provide for those who depend on us.  And although the reason for a layoff may be beyond our control, we often feel ashamed and embarrassed that we are no longer in control of the situation.  We slip into a depression, and tell no one about our situation until they find out through other means.  The first step in developing a networker’s mentality is to move beyond the shame of job loss and to notify everyone about your situation. By doing this, you have a hundred or more people with their ears to the ground passing on what they know about un-posted job opportunities.  Be open to opportunity, even if it’s down a path you hadn’t considered, and get in touch with old acquaintances who you haven’t talked to in years.  In the worse case scenario they know of no leads, and you spend thirty minutes catching up on old times.

All of this applies as well to those needing to increase sales, especially small business owners.  Although you shouldn’t push sales onto your friends and family, you can explain to them what you are doing and make it known that you would appreciate any leads or assistance.  You’d be surprised who your former colleagues know from college, who your neighbor plays golf with, and who your mom knows at church.  We all want to help our friends; not only does it feel great, but if the person is an excellent worker or has a superior product to offer, then we create a win/win situation for all parties involved.  Give others the opportunity to help you by letting them know what you are trying to accomplish.

Think like a Business Owner

As a small business owner, there are two things that will ensure my company survives – a healthy profit margin and enough sales to capitalize on this margin and pay expenses. If I meet a potential employee or salesperson who understands these two things and can clearly articulate how they will help me improve them…….well this person has my full attention.

So think like a business owner when pitching yourself or your product – show what you can offer the company and why they’d be missing an opportunity if they didn’t utilize your talents. To do this effectively, you’ll have to do your homework – you’ll want to find out a bit about the companies whose representatives will be on hand and have a general understanding of the industry.  A quick witted individual can wing this if they ask the right questions, but like anything, a little bit of preparation will go a long way.  Show owners you’re thinking about their business like they do, and you’ll be surprised what they’ll do to harness your talents.

Understand Reciprocity

The worst networkers are those who are clearly only out for themselves. They dominate conversations and fail to listen to those they are trying to win over.  They seek to take, and more often than not walk away empty handed; don’t be this type of networker. Instead, strive to learn about the people you meet, their business, and their problems, and then offer assistance that is sincere and in their best interests. Something as simple as facilitating an introduction to a friend who can assist will be appreciated and trigger the phenomenon known as reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the act of an in-kind response to another’s actions. If someone says hello, you say hello back.  If you send someone a Christmas card, they send you one back in response.  This works very effectively in business: go out of your way to help another person make a connection/set-up an interview, and they will go out of their way to try and help you when they can.  Reciprocity is a powerful mechanism that proves nice guys can finish first.

Time Is Your Most Valuable Resource

Each of us is given 24 hours a day; how we manage it and where we apply our efforts determines how much we accomplish.  When you are out of work or self-employed, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of having no timetable or routine.  Do not let this happen; wake up at a set time and schedule appointments that force you to focus on high priority items that yield results.  Preparing and sending resumes or making 20 cold calls before 11AM is an example. Stop checking your email once every 2 minutes, and set deadlines to avoid the little “emergencies” that pull you away from the work which must be accomplished. The key here is a routine that keeps you engaged and using your time effectively.

Perhaps the hardest time management skill to acquire is the ability to tactfully end a nonproductive conversation. Whether it be with a fellow at a networking event who has decided to tell you his life story or a neighbor who feels your being home is an invitation to visit all afternoon and chat about politics, you must set limits or you’ll find these events can eat up hours that you can never recover. This is where a schedule comes in very handy; because appointments must be kept, and it is never rude to excuse yourself for a scheduled engagement.

Step 2 – Know your Networking Tools

Modern Networking Tools

I won’t spend too much time on these – I have undoubtedly left off many, and in less than a year this information will be outdated. But I will tell you that I have tested all of these and at the time of this writing use them on a daily basis to build my business.

LinkedIn – Every professional should have a profile here, no excuses. The number one professional networking site in the world, it serves as a place to display not only your resume but recommendations written by those you’ve worked for and clients you’ve served. It connects you to colleagues and peers, and enables you to see who they know so that you can potentially reach out to their network. Its search feature can locate contacts deep within a company you want to work for, and its groups are smaller communities where you can discuss ideas, post jobs, and expand your network.

Facebook – For most, this is more of a social networking tool than a business one. But the largest growing demographic are those aged 55+, and despite the collegiate feel, it is a great platform for promoting your business. Facebook has Pages and Groups, both of which are indexed well in internet search engines and enable you to interact with your target audience.  Facebook advertising can be very specific in whom it targets, and as the largest social site on the internet, it will expose you to a wider network than LinkedIn.

Twitter – There is a lot of buzz concerning Twitter and it’s potential. I won’t get into the debate about whether it’s overhyped, but I will say it is indexed well by search engines and is a simple way to expand your network. I also find it’s a great way to reach people who do not return calls or emails.

MySpace – Half the size of Facebook, MySpace hasn’t enjoyed the same glowing press coverage.  But its size and growth rates are still amazing, and there are a large number of people who prefer it over the “stale” environment on other social media sites. So you may find quite a few contacts here that are not on other sites.

You TubePerhaps not the best place to put your resume, but if you are looking for a place to get a message out, there isn’t a more popular or powerful video site out there.  Want to establish yourself as an expert in marketing? Upload and market a video that gets a hundred thousand hits in 3 months and you’ll have proof you can deliver.

Blogging – Want to break into an industry?  Start and consistently write quality content that pertains to a niche you are passionate about.  Note, this simple advice is difficult and time-consuming to execute.  Just ask the Art of Manliness founders Brett and Kate McKay.  But the rewards can be tremendous.

Old School Networking Tools

The Handshake – Tried and tested, a handshake and face-to-face conversation is the most powerful way to communicate with another human being.  It is the surest way to make a strong impression, and even the busiest gentleman will give his fellow man a few minutes to make his case once engaged.  Given this moment, a man should be able to clearly articulate his case (your 30 second elevator pitch) and display his emotion and enthusiasm.  Sincere conversations are not forgotten, and are the surest way to a longer meeting where the details can be sorted out.

The Phone Conversation – When you can’t meet with someone in person, the next best old school networking tool is a phone conversation.  Unlike an email, a phone conversation is an interaction where emotion can be expressed and the direction of the conversation can go anywhere.  An effective networking technique is to send support information prior to a call and then follow up the conversation with an email summarizing the topics and thanking the other party for their time.

Business Cards - An effective business card gets the point across and provides a means for someone to contact you in a professional manner.  Some people choose to print a message on both sides of the card to continue their message – this is effective, but be sure to leave room for notes.  Avoid cards you print at home as they never measure up to professionally printed ones. Finally, if you’re looking for work, carry a card that has your name, contact info (to include address to a LinkedIn profile), and a list of your talents and opportunities sought.  More effective than an old company card with scratched out information, this shows you are serious about your job search.

The Resume and Cover Letter – Anyone looking for work no doubt has a resume, but is your resume crafted to the companies you are applying to? Although you can’t know what exactly the employer is looking for, you can word your resume in a way that the right skills and accomplishments are highlighted in the appropriate fashion.  Unless specifically not asked for, a cover letters is a great way to show you are serious about the company you are applying to.  You can elaborate on experiences not found in your resume that make you the ideal candidate and show you know a bit about the company and what it’s looking to accomplish.

Step 3 – Look like a Professional

When I meet someone for the first time, all I bring to the table is my understanding of the world gained from 33 years of experience.  I can’t see your PhD, have no idea you are the best salesmen at IBM, and probably won’t walk away knowing you speak 5 languages.  But I will form a first impression of you within seconds.  I’ll know if I like you within a minute, and within two to three decide if I want to do business with or hire you.  The rest of the time we spend talking? I’m just confirming my first impressions.  Yes, appearances are that important.

Virtual Appearance

Digital Pictures

A simple headshot in business attire is all you need for most of your online profiles.  For the social sites, casual pictures are great, but remember that they will eventually be seen by clients and co-workers. Never post anything on the web that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. Despite assurances that pictures can be controlled and seen only by friends you designate, you will make a mistake and grant the wrong person access.  And although performing a double keg stand does require talent, it’s not the kind your boss seeks in his next advertising VP.

Email Address and Signature

A professional email address is a must, with GMail, AOL, & Yahoo being safe domain options for those on a limited budget.  Hotmail is less professional sounding, but paired with a simple username, it’s acceptable.  The wrong username though can negate any professional domain.  FatherOf5GreatKids@AOL.com is fine for personal use, but not for business contacts.

Presentation Documents

Resumes and sales brochures should be updated, spell checked, and available in multiple formats.  Adobe Acrobat is the world’s most readable form, but for those without access to costly professional document making software like Microsoft Word, free software such as Google Docs allows you to create profesional resumes and cover letters.

Physical Appearance

Take into account these factors when determining how to dress.

1.Your Role

The Job Seeker - For those actively looking for work, a networking event should be approached like a job interview.  Make no mistake, if you start talking with a company representative with hiring authority they’ll immediately size you up and form an impression.  Dress one level above the company’s office dress code, with the least formal outfit being a sports jacket, no tie, and business appropriate jeans for the creative types.  Most, however, will be best served by dropping the jeans for dress trousers and adding a tie; those in conservative fields should always assume suit & tie (you can always slip the tie off if overdressed a bit).  The key here is making sure your first impression is your best impression.

The Salesman – Much like the job seeker, you are being judged by the way you present yourself.  Although your clothing is somewhat determined by your industry, anyone in sales can tell you people are more receptive to a man in a suit; it initially lends a bit of credibility and gives the wearer a few valuable seconds to introduce himself and throw out his elevator pitch.  Sales in a more casual environment can call for dropping the tie, but be careful about being seen in something less casual than a sports jacket, especially during a first encounter.

The Employer – In this market environment you are setting the terms and have the ability to dress down.  But top talent always has a choice, and the best candidates are often still employed or in a position to choose from various suitors.  Out of respect for those you meet, I recommend you always dress at least business casual or in your company uniform.

2. The Time & Environment

Networking events before 5PM on a workday – Most will be taking time off from work or attending the event on their lunch hour; the appropriate clothing is business attire specific to your region and industry.  But even in Cedar Rapids, IA, you’ll want to show up wearing at least a tie or sports jacket.

Networking event after 5PM – Perhaps the most confusing networking event to dress for, a man needs to balance the professional look with the “off the clock” image when working after 5PM.  A dark sports coat and dress boots or loafers are perfect here.  Be prepared by having a tie in case the event is dressier than expected; oftentimes these events are held at bars where the front of the building appears casual but the event is in a back conference room where the mood is more upscale.

Networking events at Convention Centers & Hotels – Larger events like this are great for exposure to a wide range of contacts; however, it’s harder to set yourself apart. To gain the edge, it is imperative that you dress to the level of your competition – do not give them an easy victory because you were too lazy to throw on a jacket and tie.  If you have resumes or other items you’ll be carrying, bring a professional case or bag; leave the backpack at home.  Finally bring an umbrella or overcoat if the weather looks at all like it might turn – you may have to wait outside before entering the event.

Your Turn

What networking tips did we miss?  Do you have a recent success story of how your network helped you succeed?  Please comment below!

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, www.ATailoredSuit.com
Quality Custom Clothing & Sound Style Advice
Join our Facebook Page for a chance to Win Custom Clothing

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brett May 5, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Tremendous, tremendous article, Tony. You clearly can write about more than just fashion. You are truly an invaluable asset to this site.

I second the recommendation of social networking sites as valuable resources. Some people put down Twitter as frivolous, but I’ve seen several friends put out a call for help in the job department and receive leads back within the hour. And I’ve personally found it useful for soliciting all sorts of help.

2 Robert Accettura May 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Great article.

I’d personally avoid Facebook and MySpace if your looking for a job though… they can only hurt you. Problem is while you may follow all the above advice (which is very good I might add) your likely to have a friend or two who doesn’t… and employers love to look at that list as it’s better indicator of who you are rather than the profile you faked (they know you’ll clean it up). You can avoid your friends… but how will they feel about that? Business before bro’s?

Also agree with @Brett about Twitter… it works.

I’ll go one step further: register your own domain name and start a blog about what you know (and preferably what you want to be hired to do). Back in ’06 almost every call I got from an employer looking to hire Googled my name first (I looked in my log files so yes… I know). Why settle for a generic LinkedIn resume? Why not really sell yourself and impress? Exactly. Go for it.

3 Bunk May 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

As a business owner myself, I can say that Step 1 is dead on! Also being a man of confidence is important, as well as surrounding yourself and making sure that your ‘network’ has full confidence in you as well.

Wonderful write up on this post.

4 AcmeNews May 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

@ Robert: Facebook and other social networking sites are terrific places for job searches. If a man has friends who have disruptive behavior on those sites, he has options: privacy settings and not allowing jerks in the network.

It is correct that potential employers may use those sites as part of due diligence prior to a hire, but only a buffoon who doesn’t know how to manage his own information would allow a potential employer access to the idiocy that may surface on those sites.

Avoiding “friending” on a website is a matter of principal. If the friends get upset because they aren’t included in a website, then they aren’t real friends. If a fella doesn’t feel comfortable controlling his “friend list,” then he is not a man. He’s a fool.

This was a great article. There will always be employment for those who work hard and network well.

5 Video Conferencing Freeware May 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Nice Post. I am a computer engineer and I am working in a consulting management firm. Video conferencing equipments are highly preferred in our office as we have frequent meetings with our clients and personnel in other locations. I will be looking forward for more updates.

6 Richard S May 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Wow! I can’t thank you enough. I have always found networking quite difficult/confusing. I know the importance of it, but as an introvert, I never quite accomplish this. Your article really cleared things up. Thank you.

7 Kevin Higgins May 6, 2009 at 3:27 am

Great post – was just put on to The Art of Manliness and am enjoying it. Thanks for a great site!

8 bobm May 6, 2009 at 4:50 am

Excellent article, well thought out and nicely organized. I concur with the idea of reciprocity when it comes to networking. The best time to think about networking is before you need it. It’s a lot easier to network with a friend or acquantance if you all ready have some kind of relationship with them.
Another resource that may be available to someone unemployed is a professionals career networking group. At my local career center (unemployment office) there is one that meets regularly to exchange potential job leads.
Don’t forget to talk to strangers, you never know who you might meet in an elevator or waiting room. No need to be pushy here, a casual conversation about the state of the economy could lead to an opportunity for you to mention how it’s impacted you. You may find yourself talking to someone who knows someone, who knows someone. Keep in mind leads you come across that are not a fit for you. They may be just the thing for someone else you know or meet. Remember, “What goes around, comes around”.

9 John Heaney May 6, 2009 at 5:23 am

The single biggest mistake I see repeated is wearing shoes that are too casual for a suit or wearing scuffed and beat-up shoes. It’s as if the wearer believes that the impression they make ends at the hem of their pants.

Good rule of thumb: If you wear a suit, wear shoes that lace. If your dress is more casual, then slip-ons are ok, but only if they’re shined. No workboots. No athletic shoes, even if they’re trendy and hip. You’re a grown up now, so dress like one.

Think no one notices your shoes? Ask any woman what kind of shoes her last date wore. She noticed. I guarantee.

10 MarcS May 6, 2009 at 6:45 am

Great article!

Another great option for producing your resumé instead of Google Docs is Open Office (www.openoffice.org).

It’s open-source freeware (WITH NO MALWARE OR ADWARE) that has almost all the functionality of Microsoft Word… I actually prefer the way it does formatting over Microsoft Word (and far prefer it over Google Docs).

You can save your files in .doc and .pdf formats as well.

(I have absolutely no personal stake in promoting Open Office other than being a very happy user… I’m actually not sure how they make money… I think maybe donations)

11 A. Kurtz May 6, 2009 at 7:19 am

Don’t forget Pomade. Lots and lots of Pomade.

12 AcmeNews May 6, 2009 at 7:21 am

While all of this information is certainly valid for professional networking, it is also valid for personal networking and life in general.

Real men have great social skills and present themselves well in a wide variety of situations. That’s why networking, whether for professional of social purposes, comes naturally to them. They are the men who bounce back quickly from unexpected layoffs and who are able to muster up some friends with whom to socialize on a moments notice. They are the men who become leaders in anything they do.

This article is yet another example of the fun and inspirational work you guys are doing. Keep it up, and continue to spread the value of true manliness.

13 Frank May 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

The part of reciprocity is excellent. Now that I think about it, I don’t actually listen enough or ask enough questions when I talk to interviewers.

14 Joshua Uebergang May 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Powerful article. Reciprocity is so important. “The worst networkers are those who are clearly only out for themselves.” The same goes for anything in life.

I loved the parts that defined a man’s uniqueness when networking.

15 Anthony May 6, 2009 at 8:13 pm

That was a good read. Networking right now is the most effective way to get employed. Needless to say, you really need to work your network.

16 orlando May 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm

There have been a couple occasions where I wish I had brought a tie with me! Handy and helpful tips I will definitely be using.

17 Gabe Garms May 7, 2009 at 11:14 am

Tony, great article. I especially liked your point on thinking like a business owner. Too often, I see people taking a numbers game approach to their job search and getting away from creating a personal value proposition that will resonate with specific employers.

I too agree with Brett that Twitter is a phenomenal tool. But it definitely can be overwhelming to get started and to see where the real value is. I have put together a list of steps new users can take when getting started with the tool that will help them create a personal value proposition quickly: http://bit.ly/LS39K. I tried to make it as seamless as possible but I am always looking for suggestions to make it better.

18 Aaron Schaub May 8, 2009 at 8:04 am

Great article! One of the best books I’ve read on networking is “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” by Harvey MacKay. He touches on these points and several others.

19 Brian Blake May 8, 2009 at 11:07 am

Great article with many solid take-aways. At the top of the list (for me, anyway) is reciprocity. You can never do enough in this department.

Regarding networking, Dr. Burt Smith wrote a fantastic book called “The Great Game of Networking” that is full of great tips. His site:

http://www.drburt.com

20 Anoop Jayaram May 11, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Hey
That was something really intersting and quite useful to all professionals.
Great Work!
Keep it Up!
Anoop

21 LynnM May 18, 2009 at 7:39 am

Excellent post and very thorough! How can someone NOT find a job after following all this great advice!? I’ve written a couple blog posts about networking for college students on MyUSearch.com. College-bound men and current college men should check them out! Thanks!
http://myusearchblog.com/note-to-freshman-start-networking-now
http://myusearchblog.com/looking-in-all-the-right-places-for-a-summer-job

22 Rick Rentmeester May 26, 2009 at 5:21 am

Pretty accurate description of networking. The part about Reciprocity is usually underplayed but here is the line that divides great networkers from room occupiers. When you engage in a conversation always steer the conversation towards the person you are talking with. Make the conversation about them and their services as this is most peoples comfort zone. By doing so you are scouting out potential new clients and you can follow up at a later time if this is a person of interest. They will remember you as the non-pushy guy who carried on a great conversation and the door should always be open if you networked right.

You mentioned the use of business cards I would recommend visiting the HBBA website at http://www.hbba-wi.org and check out the tips page and read the 10 rules of business cards.

23 Cody April 24, 2010 at 1:49 am

This would go under the old-school networking, but I’ve actually found that my best networking tool is the cigar shop. After that it would be the barber shop.

24 rufusmcbufus May 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Personally, I hate working. Work is for suckers. it’s so boring and tired.
-rufus

25 Ibrahim | TwentiesLife.com May 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Are you telling me that adding everyone I find on facebook isn’t enough? Haha, just kidding. Great tips!

26 dddddddddd May 10, 2010 at 11:36 am

Great article but did you really just advise people that an “aol.com” email address is acceptable in the business world?

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