The Art of Networking with Susan Kaye & Sunita Malhotra - PART I

Having a great CV and a great professional story to tell is not enough. You need to find someone who is interested in listening to it. And that is 80% of your job as a job seeker. It takes research, dedication and genuine interest when reaching out. This is why networking is such a critical component of any job search strategy (and not only!). It's a skill and an art that starts with how you see it and approach it, and it is something that everyone can do and that everyone must do. Tune in to some of the tips on how to go about it with my special guests, Susan Kaye, a Senior HR business professional with extensive experience in all areas of the HR Function and an Executive outplacement Career Coach and Counsel, and Sunita Malhotra, owner and managing director of People's Insights, who consults globally in strategic human resources, is also an executive coach, and in addition is a professor in several universities.

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00:01 Sunita Malhotra: Absolutely assume everyone is a network, and you have one.
 
00:06 Susan Kaye: I do have a ton of people who I have something in common with. We all do.
 
00:12 Paola Granati: Welcome once again to this episode of The World of Work Podcast, The WoW. I'm Paola Granati and today we will talk about networking. And networking is not only important if you're looking for a job, it's just an important skill to be able to master or at least feel comfortable with. And for this session, I'm joined by a panel, by two guest speakers, Susan Kaye and Sunita Malhotra. Now, you've already met Susan in the second episode of The WoW when we were talking about managing transitions. She has this unique combination of HR professional experience and outplacement experience in career counseling. And the second panelist is Sunita, Sunita Malhotra, who is the owner and managing director of People Insights.
 
01:03 PG: She consults globally in strategic human resources, is an executive coach, and in addition is also a professor in several different universities. She has lived and worked in four countries, India, USA, Switzerland, Belgium. Has worked in large global organizations across five different industries and has extensive experience in sales marketing, HR, and of course, entrepreneurship. A fascinating panel and just the right panel to talk about the art of networking with a sense of community in mind. So let's tune into the conversation.
 
01:43 SK: The starting point for me has always been to remind people that even if they think they don't have a network, they do. Everyone has a network and that's the first starting point, is to get people to understand that networking is not this incredibly grand thing that only top corporate leaders can do. Networking is something we do all the time in our whole life. We spend our time asking friends and people we know where they would suggest we go and eat. We listen to other recommendations when we look for a doctor. We very rarely just pick up the internet and go and take the first name we find. We work...
 
02:24 SK: For everything we do in life, we work on recommendations, and so we all do have a network. The problem is most people don't realize it. And so the starting point for me is always, sit down and just take a deep breath and first of all accept and say to yourself, "You do have a network." Because you do. Everyone does. And it starts with people who are close to you, and it starts with your family, your friends... Just already that very, very close network is huge. And then you start expanding, and I like to draw it out as if there are a whole lot of rooms in a house, and in each room there's a group of people.
 
03:04 SK: There's one room that holds the family, there's one room that holds your friends, there's one room that holds the people you went to school with. The people you worked with. The people that you do sports with. Your neighbors. The people who work in the stores you go and shop in. The suppliers who you've bought things from, etcetera. And all these different places and rooms full of people coming from different walks of life, and that's the starting point to say, "Already how many people do I know?" Most people... A lot of people will say, "Oh. I don't really know anyone." But then you start going through these little rooms... In fact, everyone knows at least 300 to 500 people. I don't spend necessarily a huge amount of time with them. I do have a ton of people who I have something in common with. We all do.
 
03:57 PG: You're taking it already from the socialization point of view. You're already taking it, let's say, from a community point of view, to start from there.
 
04:07 SK: Because... Yeah.
 
04:08 PG: Start from your inner circle of the people who you already know, you're interacting with. It can start from family, from friends, community, teachers, schools...
 
04:17 SK: Yeah. Because networking is scary to most people and so the best way to start networking and start practicing on talking to other people about yourself and about what you want and about what you're looking for and about how they could maybe help you. It's a lot easier to start with people who are close to you, who are gonna be forgiving if you mess up in how you're doing it, because at first it's uncomfortable. But the giving side for me of networking is you make other people feel good. Put it the other way around. What you're doing for them is giving them an opportunity to feel way better.
 
04:51 PG: Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you for that perspective. Sunita, what would you add to that? What are your insights on this topic? 
 
05:00 SM: I'm gonna add to a couple of things that Susan said, but before I do that, I just wanna take a step back because we need to define what's the principal behind networking, because the word is used so often, and in some cultures it even has a negative connotation because... First, it's to demystify that it's not a bad thing. And for me, if I define the principle of networking in one line, it would be finding people who can introduce you to other people to build long-term relationships. It's not about finding a job, or it's not about getting, just getting. And that's, to link to what you said, Paola, that's a bit the getting and the giving. That has to be balanced for networking to be really good.
 
05:40 SM: Now having said that, I'd love to add two points to what Susan said, and add another one that I was reflecting on. The first is, absolutely, assume everyone is a network and you have one. And I can say that for myself, because when I opened my own company after many, many years of corporate life, I sat there and I went, "Oh my God, I haven't been networking. Who is gonna be my client?" And exactly what Susan said, when I started to do that, one after the other, I realized a supplier became a client, a previous employee became a client, and it just went on. Assume everyone is a network. And I love the analogy that Susan said about rooms. So go and just sit down and make a list on a blank sheet of paper. The other thing I would add is, it is about give and take.
 
06:28 SM: And it is lovely when you go to people and you start with, "I'd love your advice." Because there are very, very few people who don't like to give advice or like to help. And the moment you do that, to Susan's point, they get something, because they gave advice and you get something because you got something from it. So it's a win-win. And the only other piece I would add, before I turn it over to you again, Paola on this one, is, many, many times, what I found people don't do is they go into networking as if it's socializing. And for me, there's a difference, because socializing is a bit of chit-chat, if I may use the slang, but networking, you still do need to have a clear objective in mind. You need to know where you wanna go, why you're building this network, and it could just be to build a life-long friend and that's ok, because you know, many of my networks today, I have long-term friendships and mentors from there. Have a clear objective in mind. Again, assume everyone's a network, give advice and at the same time have a clear objective when you get there.
 
07:30 PG: I think that’s very important, framing it, because there is a risk otherwise of mixing up terminologies and when you mix them up, there is a sense of a little bit confusion. Like what's ultimately the objective of networking? What's the ultimate purpose of it? Because there is a difference. If we have different languages, it's because it's probably to talk about different concepts. One thing is socialization, another thing is the actual networking. And I like what both of you said, in terms of well, the first case, the sense of different rooms. Explore the rooms that are already near you. Open them and see, from those rooms where else it could lead you. It's a little bit like seeing individuals as connectors, in this landscape. And to have an objective in mind, to say, "Ok. Well, what do I want from this conversation?" Is it to be able to have the next conversation with that same person? Or is it perhaps to get to meet somebody else thanks to this interaction? 
 
08:47 PG: I'm wondering whether either one of you or both of you could share or can think of a particularly horrific networking situation which kind of gives a sense of what to avoid or what... What is it that you’ve seen, that you would like to tell people out there, "Absolutely, just stay away from that. Don't do that." Perhaps Susan you would like to chime in, I saw you were nodding. Sunita's nodding as well, but Susan started nodding first. Go ahead, Susan.
 
09:24 SK: OK. Well, yes. Having used or being involved in networking, mainly with people who are on the job market, most of my examples are linked to people who are searching for a job and the big, big, big no-no is, when I get someone who comes back and says, "Yeah. But networking's no use. I've contacted everyone and no one has a job for me." And I look and I say, "Wait a second. You contacted everyone and what did you say to them?" "Well, I asked them if they had a job." Well that is an absolute no-no. You will kill your entire network if you do that. It makes no sense, because the first thing you mustn't do when you're networking is scare the person in front of you. And if you walk up to someone and you ask them if they have a job for you, then you're putting them, in a position that the only thing they can answer is no. The person who just goes out and asks directly, and then gets a no answer, is not networking, they're begging. And it's useless.
 
10:29 PG: And it reminds me of something. Cause here we're talking about the world of work, and it's contextualized in terms of finding a job and looking for a job and networking your way so that you see what are the opportunities out there and connect with folks that may be able to help you or not, but when you were talking about those examples, I'm also reflecting. In our jobs as HR professionals, very often, we were confronted with those situations of people all of a sudden, out of the blue, "Do you have a job for me?" it is always finding balance between what your objective is but as well on how you go about the human relationship and the human relations. We do need to be mindful on how we go about this. But yeah, those are some mistakes... Those are some watch-outs, that it's not only for people looking for a job, but it's also individuals selling services or providing services to companies who are looking for clients, to say, there are ways and ways of going about it. Sunita, I give it to you after my long-winded as well, comment.
 
11:37 SM: One similarity, again to what both of you said and for me I just frame it in a different way. What happens many times when people go to the network, it's because they want something. And as Susan said, when you ask somebody for a job, they hit a wall. That's absolute a no-no. But imagine they go to the next step. The worst thing I've seen is people don't follow up. And then they don't follow up with the network because it's not only give, right? It's give and take and give and take, it's both. It's like, "Oh. Now I'm done with you and I don't need you anymore". And that will reflect. And that goes back to not being a long-term relationship.
 
12:14 SM: For me, that's a huge watch-out. I've seen many people do it and they do it often because, again we go back to the principle, why are you doing this? Are you doing it because you want a job or because you want to build this relationship? Because it's really about building the relationship. And sometimes I see it in here when we could do cocktail parties, and now I know there are virtual cocktail parties, but when you could do cocktail parties, the worst thing is when somebody comes to me and says, "Oh my god. My entire business card... " Which used to exist and probably still exists in some markets, "Is over. I've given out 300 business cards." That's not networking.
 
12:55 SM: And there for me, the very practical tip is, be genuine. Be authentic. If you happen to be in a physical face-to-face, cocktail party, go and find people that you will connect with right away, there's a chemistry. Chat with one or two people, because the aim is to build a long-term relationship. If you get one business card, that you know you're really gonna follow up, that person you can give something and get something and it's a long-term relationship, that's networking. What it is and what it isn't from what I've seen.
 
13:28 PG: And how much work is networking? Your experience. Susan, you've been supporting as an executive coach as well individuals in their career counselling and so how much work is into it? 
 
13:42 SK: A lot. A lot if you want to... It's a very, very powerful way as Sunita was just saying, of building relationships and I really like that wording because it's not about just getting connections or business cards. That makes absolutely no sense, that's collecting and collecting is useless. You need to build the relationships but to do it properly you need to go back to again what Sunita said, you need to be clear about why you're doing it. The first thing, especially if you're on the job market is you need to have a pretty clear, even to understand your professional objective and be able to talk about it clearly. And you need to be able to talk about yourself clearly and all that in a very quick, short, snappy time frame so that you're not gonna have a monologue of five minutes to introduce yourself to someone.
 
14:36 SK: You need to be able to get a few words through quickly as to who you are, you need to get the person to understand what it is you're interested in. Now, all this is gonna take time and you don't necessarily immediately give everything out. Don't just make a phone call, get an appointment and from that appointment get a job. No. First you have to go through and take the time to look at your network and that, you've got contacts on your phone, you've got LinkedIn contacts, you've got Facebook contacts, you've got friends around you, you've got neighbors. If you want to just understand what your network is, that's gonna take time and then you're gonna identify, you're gonna have to prepare yourself and identify who you want to get in touch with and then you're gonna pick up that phone or send that email.
 
15:24 SK: And there'll be no answer and a lot of people are going to say, "Oh. They're not interested. Useless." No. As Sunita said, you follow up. The person you sent the email to, you're not their priority. It doesn't mean they don't want to get back to you if they didn't get back to you within the five minutes you sent the email. They didn't have time to get back to you and so you have to... Without harassing, but you have to pursue and so just getting an appointment with someone can take several trials and it can go over several days and weeks and it takes time. I used to encourage my candidates to spend as much as 80% of their search time on networking which is the research, making appointments, the understanding. Researching your market as well, who are you're trying to contact, if you wanna get in touch with someone you need to know who they are. Go look them up, don't just go in blind. Yes. It's a lot of time. But it leads to a lot of results if you're patient. But like when you plant seeds in a garden you have to water them. If you don't water them they won't grow.
 
16:36 PG: And also be wary of which garden you're planting your seeds in. Just make sure you're... First of all that you know what seeds to plant and then, to your point...
 
16:46 SK: You have to know your place.
 
16:46 PG: Yeah. You have to know your garden of reference first.
 
16:49 SK: Absolutely.
 
16:50 PG: You're not gonna be planting seeds everywhere and that's perhaps why there is the word, “work”, in “networking” because it is in this as well very different from socializing. It's very different from just going out and meeting people. It is from what I hear you say, even just before the act of networking, it requires careful research, being clear on what you're looking for and the type of people you want to meet and even connect with, so it's pretty broad, beyond just the opening the rooms, it's also knowing which rooms that might not be closest to you but which ones you want to explore, tap into and knock at their door. Which then would lead me of course to another question Sunita, although linked to length as well how much work does it require to network but it's also when do you stop? Imagine that you're knocking at a door and you would talk about follow-up. You knock again and maybe one day somebody opens but they don't let you in, and they say, "Oh. Come back." And so you try again, you come back, they still don't let you in. What would your thoughts be on that, what would you recommend folks to do and when do you stop knocking at people's doors? 
 
18:28 SM: For me networking, I guess the word "work" implies somewhere the world of work since we are in The World of Work Podcast episode, that's one. And then the second is work and I think Susan being the expert has talked a lot about that. For me it goes back to, what is it you want, what is it you don't want when you're looking at your reference market? Because people, as I work with executives or even with younger generations now getting into the world of work is, "We'll do this, we'll do that, we'll do... " You cannot do everything so you need to almost have your target list of industries or your target list of functions, especially when you're more senior and doing executive coaching, you wanna change where they actually wanna go, what is it you want and what is it you don't want before you even start networking. Because that's gonna drive your objective and then... And the rest we've talked about, having a list, knowing where to go and also appreciating what is it that you can give because if I'm very practical, your first conversation with somebody you ask for their advice.
 
19:33 SM: Then you have a conversation, you talk about your skills, your competencies, you talk about the culture you like, you talk about... Ask them questions about what they like because many times companies, and then I think Susan, you probably know this even better than both of us do. They have roles that are created that are not all published out there, they're hidden jobs so to speak. You're talking to somebody, you see a skill set and you're thinking, "Wow. I can take this marketing skill and I can create something. We all know that, having been in HR, so startups especially and I deal with a lot of startups now, they don't have old school, job descriptions, etcetera. They talk to somebody, they say, "Wow. That's interesting. Let me introduce you to somebody else and then to somebody else." And you can have loads and loads of conversations, and the way I, again, look at it, is you have to love it.
 
20:25 SM: If somewhere you don't have the belief that you wanna build genuine relationships, you want to give and take, it's a long-term process. It's like a sales process. You're selling something. You may never get the business, but it doesn't mean that they're not gonna talk to somebody else and say, "Hey. You know what? I love this individual. Why don't you go and have a chat with them? It's just so much fun talking with this person." Then guess what? For me, the answer to the question point blank is you never stop knocking. You just decide without harassing somebody, "Have you knocked on the door, but they're sitting by the window? Then you go and you find a way to get the window open."
 
21:04 SM: And I'm talking about, is it LinkedIn? I'm talking about virtual networks. Is it Facebook? Is it Instagram if you're talking about social media? Or are you approaching it totally differently? Then you take a step back and you say, "Well, am I doing something wrong? Can I do something different? Is this really the right contact or am I chasing up something that doesn't make sense?" And sometimes, it can happen that somebody's not interested. Then see what you can offer them. You don't end the network, you offer them something. You offer to give them something and you move on. Eventually, they'll come back to you and say, "Hey. You know what? You offered us this. Let's give you this." That's how I look at it, and that's been my personal experience. I have loads of people that are not my clients. They've become friends. Some of them, I get my guest speakers who are coming and teaching my younger students, they got something, I got something. Never stop.
 
22:03 PG: And to the listeners out there, now you know why I decided to... [chuckle] To invite Susan and Sunita to this podcast because they are great examples of individuals who not only love to network but know how to do it and know how to do it very genuinely. But you've also worked like me in technical environments, and you've also worked like me in, well, scientific or engineering and what are the profiles of the individuals? They're in it for the science. They're passionate about what they do in terms of the science and perhaps a little less passionate about the human interaction and relation. At least that has been my experience having worked with many engineers or scientists in the past. They don't necessarily enjoy the art, let's put it this way, of networking and connecting with the human, which by definition would be unpredictable, in the sense, you may knock the door, but you don't know. It's not a scientific formula. You don't know exactly how the person may or may not react. What would you recommend they do? 
 
23:21 SM: I can just tell you what I've done with some... And worked with some of the Research and Development people that I work with. Yeah, you're absolutely correct. There are different types of individuals in the world, thank God. For me, the word "net" is important for them and not the work, if you will, because the concept of “net” again is the connection with things, with people, because this is not necessarily only human interaction-related. It's about discovery. It's about exploration. And I know when you ask us to reflect, you are asking us to think about movies. And the movie that came to my mind was Alice in Wonderland. And that would be a movie that I would re-use the analogy with the scientist. It's about exploration. It's about experimentation. It's like, "Ooh. What am I going to find there? How am I actually gonna reach that individual?" It's more about the technical aspects of reaching the individual. I've tried it with a few. It seemed to work.
 
24:19 SM: Then actually saying, "Oh. You need to reach that person because you wanna do it." It's the dynamics of getting there and the exploration and what you might discover in this new world, and now I'm speaking to really pure research people that I worked with because that's a sell to say, "Hey". And then saying, "What can you get from that person that might add to what you're doing?" It's always about the purpose for me, for them and going deeper in the purpose because my experience has shown that initially it's hard, but once you get the Research & Development people to reflect...
 
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24:55 SM: They become incredible at it because they go so deep. They go so profound. They're even better than some of the commercial people that I've worked with who just do the social butterfly thing which doesn't work. I don't know. That's just my experience. I'm not saying it's easy.
 
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25:14 PG: That doesn't sound like it's too difficult either as long as you enjoy it and you allow yourself to explore it. And social butterflying is ok, I guess, but it should be really targeted to have an objective in your mind. We do love marketing folks, by the way, don't get us wrong, just like we do love all kinds of profiles. Make sure you tune into the Part Two of this episode on networking. We will continue a little bit more into detail in terms of the different profiles and how people may leverage their strengths actually in their networking, depending if they're more technically-driven, analytic, logic or if they are more relational-driven. And of course, we will cover many other topics. Tune in to part two. All you need to do is subscribe and give us your email address and we will give you access to the private part of The World of Work Podcast. Until the next time, as always, take good care.
 

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