The Ten Commandments of Networking

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Originally posted 2013-08-20 14:28:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

[editorial note: This is the original version, as published back in July of 2009.  As with all good things, it’s been updated over time.  You can find the most recent version here: http://www.ITinTheD.com/2697/the-new-and-improved-10-commandments-of-networking/ ]

As I sit here watching History of the World, Part 1 for, oh, it must be the 8,173rd time…it dawned on me.

If Mel Brooks can use the Ten Commandments to completely crack me up every time I watch his film, then surely I can use them to help those asking “What’s networking?”

(it’s when a bunch of people get together with a common purpose…and, I know…don’t call you “Shirley”)

Yeah, sorry.  I watched Airplane!, too.

Anyway, so as I sit here answering emails from folks after our last networking event on the 16th and those starting to filter in about our Pink Slip Party on August 27th (and, yes, watching old comedies that I’ve seen a bajillion times), I thought I would take the time to put my thoughts towards another Don’t Be That Guy blog entry…because as Mel would surely agree…we’ve all met That Guy that breaks them.  And so I give unto you these fifteen…[shatter]…oops…ten.  Yes, TEN Commandments…for all to obey.

(and if you don’t catch that reference, do yourself…and me…a favor.  go rent History of the World, Part 1.  Immediately)

1.  Thou Shall Understand The Importance Of Networking. This one blows up in people’s faces.  A lot.  We all know “That Guy”.  The person that you’ve tried to get out to a networking event (ours or another) so that they can meet people.  Or maybe you just wanted to get them out for drinks with a few people from work.  Or maybe there’s a recruiter that you invited them to come along for lunch and meet.  But they always have a reason not to go.  They’re too busy.  There’s too much work.  There’s something else that needs to be done.  They don’t want to.  Whatever the reason…they never seem to make it.  And then…and this happens so many times…suddenly they need to network.  They get fired.  They get laid off.  The company closed.  Whatever the reason…now they’re the ones ringing your phone off the hook and filling up your inbox asking when the next event is, or can they have the name of that recruiter again?  The one that always comes to mind for me is a guy that I tried to talk into coming to a ITintheD.com event for seven months, and he always had a reason that he couldn’t make it.  And then he got fired.  At the end of the day on the very day that his wife went into labor.  Guess who called me from the parking lot of the hospital the next morning as he drank a coffee after watching his son come into the world to make sure that the ITintheD.com event was still taking place the next night?  Bingo.

2.  Beware of False Prophets. There are many kinds of networking events out there.  Some are designed to help you find jobs.  Some are designed to convince you to cash out your savings to start selling some freaky new juice to your friends and co-workers.  Some are designed to be a support group to let you talk with other unemployed folks to compare notes.  Some are introductory events for multi-level marketing “systems”.  Don’t get us wrong – if those events are what you’re looking for, then we hope they work out for the best for you.  Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.  Just because they call themselves a “networking event”, or “Job Fair” or even a “Pink Slip Party” doesn’t mean that they’re what you’re looking for.  We’ve all made the mistake of not asking enough questions before attending an event…and it usually doesn’t turn out well.  Remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable before showing up.  Especially when you’re in an immediate need, there’s nothing worse than having your time wasted.

3.  Thou Shall Not Lie a.k.a. “Be Yourself”. Sounds really simple, but you’d be amazed (at least we are) how hard it can be for some people sometimes to just simply be honest.  Whether it’s being unable to tell a recruiter that you’re a square instead of a triangle, or someone that deliberately misleads others about the scope, purpose, or intent of their events…when we either witness these things first-hand or have stories relayed to us, well, it just makes us shake our heads and saddens us.  Partly because it casts a shadow over what we try and do with our events, but mostly because it’s inevitably wasted someone else’s time, or, even worse, turned them off to the concept of networking completely.  For instance, we’ve had people ask us – “Were there really that many people at your Pink Slip Party in May?”, and we can honestly say “Yes, there were.  Here are the videos from ABC, NBC and FOX that will show you how packed the place was.”  Or they’ll ask “Did people really get hired from your event?”, and we can honestly say “Yes, people really do find jobs at ITintheD.com events.  There are notes from them on our site, we’ve met them in person, and, well, if you don’t want to take our word for it, feel free to show up at our next event and we’ll let you ask the recruiters that hired people themselves…or, heck, if they’re there again, you can talk with the people that found jobs themselves, too.  Or if you don’t want to show up, drop me an email and I’m more than happy to put you in touch with those recruiters.”  Really, we are who we say we are…complete with being absolutely surprised by the results ourselves sometimes, too.  [shrug] Just be honest.  You’ll have less random things to remember…and, really, couldn’t that space in your brain be better used for things like movie quotes?

4.  Thou Shall Remember To Keep It In Perspective. You probably won’t find a job when you walk in to your first networking event.  Remember Commandment #1, after all – networking is important, and anything important tends to take a little time.  You might meet the recruiter that will work with you in the coming weeks to help you get a job, or you might just meet a few people that can at least help point you in the right direction.  If you walk into your first meeting expecting to walk out with a job offer, you’re probably going to walk out ticked off…and none of us wants that.  Have reasonable goals in mind for it…something like “I’m going to make one contact tonight that can help me in my job search” or “I’m going to meet someone in my field that can help me”.  Or, heck…come to one of our events and aim low – start with “I’m going to introduce myself to Bob, Dave or Jeff and tell them what I’m looking for and let them figure out who I should talk to.”  At least then I could guarantee that you’ll walk out feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

5.  Thou Shall Honor The Event. And by “honor”, I don’t mean “worship”…I mean “don’t give the organizers a migraine”.  As the title goes…Don’t Be That Guy.  Don’t show up at networking event that says “No multi-level marketing” wanting to talk about the “system” you’ve bought into.  Unless you’re going to an event that explicitly allows such things, if you insist on doing so anyway, you’re basically turning yourself into the human equivalent of a spam email…and we all know how popular those are.  They wind up in the trash, and we all do everything we can to ever keep them from showing up ever again.  The same goes for attendees and job seekers, too – don’t broadcast that you’re holding a huge event looking to help people find jobs and have them walk into a sales ambush for your pyramid scheme or an open house for you to cherry pick.

6.  Thou Shall Not Steal. We all know competition is fierce and that the market sucks right now.  We get it.  However, that doesn’t mean that you should show up at a networking event looking to play James Bond and steal positions that other companies are recruiting for, or try and torpedo a conversation that someone’s having just to get your foot in the door.  Take the high road, be the bigger person, and things will roll your way.  It’s the natural way of the universe.  There are plenty of undiscovered or undeveloped concepts out there. Find one, take it and run like hell with it. There are a ton of clients out there that need help…be the office hero and get out there and find them. There are plenty of employers out there that need someone that’s outgoing…or introverted. DBA’s and BA’s. Architects and entry level developers. They’re out there, so there’s no sense pretending to be something you’re not.

7.  Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Group. As we said before, there are a lot of networking groups out there – a lot of them do similar things, and a lot of them to very, very different things.  If you’re an event organizer, be happy and proud of what your group is and does – let it stand on it’s own two feet and grow.  If you’re an event participant, same thing!  Let it be what it is, and what it will be, and don’t “push” too hard.  Also see Commandment #3 – don’t lie.  It’s okay if your group isn’t that big…hell, there are groups floating around with thousands of members that we’d love to say we had, too!.  It’s okay if your group isn’t doing what you want it to do yet, or isn’t what you want it to be yet.  It is.  I mean, ITintheD’s origin stems from wanting to have a beer once a month with like minded individuals while trying to avoid “That Guy” that populated so many other events we walked into.  But…we listened to our attendees, and we paid attention to what was going on around us, and we’re happy with what we’re doing and the evolution of the group so far, and where we think it’s going.  That’s the beauty of networking – if you don’t like what one group does, join another.  Get more involved with the group you’re already in and try and steer it in the direction you think it should…and if it’s not going to happen?  Guess what – you can start your own group.  That’s how ITintheD.com got started…we couldn’t find what we thought a group should be like, and so we started our own.  Life’s too short.

8.  Thou Shall Remember Thy Limits. A lot of these networking events take place in bars or restaurants with alcohol in them…while a drink can help you loosen up, too many and you wind up slurring and looking like you can’t maintain your composure in front of a prospective employer.  If you’re worried about perception, well, either don’t be, or come up with a good alternative – club soda with a twist in a tumbler looks no different than a vodka tonic.  Ginger ale in a rocks glass is indistinguishable from a scotch and soda.  If all else fails, and you feel yourself starting to get a little too loose…walk away.  Go to another room and grab some coffee, or find a convenient corner and throw back a few glasses of water until you’re comfortable re-engaging.  Or, if all else fails, call a cab and call it a night – live to fight…uhh, “network”…another day.

9.  Thou Shall Be Prepared. Read the website and announcement of the group that’s throwing the event.  Find out everything you can about what you should, and should not, expect.  Find a contact email and fire off some questions.  Head on over to VistaPrint or OverNightPrints or your local Kinkos and get yourself some business cards made up for yourself.  Nothing fancy or extravagant necessary – your name, a phone number, an email address, and a one-liner title for yourself.  Even something as simple as “Oracle DBA” or “Network Engineer” will help in the long run…in fact, the simpler it is, the better.  You want a recruiter that you hand a card to one night to be able to quickly and easily remember you when the next morning rolls around and they’re in the office shuffling through the deck of cards they picked up.  Do you want them to have to try and remember you randomly out of the 50 or more conversations that they had last night, or do you want them to have something that says “Oh yeah – here’s that Oracle DBA that I talked with about that job with that new client who has an immediate need…I’d better call and get them in here today if I can for an interview”?

10.  It Will Only Be What You Make Of It. We’ve all heard the phrase “you’ll get out of it what you put into it”…and that holds ever so true for networking.  You can’t expect to show up to a room with 300 people in it, stand against the wall all night, and have it be a night that changes your career path.  Don’t expect the hosts to be able to find every person in attendance and help them…networking is a two-way street.  Sometimes it’s not about what the group can do for you, but what you can bring to the group.  Don’t expect the person that told you about the event…who somehow managed to come up with a reason to not be there…to guide you through it.  It’s your life.  It’s your career.  Don’t expect…or even want…someone else to manage and control it for you.  It’s not someone else who’s bills need to get paid out of your bank account.  It’s not someone else that wakes up every morning dreading your job so much that they get knots in their stomach.  It’s you.

And that folks…is the answer to “What is networking?”.  Networking is you.  Networking cannot exist without you.  Without you, ITintheD.com would be Bob, Jeff and I sitting in a bar once a month…which, while usually entertaining for the three of us, doesn’t really need a name other than “Bob, Dave and Jeff sitting in a bar once a month”.

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