Networking can happen anywhere at any time. It can occur at an official event where you’ve planned your outfit, your opening liners and perfected your business card delivery or it can be as simple as an Uber ride on the way. In the lead up to National Networking Day on Monday, August 29, at AIM we asked the question “What is your best networking story?” to debunk the myths of networking and how it can be hilarious, relaxed and rewarding at the same time.
“The best networkers I know are genuine and always thinking about others and opening doors for them.”
The best networkers I know are genuine and always thinking about others and opening doors for them. They know the karma flows back to them in time. My favourite networking stories are those that see a life changed for the better, even in a small way. One of my interns a few years back met through a workshop I hosted some managers from a government department, they offered her some work experience, and in turn a great job which sheke the most of the opportunity.
– Philip A. Jones FAIM
“Lifts open doors. Literally. In that one minute or less you can meet some great business contacts.”
I’ve got two rules that I would broadly class as my own personal ‘networking rules’.
1. I always talk to people in the lift
Lifts are awkward and tricky places. They are way too small and it’s usually impossible to know where to stand, whether to move when other people enter or how to best prepare for your impending exit. There’s also the significant issue of ‘eye contact’ to contend with. Given that your lift neighbour is invariably slap bang in the middle of your ‘personal space’ do you stare at them, at their feet, at your feet or – as inevitably happens – at the little light that counts up or down the floors.
Like I say, lifts are fraught with danger and full of terrors.
So, a few years back I made the decision to break the golden rule of elevator etiquette; I resolved to talk to people in lifts. Always. Usually it’s a simple “hi, what are you up to today?” or I might follow the golden rule of mentioning the weather. This always works in places like Melbourne (“bloody freezing isn’t it!’) or Darwin (“bloody boiling isn’t it”).
The thing is – you never know who you’re going to meet and ‘connect’ with in a lift. Lifts open doors. Literally. In that one minute or less you can meet some great business contacts. There’s just enough time to swap business cards and deliver your elevator pitch. People I’ve met ‘on the up’ or ‘on the down’ are: Gail Kelly, ex-Westpac CEO, the head of Business Development at Blackmores, Noel Gallagher (in the lift at Harrods in London – and yes I did say hi to him and told him I’d seen Oasis live in Sydney and really enjoyed it), the entire band The National (it was a squeeze in that lift!), and many others…
2. I only use Uber and I always sit in the front
Uber drivers are fascinating. They aren’t ‘career drivers’. They’ve typically done interesting stuff and are driving for UBER for lots of different reasons. Like in number one, I meet heaps of interesting people in Ubers.
– David Pich, AIM CEO
“I try to avoid sushi at all costs at networking events…”
I try to avoid sushi at all costs at networking events (or if starving, eat it with only my back teeth, which looks super weird), as I discovered after a few hours of networking several years ago that a large chunk of the seaweed had lodged itself in my teeth, and had likely been there for several hours – no one had the decency to tell me!
“I’ve hired staff as the result of networking…”
I have also hired staff as the result of networking. When I was appointed CEO of Private Media I was in the market for an executive assistant. At around the same time a senior woman in the media industry made contact with me to offer a networking opportunity to a young woman she had met through another contact. The timing of the approach was purely coincidental as I hadn’t advertised the role. That connection resulted in me appointing the young woman as my EA.
– Marina Go, GM, Hearst Australia, Bauer Media and Chair of Wests Tigers
“I had fellow attendees asking me where the bathroom was and if I could clean up the spill by their table…”
I was at my first environmental not-for-profit mixer event and I was extremely nervous and felt like I needed to dress professionally so I wore the classic white button up blouse and black pants ensemble. It seems that the catering staff felt the same as they wore the exact same outfit so I had fellow attendees asking me where the bathroom was and if I could clean up the spill by their table.
“I quickly realised that I was speaking with a woman that I had long admired.”
I got a last minute call to attend a leadership conference as a fill-in for a colleague who could no longer attend. I arrived at the conference and headed to a table at the back of the room to take my seat. As I did this, another woman coming toward me joked that she was also trying to “hide at the back of the room.” After introducing myself I quickly realised that I was speaking with a woman that I had long admired. I was then fortunate enough to spend the duration of the event “hiding” with her at the back of the room.
“Five years later I still have people remind me that we met at that function.”
During my first term as Lord Mayor, I was at a major Chinese community dinner and function of more than 400 people. I did nothing but walk around and introduce myself at every table! Five years later I still have people remind me that we met at that function.
– Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor of Melbourne
“I know of an industry ‘guru’ who tweeted that he was interested in joining a charity board…”
I know of an industry ‘guru’ who tweeted that he was interested in joining a charity board. My friend saw it and ‘liked’ it and gave me the heads up. I contacted said guru on LinkedIn and connected him with a charity I was doing some pro bono event management work for. That guru is still on the board three years later and has provided such valuable insights to the charity – it was a value- and skill-aligned match made in heaven.
– Margot Smith, AIM General Manager, Engagement & Marketing