Networking can be one of the most challenging things that professionals face in their careers, whether they are looking for a job or not. Many are crippled by their fear of reaching out to others, while some undermine their own efforts by convincing themselves that their intended new connections were untouchable.
In May 2018, I attended a dynamic talk for the Mile High SHRM’s Emerging Leader Conference in Denver, where speaker and coach Kari Mirabal shared her expert insights on interviewing. In this interview, Kari tells us more about “NAKED NETWORKING” and how it can change your own view of networking…
Q: Thanks very much for your time, Kari. To start things off, could you tell our readers a little bit about you and your background?
A: I’m a seasoned and award-winning International speaker – a passionate leader with a proven track record for inspiring audiences to think differently. I cut my teeth in the networking arena as a former IT recruiter who once helped countless professionals find new careers. Now, I travel the globe helping others explore how networking can change their lives too. I specialize in helping business professionals connect authentically. Experience has taught me many things – things I share with audiences who are eager to learn how to network smarter for business ROI.
Q: Today, you are a recognized expert in networking, both online and in live situations. Was that always the case?
A: I used to let fear hold me back from connecting to new contacts with confidence. Until I learned simple ways to face – then overcome – barriers to networking success, I missed countless opportunities. Now I am on a mission to help people overcome their own fears and network smarter.
Q: So, what does “Network Smarter” mean? Can you give me an example of that?
A: Networking smarter means becoming an opportunist. In other words, seeing the potential that others miss. For example, when meeting new contacts, be prepared. Have a TMAY (tell me about yourself) statement that includes an engaging tag line to pique curiosity. Preparation leads to confidence.
Q: I was really impressed with your presentation in Denver back in May 2018 on “Naked Networking.” I thought this was a great way for people to push past their hang-ups and fears about reaching out to new people. Could you give me a few highlights?
A: Networks are powerful things and in today’s rapidly changing world, building and sustaining authentic relationships is more crucial than ever. Both traditional and social networks create possibilities that can lead to powerful circles of influence, but only if you invest the time, patience and perseverance necessary to reap the rewards. While there are many benefits to networking, it does not come easy to everyone. That’s why I created NAKED NETWORKING.
Q: What do you mean when you say, “you already have the ‘no’?”
A: Many people are intimidated when asking for things that they will be rejected, whether it is for a business contact, a referral, or a career opportunity. Instead, consider that you already have a ‘no.’ In other words, you already don’t have what you want – yet – so why not take the risk and go for it? You have a 50/50 chance that the network contact will say ‘yes.’ If they say no to your request, you’ve lost nothing.
Q: What are your first steps when putting together a networking strategy?
A: I believe in a 3-step networking strategy. First, PLAN: who do you want to talk to and why. Next, I CONNECT by picking the proper channel for communication, such as email, phone call, social media, or other avenues. Finally, GROW by maintaining the relationship long past initial introductions.
Q: What do you think is the biggest thing that holds people back from effective networking?
A: Fear of rejection. However, rejection is par for the course in the process. Embrace it and keep moving forward. I have been an effective networker for over 15 years and I’ve learned to not be afraid to ask for what I want, invite others to do the same, and to be a contribution to as many people as I can. You never know when the slightest act of kindness will pay off and change someone else’s life. What an exciting thing to consider!
Q: Do you think there are specific differences in the way that men and women network? Could the two styles benefit from studying each other?
A: Traditionally speaking, men and women do network differently. Men tend to not be shy about asking for what they want in a direct approach. Women can be a bit more uncomfortable speaking up about their best possible outcome from the networking exchange. Men also tend to have a wide network which includes people from different industries. By contrast, women, from my experience, often network within the industry where they currently work. Part of my body of work is helping as many women as possible empower themselves with tools to push past their fears and network with confidence.
Q: Any networking tips for introverts?
A: Both introverts and extroverts have an advantage when it comes to networking. While extroverts may feel more comfortable approaching strangers to start conversations, introverts tend to listen more actively. Remember to prepare 2-3 open ended questions to ask new contacts when networking to get the other person to share first. Often that can break the ice and help introverts “listen” for something like a common interest or data point to then comment about to keep the conversation going.
Q: Finally, can you give me one of your personal networking success stories?
A: I am so thankful for countless networking success stories, so it is difficult to pick just one. However, I will share that currently, both of my teenage boys play competitive sports – baseball and lacrosse – so showing them the ropes and then witnessing them apply the steps to meet coaches and other players over the last year has been a rewarding experience.
Q: Thanks so much for your time – what is the best way for people to contact you about speaking opportunities or coaching?
A: I teach people how to network smarter through keynotes, corporate workshops and individual coaching programs.
For more information about Kari, please visit http://karimirabal.com/speaking/
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