Find Your Dream Job, Episode 306:
How to Make Networking Part of Your Daily Routine, with Lav Chintapalli
Airdate: July 28, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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Many people only network during a job search.
That’s a mistake, says today’s guest, because good networking is about building relationships.
And that takes time and daily effort.
Lav Chintapalli is here to talk about why you should make networking part of your daily routine and how to do it.
She’s the CEO of Pathway Power. It’s a leadership coaching and consulting firm.
Lav joins us from Austin, Texas.
Lav, here’s where I want to start. Do you think most people put off networking until a job search?
I don’t think it’s intentional, but usually, it’s related to we find it hard, or we don’t see an immediate correlated need for it, or we don’t know how to go about it. So there are so many reasons why people put it off.
But to answer your question, yes. Most people do put it off, and I think also there’s a discrepancy between how- because I also study gender leadership- the way people, men and women, approach leadership and approach networking. And there is a difference in how they approach networking as well.
I want to talk about those gender differences but first, why isn’t it a good idea to network only when you’re job hunting? Why shouldn’t you put it off?
Yeah, so I love how Dan Schawbel says it. He says, “The best time to build a network is when you don’t need it; the second-best time is today.” So when we wait till we need something, that becomes a very transactional kind of networking. It’s like, “I need something, I need it now,” and you’ve never really said hello until then. And who really gives you what you need, to a stranger.
So I think it’s always imperative that we build that relationship at the onset, and you never know, not because you expect to get something out of the person, but it’s because you just want to build relationships all around you. These relationships form anchors for your well-being, and your growth, and vice versa, and you can also reciprocate the same way to other people.
When you say networking to many people, they think of transactions and asking people for help. Why do you think that’s such a popular notion? Why don’t people think about relationships when they hear networking, but instead, about transactions?
I almost go back to how networking started. If we can kind of go back to the way it was, most of us can think of, sort of, being ushered into a room with like thirty strangers and handing out cards. And the point of that always was transactional. It’s like you’re telling people what you do, and they tell you what they do, in the hope that you’re useful to each other. So there’s a transactional element built into the historical notion of networking, and we keep carrying that forward with us.
You said networking is about relationships. What else does good networking look like? Is it only about relationships or about other things, too?
That’s a really interesting question. The basis of good networking is relationships, but the overarching is, why do we network? Why do we form these relationships? It could be because it’s in support of each other, it could be because we’re looking for someone to ideate with, and that’s literally it.
So the outcome can look many different ways, but I think the basis is still, it works best when there’s a mutual respect, and good relationships are all about respect.
What does good daily networking look like?
Daily networking. I think it’s being open to opportunities, you know, especially nowadays, when we’re so all remote. How do we utilize our space and time? How do we look for opportunities? Maybe we’re reading a blog post, and then you go, “Oh wow, I really love the thought process of this researcher or the person who wrote this article, the author.” And then you go, “I would love to reach out to this person and just chat with them because I’m interested in this topic.”
So that’s one example of how you could instill daily networking into your process. Because it’s not a thing you do outside, it’s a thing you do every day. And you’re always thinking about, “How do I connect with people that I can relate with? And that I’d love to learn from?”
What strategy or principles do you recommend people follow when they think about doing networking every day and making it part of their daily routine?
What we don’t do is we don’t allocate time because we’re so in the job, we’re always doing the job, and the job takes a life of its own. So it’s a rethinking time and making sure that we allocate time every day to keep our eyes and ears open for how we can connect with people? And who would be a good person to connect with?
And the second thing is, you know there are rules of networking. There are ways to network, but what I always suggest to people is make it your way. Do it your way. Forget the rules. Like, there are five rules that are given to you; pick one and just keep at it and stick to it.
And this is the way we can keep doing it long term. Pick a way that resonates with our sense of style or our sense of being.
How do you suggest to your clients that they set goals for their networking? How will they know it’s working?
So those are two different questions. So one- how do we set goals, and two- how do we know it’s working? One of the things is, what is your goal? What would feel comfortable for you, given that you know building your network is important, and I think that maybe’s where we start. Is it important? Why is it important? And what would be the ideal pace and the number of people you would like?
I always say, reach out to at least two people in a month, and that’s not too daunting. You can do it every other week. But if you at least have a number in mind, sort of a goal, then that can be integrated into your daily routine. And once you find these people, that’s the hardest thing is reaching out to them.
It’s always easier, I find, if you are in the service mode, for example, if you’re doing a podcast or a blog, you have a blog you’re interviewing people, that’s an avenue to reach out to people. But not everybody has that. So now you have to cultivate ways of common connection and reach out and say, “I loved what you wrote. I like the way you’re doing things.” And sometimes, even on LinkedIn right now, when I reach out to people, because there’s so much spam on LinkedIn, like people selling me things, so when I link out, I just say, “I read what you wrote on this post. I love what you commented, and I’m not selling anything. I just want to say hello and would love to connect.” Be really authentic when you’re connecting.
And when you’re making decisions about who to connect with, should you have specific career or job search goals in mind, as well?
That’s always a part of it. So if you’re looking for DEI space or you’re looking to get into DEI, for example, you’re following everybody who talks about DEI, who’s an influencer in DEI. So that’s one way to connect. So that’s the minimum I would say, if you’re in a job search and you’re interested in a certain sector, to look for people who work in that sector.
But also, you can go two steps out and go, “Who else can I connect with?” So if you’re thinking of DEI, would it be HR people I connect with and see what they’re doing, see what the company is doing? So I think microscopic vision kind of makes your network really small, but if you understand why and where you’re going, what your interests are, from there, you can broaden out your interests and your network people.
Some people might get overwhelmed going on LinkedIn or looking at professional associations, particularly in big markets. They may think, “I can’t figure out who I need to connect with.” What advice would you give someone like that to make their networking, especially on a daily basis, as focused and strategic as possible?
It’s not just LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn does seem like it’s very cold; you know, it’s a cold calling. So you have to think beyond LinkedIn, and networking can come in so many forms. Especially from outside the work, like shared activities, like sports, communities, cross-functional teams, charitable foundations; all these are forms of networking.
I just recently read somewhere, this guy loved hunting. So he was in this group, and interestingly enough, all the people in that group were teaching him about customer relations. Because somehow, they all happened to be in such fields, and that was his field. And so they became like mentors to him. He was learning things from them, just in this community, he was in.
So you have to go beyond LinkedIn, look for your personal interests, and see how you can build up a network.
Well, we’re gonna take a quick break Lav, and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Lav Chintapalli about how to make networking part of your daily routine.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s list studio. I’m talking with Lav Chintapalli. She’s the CEO of Pathway Power. It’s a leadership, coaching, and consulting firm in Austin, Texas.
Now Lav, before the break, we were talking about why you should make networking part of your daily routine and how to do it.
We talked about people you might reach out to and the importance of doing it on a daily basis.
How much time should you be spending every day on networking?
I think, as I was saying, Mac, it’s really a personal choice because, I think, once rules are assigned, people don’t do it because it then becomes a burden. So the best solution is, it’s just like exercise. So it’s anything where you’re trying to build a habit. What works best for you? Based on your schedule, your personality, your everything, and you pick a time, and you make a goal, and you stick to it.
In your experience, what stops people from making networking part of their daily routine?
One of them, I think is, we don’t know how to. We all know LinkedIn is one. But there’s no strategic way of thinking about it, and I think that prevents people from building a habit out of it.
How have you seen people learn networking skills? How do the best people go about doing that?
Yeah, so most leaders, if you think about it, if you kind of break it down, how networking works…so this is how I teach… I actually teach a course called Creating Career Success, and engaging others is a big part of that, and networking is a big part of that, which is why I’m so passionate about this topic because we don’t do it enough.
And what I teach there is the three ways of looking at networking. One, I call engaging forward, which is very operational. So the people you network with, or you build this relationship with, it’s all about how they can help you get work done efficiently. So operational, you think about it, it’s people who can support a project, people who can hinder a project. So it’s very operational. These are people that you want to engage with, with the intent that they’re going to help you with the project, so to speak.
And another way, and another path toward networking, I call it engaging inward, which is very personal, it’s very personal networking, and we develop a lot of skills, personal skills, professional skills, through our personal network. And sometimes, as I think I said, I gave you that example earlier, where this guy was learning about customer skills in a community he was a part of, and that’s a personal network. You can find lots of expansion within a personal network.
The third way we can go about it is engaging outward, and this is more of a strategic way of looking at networking. And this is to help you figure out future priorities and where the business is going. And for this, you have to start building within your company, as well as outside the company. So you think of conferences where you can go and build these lateral relationships, and within a company, you can build vertical relationships.
So you have to approach this in this kind of three-prong approach, which kind of gives you a different target to think through when you’re going…when you have your two people a month, you can go, “Oh, I do this, and this, and this.”
So I hope that gives you a little bit of framing in terms of networking.
It’s a very clear approach, and what kind of skills do you need to be successful in applying that approach, Lav, and where do you learn those skills?
It’s like relationships skills, and also – that’s one- and also, we should sort of let go of the fear of rejection. I think one of the reasons we don’t reach out is because we’re afraid we might look silly. They might say no, and we have to overcome that fear, and if they say no, great. That’s okay; it’s not personal. It’s just they don’t have time. And we can still pat ourselves on the back and say, “I did my part,” and then kind of move along.
So I think, also, when we’re building this network, we have to think about it in two other ways. One is instrumental support, this is very career-focused, and it’s the personal operations strategic. It’s very instrumental.
The second way to think about network types of people is psychological support. Especially now, stress is a big problem, and we really want to make sure, within our circle, there are people that who can foster that community, that sense of community. And even within companies, even within the thing, you want you want to seek people out who are maybe undergoing the same thing that you are in your current span of life. So you can have that camaraderie and shared understanding is very important to do well in your career and to kind of have that connection.
There are so many ways to think of networking, even if it’s just a “Hi, what’s up?” kind of thing.
For someone who might be at the start of their career or perhaps has avoided networking and they’re in mid-career, how would you recommend they get started in applying the approach that you’ve outlined here and making networking part of their daily routine?
So if they’re at the start of their career, one of the things they can do is, are they keeping up? Do they have an alumni group from their college or university? So don’t let those go, don’t let those relationships go. See if you can still maintain a few. And now you’re also looking, you’re kind of treasuring those, but you’re also looking forward. And if you go into the operational, personal, strategic, can you hit each of these? And just work through a few of the ways that you can reach out and get connected with people.
And if you’re in mid-career, Lav, and you’ve avoided networking in the past, what are good ways to get going?
I think mid-career people, most of the time, they rely on their skillset, their technical skillset, which is why they’ve come this far, but that won’t take them further. So what I’ve seen is, once somebody is in mid-career, if they’re looking to go into leadership roles or their first leadership role, their network needs to start looking externally towards the future. Not so much just, “Who can help me with this project?” But more strategic.
And networking isn’t only about asking for help; it’s also about giving. What do you recommend someone do for others on a regular basis as part of their daily networking routine?
And you’re absolutely right, Mac, it is primarily; it’s actually about giving, at least that’s how the relationship starts. So one way to do it is, don’t say, “How can I help?” That’s too much because what actually that does is it makes people think it’s a trap. When you say, “How can I help?” they say, “ Oh, I don’t know? How can I help you?”
And then they’re afraid you may have a long list of questions, which is why you even asked them in the first place. So don’t say, “How can I help?”
Take the time to research something about them and say, “Hey, I see you’re currently working on this project. Can I help?” “Mac, can I introduce you to people who would be great for your podcast?” So offer help in a way that’s suitable for the person instead of just saying, “How can I help?”
If you’re networking every day and you get more requests for help than you have time to provide, how do you manage that, Lav?
Well, I think it’s one of those where you have to know your own boundaries. When people sort of go up the ladder, that’s one of the risks, is the way there are so many people who want their attention and time. And you might have to pick and choose. Some people, especially if you think they’ve done their homework, it’s a true ask, and they really want to make the connection, you say yes. And if some people are like, “ Oh hey, I want to connect,” and there’s no work on their side, then you may have to say the no. You have to make the judgment call as a person who’s being asked.
What do you say to a listener who might believe that they have a very small network and they just don’t know anybody? How can they get started?
I think if they really don’t know anyone, to me, I would say to reflect on that. What is the reason that is stopping you? Because if we don’t look at the reason and shift that, not much progress will be made. So there’s a reason why they haven’t, and I think that’s a really important thing to reflect on and shift before they can even do any of the ideas on the models and the goals to networking. So it’s like, what’s stopping you? What is the fear? And can you get help to help you come out of this? Do you need a tag-along person? You have to approach it as problem-solving and see one, why you’re in that situation, and two, how you can move out of it.
Well, it’s been a great conversation, Lav; now tell us what’s next for you?
I am doing a lot of leadership coaching. I do performance coaching for leaders and entrepreneurs and helping them step into their own power and realize their goals and how they can better impact those who they impact. And I do this by one-on-one coaching and group coaching, as well as courses.
Well, I know people can learn more about your courses and your services by going to pathwaypower.com.
Now, Lav, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to make networking part of your daily routine, and how to do it well?
When you make networking part of a daily routine, you’re just building a support system for yourself and for others. You’re building a strong network and a strong net of people.
And the way to do it well is you just have to, when you engage with others, think of it as fostering a trade of ideas that sustain a long-term relationship.
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Next week, our guest will be AJ Eckstein. He’s the founder of the Career Coaching Company.
AJ also hosts The Final Round, it’s an interview podcast with company recruiters.
Recruiters can be mysterious figures for job seekers.
But AJ says you can build a relationship with any recruiter through networking, online engagement, and using LinkedIn strategically.
Join us next Wednesday when AJ Eckstein and I talk about the three things you must do to work well with recruiters.
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