Why You Need to Nurture Your Network Now, with Lauren Francis

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 250:

Why You Need to Nurture Your Network Now, with Lauren Francis

Airdate: July 1, 2020

Mac Prichard:

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.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. Top Resume offers expert career advice that can help you stand out in a crowded market.

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.

If you’re doing your job search right, you’re networking all the time. But what happens to those contacts when you’re not looking for work?

Lauren Francis is here to talk about why you always need to nurture your network and how to do it.

Lauren is the president and founder of Mulberry Talent Partners. It’s a professional staffing, recruiting, and executive search firm. She’s helped thousands of people find careers and jobs.

Lauren joins us today from Portland, Oregon.

Lauren, let’s get started, and let’s talk about networking. Many of us struggle with not just nurturing networks but networking itself. Why do you think this is so?

Lauren Francis:

Well, can I start with a question for you, Mac? How many times have you heard from candidates networking, “I just despise networking”?

Mac Prichard:

I hear it all the time. Maybe the word I hear isn’t as strong as “despise,” but people tell me they’re uncomfortable with it, and I’m sure you hear that a lot too, don’t you, Lauren?

Lauren Francis:

I do, and when I was preparing for this call with you, this interview or conversation, I should say, I actually looked up the definition, and it’s the compound of two nouns, net and work, and now I think I know why it’s unpopular. Because it’s perceived as work, to network. And so, networking is, in its simplest form, is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. I think it’s more than that in the personal realm, putting it simply, and the way I view it is to think of it differently, we are connecting and building relationships. It’s really that simple.

Mac Prichard:

I’m so glad you brought up that definition because work certainly is part of networking, and I do meet people who are hard workers, with terrific work ethics, who are still uncomfortable with networking. What do you think is going on there, Lauren?

Lauren Francis:

I think people are uncomfortable showing themselves. I think that they have discomfort with maybe asking for things or thinking they are trying to get something from someone, as opposed to, “I’m just having a conversation. We’re having a cup of coffee and we’re getting to know each other.”

And I think a lot of people, when they reach out for networking, for example, let’s say on LinkedIn; many times I’ll receive a LinkedIn request and I’ll look at the person’s profile and I’m thinking, “That person, why aren’t they asking me for something? Why aren’t they asking me to connect?” They’re asking me to connect on LinkedIn, but they’re not using the opportunity that LinkedIn provides to craft a personal message.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s paint a picture of what good networkers do, and you mentioned relationships but in addition to making an ask, what are the things that you see good networkers do consistently?

Lauren Francis:

Well, I think there’s…this is when we were seeing each other at, let’s say networking events, for example, or different types of conferences and that sort of thing. You know, I kind of define it as show up, study up, follow up, and showing up can be on Zoom. And I think taking the time to establish a connection and to reach out and…basically taking the time to establish a connection and engaging with someone and it’s important too, to be a good listener. A lot of people come into, let’s say networking or relationship building, with an agenda, and I think there’s some of that, sure, and also showing up can be asking for 20 minutes to schedule a Zoom call or coffee or that kind of thing.

Study up is to be really clear about the objective. Let’s say, if you’re setting up a Zoom call, this is what’s happening now, I’m sort of relating it to the moment we’re in, and take time to research the individual and also follow up. Nurture the connection by showing gratitude, maybe writing a quick thank you. It’s important to include something that you learned from the conversation or something that you found valuable from that time together.

Mac Prichard:

I really like that formula that you’ve shared here, “Show up, study up, follow up,” and as you describe each of those steps, it sounds very much like a typical business meeting, doesn’t it, Lauren?

Lauren Francis:

Oh yeah, certainly, and it is. I think one of the things that I’ve learned that I’ve shared with people is to really start somewhere. If it’s, you reach out to one person a day or one person a week, it really doesn’t matter; it matters that you start and you start to build that practice for yourself and get comfortable feeling uncomfortable because it will get easier and you will feel more connected.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about nurturing a network. What do you have in mind when you say that, Lauren?

Lauren Francis:

Nurturing a network is basically being in touch and everyone is always, I often hear, “I don’t have time for that.” At the same time, if you do make time for it, you actually do have time, and nurturing a network is to connect with people. I hear from candidates when they’re looking for a position but there are many candidates who stay in touch with me throughout the positions I place them in or ended up finding a great job without our assistance, and so they value the relationship and it shows me that they value me and they value our connection.

Mac Prichard:

The candidates that do stay in touch when they’re not looking for work, what do they do? How do they reach out to you?

Lauren Francis:

Usually, they’ll respond to something I post on LinkedIn or they’ll join one of our webinars, they’ll refer me to someone, they might ask me to help them, they might have joined an organization and they might reach out to us to add us as a vendor, our organization as a staffing vendor. Those kinds of things, so they’re building the business relationship and the professional relationship.

Mac Prichard:

You’re a recruiter, so it seems natural that many people would want to stay in touch with you. What advice do you have for a listener who’s trying to figure out who they should nurture in their network? How should they make those choices? Recruiters seem like an obvious one but what other relationships should someone try to maintain as they nurture their network?

Lauren Francis:

I think it depends on what you’re focused on in terms of your career and the people that you want to be in touch with. If it’s either looking into an organization that you want to be involved with and trying to make those connections, you’ll be surprised at how many people don’t really think of connecting with a recruiter, that that’s a valuable relationship. That’s one of the reasons we had the webinar last week, a week and a half ago, was to really talk about how important it is to have a good relationship with someone that’s connected to work.

Mac Prichard:

Outside your professional contacts, are there people you recommend we stay in touch with and can be helpful to us, either in a job search or throughout our career?

Lauren Francis:

Well, I think oftentimes, we have professional organizations, and in Portland in particular there are a lot of meetups and lots of different organizations to join, and I find it to be valuable for individuals to seek those out and to find something that resonates with them. They’re not necessarily going to a networking event to network; they’re going to build relationships and create community, and at the same time, they’re interested in what the organization does and why they’re there.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier the example of connecting with people like yourself, recruiters and others online, by commenting on LinkedIn posts or occasionally reaching out via email. What are your suggestions, Lauren, in nurturing a network, for taking advantage of meetups and conferences and other events? Whether they happen in person or right now, virtually, online.

Lauren Francis:

Well, I think it’s interesting, online…what’s interesting about in-person events, which I love and I miss and I look forward to when we can get back to that. Yet I have found during this time that I have had more meaningful connections from getting on calls in a small group setting, one on one, individual, because there aren’t the distractions of food and beverages and people and the event itself. And so, I have just found that I have created some incredible connections and partnerships through this time.

Mac Prichard:

In terms of the amount of time you recommend people spend nurturing networks, what does this look like in a typical week? You’re not suggesting that people spend hours a day on this, but when you think of people who are effective at nurturing a network, how much time do they spend?

Lauren Francis:

It’s hard to say. I would say that it’s a combination of reaching out to individuals and attending events that are of interest and that meet your professional needs. And I would say, there are so many, oftentimes you hear, “There are so many, I don’t know which one to go to. I don’t know how to prioritize.” And sometimes they fall on the same day or evening. And so, I myself was attending, I’d say, somewhere between 4 a month, when we were all meeting in person. But I was also…it was really important to me to continue to support the organizations that I was a part of, that I am a part of.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, terrific.

Well, Lauren, I want to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to talk about the importance of reputation when nurturing a network, and I know you mentioned relationships as well and I want to dig into that.

Stay with us. When we return we’ll continue our conversation with Lauren Francis about how to nurture your network.

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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 Lauren Francis.

She’s the president and founder of Mulberry Talent Partners. It’s a professional staffing, recruiting, and executive search firm.

Now, Lauren, before the break, we were talking about why you need to nurture your network and you should be doing it now, not just when you’re looking for work, and I want to talk about reputation and the role that reputation plays in nurturing your network. Give us your thoughts about that.

Lauren Francis:

Well, it’s interesting, the word reputation always brings me right back to high school. There was a popularity contest, and really it’s your own popularity contest for yourself if you will, and in preparing for the podcast, again, I looked up the definition of reputation and I found one that I really liked. “It is an indirect result of anything and everything that we do.” And really, how I see it is it’s really a sum of all of your actions and I don’t think you can talk about reputation without also talking about relationships, and to me, relationships are central to our lives.

I think true happiness comes from the quality of our relationships, and they include family, friends, business associates, coworkers, the airline attendant, the store clerk, the hotel housekeeper. It’s your relationships and your interactions. It’s putting them first and making them important in your life.

Mac Prichard:

Often, when we speak about networking, people think about it in an intentional way, “I have to build a connection with this person or get to know someone at that company.”

And what you’re describing is something much broader; it’s how you carry yourself, not only in your career or your profession, but it’s through the world and how that can affect the relationships that ultimately drive your career, isn’t it?

Lauren Francis:

Well, truly, and I don’t know if this is a great time to dive into personal branding, but you hear that term a lot, but it really is it. It’s how you show up. How you show up online, how you show up in the community, and how you show up at work, and so I see it as your online self, your community, and your work. On your online self, it’s your posts and the profiles on your profile and the level of engagement are really a reflection of you and your personal brand. Again, reputation.

Community: how you engage with your connections matter, and many of us have heard the quote, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” And in my view, impression and reputation are linked, and then the quality of your work. From the first day to your last day, strive to do your best always and come to work with a generous heart and prepare to do your best work.

Mac Prichard:

Lauren, what difference can reputation and relationships in your network make in your job search?

Lauren Francis:

Well, I’ll share a story. A candidate that we recently placed, she moved to Portland from out of state, and we were able to secure a position for her quickly, and she came to Portland and she plugged in right away. First of all, she had very strong references from her former employers and so, again, that’s your reputation. What you did in the past and how it follows you.

She had a professional, engaged online presence. Thoughtful and warm communications, and also a sense of urgency when she responded to us. She would respond to us quickly with emails and get things that we’d asked from her quickly, and so it showed an interest in the process, really.

A desire to join her professional community and these qualities that she brought are important to us at Mulberry and they’re very important to employers.

Mac Prichard:

How do they result from paying attention to her network? Talk more about the connection between the things that you saw when you were vetting this candidate and what she did throughout her career to nurture her network.

Lauren Francis:

You know, in terms of nurturing her network, it was interesting because in this particular case, I mentioned she had plugged into the community pretty quickly and I had presented her to a client, and I said, “We just met someone really special.”

And she said, “Oh, I met her at a networking event.” And she was new to Portland, so she had spent time early on starting to build her network here, and everyone says Portland is a small town and that is an example of how true that is.

Mac Prichard:

Aside from attending networking events, are there other common steps that you see people take, like this candidate that you worked with that had such a good reputation and good relationships for a newcomer, common steps that you see them take to nurture their networks?

Lauren Francis:

I would say staying in touch and reaching out. I think one of the areas I see is that a lot of candidates will reach back out to me once they’ve secured a position, and they let me know and they stay in touch with me about their status, which is really important, I think. Many times, people end up in a different role and then I find out about it in other ways, which happens, and it’s fine, really. However, the people that actually reach back out to me really stand out.

Mac Prichard:

I would say that, too, and I do a lot of informational interviews and I’m always impressed by the people who I meet and then a month or two months later, I get an email or a card and they say, “Hey, I just want you to know, I’ve taken a position at this company.” And when I get that message, I know I’m going to hear from that person again, but even more importantly, I know that they’re going to be a leader in their community and their profession. Do you have a similar reaction?

Lauren Francis:

Indeed, and also when candidates, (this is on LinkedIn too) when they thank you when they’re leaving their position. They thank their coworkers and the organization and they’re going to miss the organization that they’re leaving. That’s another way for people to update people and let them know what’s happening for them in their life and I think it’s a lovely, lovely gesture.

Mac Prichard:

It is a lovely gesture and it’s exceptional. I would say I probably talk to 75-100 people in the course of a year and I might get three or four of those notes in the course of twelve months. A constant theme that I hear, and I bet you do too, Lauren, is that people want to stand out from the crowd, and this is such a simple but effective way of doing it, isn’t it?

Lauren Francis:

It is, and showing gratitude is so important to me It’s part of our values as an organization and it’s part of how I live my life every day, and it means a lot to me, and you’re right, I do receive those types of thank you’s not as often as I’d like, and the people who do, really stand out and they show their character. They show up really well.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned gratitude and we’ve been talking about networking and nurturing a network. What part does service play in both growing and being part of a network, Lauren?

Lauren Francis:

In terms of service to…

Mac Prichard:

Helping others, not just asking for help but being a resource or being of service to others.

Lauren Francis:

Oh, well, I think it’s important to be a charitable person. And showing gratitude, charitable, giving back, that is a lot of what we’re talking about here, they all go hand in hand.

Mac Prichard:

What steps do you recommend someone take to give back? What are common things that you see people do?

Lauren Francis:

I think, again, I think it has to do with your interests. And you can volunteer with the professional organization that you are associated with. You can also look at different volunteer opportunities within your community and give back that way. I know a lot of organizations make that possible for their employees to spend a certain number of hours per year or month giving back and it shows…it demonstrates your character and it demonstrates how you care for people.

Just like, bringing it back to how we treat the store clerk or the hotel housekeeper, and see them and show that gratitude somehow.

Mac Prichard:

We’ve been talking about networking throughout your career and as people grow in a profession, they’re going to get more and more requests for informational interviews. Do you recommend, Lauren, that someone always makes time to see others if they get requests for networking meetings?

Lauren Francis:

Absolutely. Are you speaking about if I were to receive an inquiry to help someone along the way?

Mac Prichard:

Yes, somebody who wants to get together for 15 to 30 minutes to talk about their job search.

Lauren Francis:

Absolutely, every single one. It’s so important to me to give back and we’re in the business of helping people find jobs and find careers. And we want to do everything we can as an organization to support them along their journey. And that’s why we spend a lot of time helping our candidates with their resumes as part of the process. Interviewing, helping them position certain…maybe they had a tough departure from a company, and try to help them find the right words to share that. We find that any way that we can help candidates, and particularly people that reach out to me specifically, and they were referred by someone I care about, I want to be there for them.

Mac Prichard:

What about a listener who’s a middle manager or senior executive and they’re not in the career consulting business like you and me, would you still recommend that they make time for every informational interview request?

Lauren Francis:

I would say if they can…either…I guess it depends on how many interview requests they’re getting but I would have to say that they can maybe choose to speak with as many people as they can. But also, there might be others in their network or others in their organization that you can refer that individual to. Just some way to talk about the net and being supportive, because they were there at one point in their career, and I think that sometimes people forget about that.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I think that people like ourselves, because of the work that we do, we get a lot of requests but my experience has been that most people don’t hear very often from others who want informational interviews. And I agree with you, for whatever your profession, you’re going to have a much stronger and effective network if you make time to talk to others.

Well, Lauren, it’s been a terrific conversation. Tell our listeners what’s next for you.

Lauren Francis:

Well, Mulberry has created a biweekly, 30 minutes, job workshop series and you, Mac, were our first guest. Thank you so much and you helped us launch.

Mac Prichard:

It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Lauren Francis:

You bet. Every other week we invite thought leaders to share their wisdom and expertise with our viewers and the schedule of past and future shows can be found on our website, at mulberrytalent.com, and join us on Thursdays at noon.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. I know people can learn more about that series by visiting mulberrytalent.com and I do want to give it a shoutout.

I’ve seen the list of coming speakers and some of your more recent ones, terrific advice and I love the fact that you limit it to just 30 minutes, because there’s so much content out there, it can be overwhelming sometimes.

Lauren, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to nurture your network now?

Lauren Francis:

Well, I would say it this way, Mac: get off the sidelines and get into the arena. Get out there and set a goal for yourself. And one of my favorite quotes of all time is by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”

Mac Prichard:

How well does your resume tell your career story? Find out today. Get your resume reviewed for free.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

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Next week, our guest will be Marcus Carter. He’s a senior recruiter at Instrument. It’s a creative agency, engineering firm, and consultancy.

Most employers say workplace diversity is a top priority.

But how do you find the companies that actually attract and retain a diverse workforce? Marcus says it starts with candidates being their authentic selves.

I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

We all know that we need to network when we’re job hunting. But do we just ignore those important contacts the rest of the time? That would be a critical mistake, according to Find Your Dream Job guest Lauren Francis. Lauren says you need to stay in touch with your network even when your career is secure. This can be as simple as commenting on an article they write on LinkedIn or attending a webinar their company puts on. Sending an email to check-in is an easy way to stay fresh on the minds of your connections and to show you care about their well-being. 

About Our Guest:

Lauren Francis is the president and founder of Mulberry Talent Partners, a professional staffing, recruiting, and executive search firm in Portland Oregon.

Resources in This Episode: