Don’t Network, Genuinely Connect

I am a connector.

Often it’s as simple as one friend saying: “I need a new coordinator” and a recent grad saying: “I need an entry level job”. I know them both and then “boom” I write an email introduction and the rest is up to them.

I love helping. It feels good to know you lit a spark. And having been on the other side of this, it feels good to receive that lifeline. But, having needed a job or needed to hire, I know it’s hard.

I once struggled to find the perfect person to work with at the Met Museum, one who could pass the tough muster of my boss and other colleagues. I needed a person I could trust putting on the road on their own and who I could travel and work beside every single day.

Frustrated with the long process to do this, I vented to two friends over drinks one night.

“I feel like these interviews are like going on a million first dates and never getting to the second one”, I told them.

“I know! I know!”, said Sara, a former colleague who had worked with me for years, “Haley!”

“Yes! That’s it!”, said Sean, one of my best friends.

My personal and professional joined forces, even going as far as grabbing my phone and texting Haley, as they were sure she would be the right fit.

It was an instant connection. My boss and colleagues loved her.

We hired her not long after that fateful text. And she remains one of the best people I ever have worked with. Some things are meant to be.

Haley now runs Tourism Marketing at The Met; I could not be more proud.

When someone helps you, when someone is honest and real and kind to you. You rarely forget it.

I have tried to be all these things to people over the years. Professionally, I’m great at this.

Here are some hints:

1) Be Social, but in a genuine way- whether it was grabbing drinks with an old friend or writing an old boss to say, “I had something happen that reminded me of you”, or if I heard a story I needed to share with an old colleague. Stay in touch with those you enjoy and respect.

2) Never expect anyone to “owe” you one- No one does. I had someone in California in need of some help in that market. I knew an old connection who had done great work for me in that same place. I recommended his company immediately. I received a lovely “thank you” from him. But I did it to help the first friend solve his problem. No agenda, just to help someone out.

3) Follow that intern- I was an intern once. Someone remembered me enough to launch my entire career. I always keep an eye out for good interns, as everyone will need to hire an entry level someone someday and it’s good to have a list of good people in your back pocket. I hired an intern at Disney. He now has my former job there.

4) Give Recommendations and Mean it- I am always happy to be the reference call. I will be the one to be real with your potential employer and I can make them fall in love with you, when they merely have a crush. But I will turn you down if I can’t sell you.

5) Know when you aren’t beloved or known. — Hey, not everyone is going to like you. Just remember who does and who does not. Don’t ask for favors from those you don’t trust or in some cases, people you don’t know that well.

On a personal level, I have introduced friends to friends, business to vendor and employee to employer. But have NEVER successfully set up a couple. I am hoping to change that someday. But you can’t force chemistry in personal or work life.

Here I am in a new job. I am in love with the work we are doing and see a huge future in the company. And I’m in Biz Dev. But the game for me now is to go talk to everyone.

Think about those who are willing to help you out as a friend or listen as a potential customer. Talk to ALL the smart people you know in the industry and if you don’t know them, ask for an intro.

A few close and dear friends were all willing to jump in and meet with me early on. They were happy to sit down with me and my new boss.

Others, I haven’t seen in ages, so I am doing a one on one date first. I need to know what they are up to and then figure out if I can help them. We may not make a match right now but I am learning something with every coffee or phone call or lunch or drink or dinner. (I also have a mentor who would meet with me monthly on a treadmill at his gym. He’s in much better shape than me).

I am loving reconnecting to Broadway. I missed the people. It’s also very cool to watch my generation and those I knew well as mentors, all taking the lead in the business.

Mainly it feels good to be back where I belong, where I feel truly connected.

Here’s hoping all this helps you connect or re-connect with someone. Go write an email to two people who need to meet. Do it right now. I’ll wait…

You never know who that one person will be to change the course of your career or your life. You never know whose life you could change just by introducing one friend to another.

Writes about women and work and all else