A Unique Angle on Networking with Josh Wexler
Networking events are the worst. They’re slimy, inauthentic, and full of people with agendas. At least, that’s what most college students think. Though networking expert Josh Wexler understands why networking has gotten such a bad wrap, he’s looking to change its reputation.
When it comes to networking, Josh is a reliable authority. In the four years since his graduation from Dartmouth College, Josh has forged an impressive career path from a consultant with Deloitte, to CEO and Founder of his own companies, to his current position as a consultant at iRise. He’s done his fair share of networking and has introduced his unique angle – the “Learning Perspective” – to various members of the modern workforce. During the Senior Networking Dinner, Josh had this advice to share, which he believes should apply to all Hamilton College students.
The major difficulty with networking is that many college students just don’t see the point; how exactly are you supposed to weasel a career connection out of someone you’ve just met? Josh says this perspective is all wrong. Instead, recent grads need to focus on building relationships based on learning and mutual benefit.
“As college kids, you have the best opportunity because you know nothing,” says Josh. “Own it! Love it!”
If you have a lot to learn about your field of interest, it means your networking connection has a lot to teach you. This is where the mutually beneficial aspect of the networking relationship comes into play. As Josh points out, everyone wants to feel like they’ve had an impact on someone else. If you go into the networking opportunity convinced of two facts—I want to learn, and I can learn from anyone—you are bound to discover some nugget of important or enlightening information during your conversation. If you can show your contact that you learned something from him, he will be thrilled to know he had an impact on you. Josh recommends sending a thank you note at the least; emails and phone calls could be even better. From there, other conversations will follow.
During these conversations, don’t be afraid to actively engage with what you’re talking about. Feel free to jump in and offer your opinion or ask a question. While networking and job searching are not the same thing, they can be critically linked. Josh advises against entering into a networking situation without a clear sense of what you want to do. If you have a reason for being there, you’ll notice a big difference in the outcome of your exchange. According to Josh, the notion of “practicing” networking is a bit misleading—it should be the “real deal” every time. Even if you’re not locked in to one career path, you can still have a goal of learning as much as you can about different opportunities.
Networking doesn’t end with the first conversation. If the meeting has gone well, chances are you’ve made some kind of follow-up plans. It is vital that you actually go through with the plan. Whip out your smartphone and put it in your Google Calendar. You can even send an email invitation to your contact that will go directly into his calendar. Josh suggests that the exchange of business cards should be considered a contract. Don’t ever ask for a card if you have no intention of talking to that person again. And you may not; the conversation may not have gone well, or you may not have liked the person you were speaking with. Josh says that’s totally fine. “Not everyone is going to like you, and you don’t have to like everybody. There are lots of other people in your profession, so just move on.”
If you did enjoy your networking experience, find a way to keep the conversation going. The greatest benefit is that if you do want to inquire about a potential job opportunity, you don’t have to call your contact out of the blue and make an awkward request. But even if it has been a while since you last spoke with your contact, don’t be afraid to reach out. Josh recommends asking him out for coffee first to see if the relationship is still viable.
Finally, Josh wants to dispel the belief that extroverts make the best networkers. It may come more naturally to them, but this doesn’t mean that introverts should ignore or devalue the importance of networking. Josh suggests that introverts partner with extroverts and create a kind of networking alliance. Chances are your super-connected roommate, cousin, or neighbor will be happy to introduce you to someone who could become an important contact. Ultimately, Josh says the best networkers are the best people.
“You can be really calculated about networking, but if you want to be good and maintain relationships, you have to be a good person who wants to help others,” he says.
In keeping with his last piece of advice, Josh is eager to offer further guidance to any Hamilton students who are interested; please contact Shannon Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be put in contact with Josh.