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Industry vs AA Networking for Professionals
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:58:31 PM)

he thought has crossed the mind of every ambitious young professional who has ever sipped a lime-laced Perrier in a napkin while eyeing the crowd at a reception, conference or industry function: Was it worth the time and money to come?
AA Execs
Networking dilemmas

     Conventional wisdom and countless success stories say networking is an avenue for getting ahead. Regularly meeting industry and community colleagues keeps you abreast of trends and on the minds of those who may be able to offer a better job, a referral or at least a hot tip. And if you are already enjoying success, giving talks and sage counsel to youngsters on the move enhances your graybeard status and expands your power base -- not to mention providing the satisfaction of helping others.
     Yet any true networker knows the costs. For heavyweights, the demand on time and energies can often add up to a second career. And once you've become a fixture on the reception/conference circuit, there's no graceful way to bow out of future commitments. The surge voltage from a sudden unplugging is sure to set the rumor mills spinning out of control. Before you know it, you've become the embodiment of failure and/or evil incarnate. How many tired souls find themselves trapped in the joyless task of defensive networking?
     The costs and benefits must be weighed in the light of your personal style and professional needs before plugging in. And a networking strategy may not be a bad idea either.
     Asian American professionals are confronted with what often seems like a Hobson's choice between jacking into industry networks or exploring the plethora of AA organizations that have sprung up over the past three decades to tap the energies of the swarms of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young Asian Americans elbowing into the professional and corporate worlds.
     In theory you should be able to do both, but reality poses complications when, as often happens, you are forced to choose one or the other on which to spend your limited spare energies. The typical AA brain snapshot reveals the following calculation: do I risk becoming ghettoized by going the AA route or do I risk being labeled a twinkie by going the whitebread route?
     No doubt there are those who have managed to preserve job focus and a personal life while balancing the demands of AA and industry networks. To those, we ask: what's the secret to making networking a career boost instead of an energy sink? To others: what have been your networking experiences -- good bad and unspeakable?

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WHAT YOU SAY

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I think Bay Star's advise is right on.
Networking doesn't have to be greasy. It's all about connecting with others. Having worked for 7 years, I find sincerity works best.
texmex
   Thursday, February 20, 2003 at 08:13:23 (PST)
Tinman,
Nobody sees networking as anything except what it is, a way to make potentially profitable business contacts. Only a very young and naive person (you maybe?) could think otherwise. I am not a real estate broker but yes, I am successful. Do I take clients out to dinner. Absolutely! Do I drive a nice car and wear nice clothes. You bet your silly ass I do! As a result I probably make a multiple of what you make. People who think they are too noble for the "greasiness" of business usually end up stuck in some dead end salary job or unemployed at the age of 30.
Bay Star
   Sunday, August 04, 2002 at 21:22:16 (PDT)
Bay Star,
You sound like a very successful female real estate broker or something. You probably drive a Benz and take rich old guys out for drinks to get their listing. I happen to know a woman like that. Can't stand her.
Anyone following your tips would come across as a greasy little phony on the make. What's the point of meeting someone if there is no sincere interest in that person? Your tips are a prescription for social and professional disaster.

AAttorney,
I will take your word for it that's how you see it. I personally would be ticked if some fresh kid kept asking me to lunch just to try to touch me for some leads or try to impress me. Anyway, I still don't see much point in spending a lot of energy trying to make random contacts. That's just like extending your working hours by a couple every day. No thanks. I'll just stick to my knitting.
Tinman
   Friday, August 02, 2002 at 07:56:51 (PDT)
For all you redhots, here are my secrets to successful networking:

1. Only meet people who are at least 10-12 years older than you, the well established people in your field (it's worse than a waste of time to break bread with people your own age unless it's an old friend)
2. Always follow up every meeting with a little thank you note with another of your business cards
3. Always get new contact referrals from the people you meet as that's the best way to expand your network
4. Wear your best outfits/suits to these meetings because they're like job interviews!
Bay Star
   Wednesday, July 31, 2002 at 22:53:36 (PDT)
Tinman,
You are missing a big piece of the networking puzzle. Older professionals do get something out of meeting young hustlers. We get a chance to scout around for good prospective employees or people to whom they can farm out work. I farm out cases that our firm doesn't do or can't handle because of potential conflicts of interest. Frankly, I don't have to network to get business, but it is nice when I meet smart, aggressive young people willing to work hard to get their careers going. In a sense it's a convenience for me when I am called by younger lawyers looking for referrals or trying to make contacts because it lets me clear away some of the files that need the kind of attention I or my partners can't spare.
AAttorney
   Wednesday, July 31, 2002 at 09:27:31 (PDT)
AAttorney,
My main point was that not too many established professionals spend much time networking. They depend more on word of mouth from existing clients and contacts. It's mostly the young people out there rubbing elbows. And I'm not sure if brown nosing is even a good idea for the young ones. It's just been my experience that the apple polishers don't get much respect from peers or superiors. But I agree that if you are going to open your own office, you need to go the extra mile to make contacts. I mean, what else are you going to do when you start out with no clients, right? You have nothing but time on your hands, so might as well knock on a lot of doors and hope a few will open onto some business.
Tinman
   Tuesday, July 30, 2002 at 08:30:01 (PDT)
I've kept in touch with friends from college and the firms I used to work at. It's hard because unless you make the effort you start drifting apart. I always make a point of spending an hour a week calling up a few old friends just to say hi and catch up with their lives. I also have their birthdays on my tickler so I can remember to send birthday cards. They really appreciate it. The older the friendship, the more valuable to your success. Because they've known me for years, they are more comfortable trusting me with their business.
Wasabi
   Monday, July 29, 2002 at 09:18:55 (PDT)
Tinman,
The key is spending your networking hours with the right people. It won't do you as much good to mingle only with all the other young people on the make. Then it's just pure socializing.

A lot of times, it's much more effective to just call up older colleagues inside or outside your office and ask them out to lunch or for drinks after work or invite to your house. They are usually flattered and will go out of their way to be helpful. Some of the best people to get to know are those old pros that haven't been in the limelight much. They may have more time to spend on helping out.

You can do yourself a lot of good even if you aren't about to strike out on your own. Putting yourself into more loops on an informal level can pave the way for more formal responsibility.
AAttorney
   Sunday, July 28, 2002 at 19:21:10 (PDT)

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