In this episode, Carol speaks with Pat Hedley, author of “Meet 100 People: A How-to Guide to the Career and Life Edge Everyone's Missing.” A relauncher herself, Pat shares specific tips about the importance of being proactive and consistent about networking and how you can become more successful with a request for help. Inspired to write “Meet 100 People” when a relauncher friend credited Pat’s advice to reinvigorating her network and landing the job, this episode includes exact language on how to ask for help, guidance about using vulnerability to your advantage, and the single most important thing you can do to maintain the support of your contact.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch the podcast where we talk about advice, strategies, and success stories for returning to work after a career break. This is Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch and I'm your host for today's podcast. Today we're speaking with Pat Hedley on the golden rules of networking. Her 2017 book Meet 100 People is a how-to guide to the career and life edge everyone's missing. I have the book and I've found it to be a great guide and full of excellent advice on networking, and we're so thrilled to have Pat here today.
Let me tell you a little bit about her before we say hello to Pat. Pat is the founder and CEO of the Path Ahead, an advisory firm working with growth companies. She has invested in several innovative private companies, many of them led by women. Prior to her current role, Pat spent 30 years with Global Growth Investor General Atlantic, most recently as Managing Director. She began her career as a consultant with Bain & Company. Pat is a graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in computer science and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Hi Pat, thank you for being with us today.
Pat Hedley: Hi, Carol. It's my pleasure to be with you.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So my first question to you is with that incredible background that you have, how did you get into the whole concept of networking to the point where you wrote a book about it?
Pat Hedley: There were three things that inspired me to write this book. The first was, this is advice I would have liked to have gotten at the start of my career.
It's something that I learned over time and certainly in one of my roles at General Atlantic, where I was building out General Atlantic's network, I had a greater appreciation for how incredibly valuable networks are.
So that was the first, the second one, I have three adult children. They've gone through the job process.They are now thankfully gainfully employed, but seeing what they and their friends have gone through in the process also inspired me to encourage young people especially to go out and meet people face to face. And then the third, pieces that I actually went through this myself three years ago. I transitioned from a very long career at one firm and I decided to go off on my own. And frankly, it felt a little bit like jumping off of an ocean liner into the ocean with no lifeboat. And I had to figure out what I really wanted to do and what helped me more than anything else was the fact that I went out and talked to lots of people. And over the three years I've been able to develop my own business.
I invest in and I advise growth companies. I've invested in 10 companies. People always ask me, how do you find them? And frankly, that's the easy part. I meet a lot of people and I talk to a lot of people. So going through these three experiences and thinking about them actually really made me want to put together a framework and codify what I've learned so that others could benefit as well, and I think it's as valuable for young people.
It's really, the book is meant for young professionals starting out or early in their careers, but frankly it is as applicable to anyone at any point in time. The idea of really being proactive and consistent about meeting people in person.
Carol Fishman Cohen:I remember when we spoke about your book originally, you told me that the focus was for young people, but when I read the book myself and you and I had a subsequent conversation about this, we were talking about how what you walk people through and younger people through in this book is equally applicable and effective for relaunchers.
Pat Hedley: I agree. I think it is. And in fact I met one woman who really inspired me to actually get started on this book and she was looking to go back to work. She had two children who were grown and we had coffee conversations and she said, Pat, because of you, I reached out. To reinvigorate my network, go back to people that I knew.
And through that she got a job and she said it wouldn't have happened had I not gone through the effort of doing exactly what you suggest. And that was certainly very gratifying and it really spurred me on to actually write the book. But it is certainly very, very important for anybody who is thinking about either making a transition from one career to another, or to go back into the working world, to really think about how important the network is, to make that happen for them.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So, you know, when I'm reading your book, I see that you tell people initially they have to do a career assessment and figure out what they want to do. And it's directed at young people, but that is completely in line with what we tell relaunchers in terms of, you must get clarity on your career goals first, because that drives the entire rest of your relaunch. And of course, on the networking piece, that drives exactly what you're talking about. So, I just want to spend one minute on that because I want to get more into the meat of the networking strategy piece itself, but I just want to know if you would comment on that piece of it and how important it is in the process.
Pat Hedley: I think the first piece is incredibly important. I mean,I kind of have the metaphor of, you have to look in the mirror, you have to examine yourself and really spend some time thinking about. What do you want and what do you need? And whereas that sounds easy unless you really take some time without any distractions and ideally write down what you would like to achieve, what your goals are.
Sometimes it's hard to articulate that. And I was at an event just last night and talking to a group of professionals and at the end, the host said, “Okay, we should each get up and say who we are. How we can be helpful to others and how others can be helpful to us.” And some people were very crisp on that and others were not. People can't help you unless you can be specific about what you need and what you're looking for.
I think that there is huge value and you really do have to start with some self-assessment, self-reflection in order to figure out where you'd like to go.
Carol Fishman Cohen: All right. So I want to jump into the meat of the networking piece of it. And I know in the book you talked about prep and you have all sorts of examples, real examples of situations that people are in when they're asked certain questions in an interview or in a networking situation, or they've been trying to get an internship or a job and they just can't get it. And they have conversations with people even socially that sometimes lead to them getting hired.
So can you just talk about when you're at the beginning of the process, how do you, where do you start and how do you organize yourself to reinvigorate networks and build new connections?
Pat Hedley: Sure. So I think the most important thing is to figure out what you'd like to do if you're one step behind that. So you're actually trying to figure that out.
Then I think you can be more general and meet a broader range of people. Just to give you an idea of what is out there. Sometimes, and I know this is true for all of us. At some point you don't know what you don't know, and unless you start talking to people, you really can't discover what's out there, that you may not have any awareness of, if you have an idea of what you'd like to do, you would like to go back into a financial role, a marketing role, human capital role, whatever it is. Or if you have a specific interest in an industry, then you could target it a little bit more and do the research of who you might talk to, who has that background and go to your first degree connections first, or people with whom you have some affinity.
If you're reinvigorating your network, you know, people from your past life, from your first career, it is perfectly fine to reach back out to them and say, “Look, this is where I am.” “This is what I'd like to do,” and be specific about how they might be able to help you either with, “Could you give me more information?”
“Could you connect me to somebody else?” Sometimes it's a learning process. “Could you educate me about what the opportunities are?” Informational meetings are much less intimidating than interviews, and information meetings can lead to jobs. So you don't have to necessarily position it as, “I am interviewing for a job.”
You can very much position it as, “I am looking to get back into the workforce. And I'm in the process of doing my research, my exploratory work. Would you be able to spend some time helping me with that?” We call that being in information gathering mode. Right? I'm in an exploratory phase.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I like that language. It also comes across to the other person as, not as much putting them on the spot in the sense that they may feel in some situations like, “Help me get a job,”as opposed to, “Can you talk to me about who the experts are in the field or how the field has changed over the years,” or something like that, which is an easier exchange for the other person to have with you.
Pat Hedley: It's a much easier exchange and you can ask questions, like, “What are the skills that you look for when you hire?” “What are the skills that someone would need if they have taken time off?” And there are incredibly great skills that one develops, even if you're not working full time, related to organization, coordination, coordination and collaboration, budgeting.
I mean, there's just a tremendous amount of skills that you use, you still use in your day to day life or your nonprofit activities that could very much translate and be very valuable to an employer.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So let's say you figured out what you want to do. I also, in a little bit, want to ask you about, because people will say to us, “What if I kind of narrowed it down to two options and I'm not really sure which one, or I want to pursue both of them.” And we can talk about that in a minute, but let's say you've narrowed it down and you are now actively applying for jobs and you're trying to connect with people who might know other people at the company at the companies you're applying to. Are there certain steps that you tell people to take to broaden their personal networks when they're at that stage?
Pat Hedley: Oh, absolutely. I think that the networking piece at that stage is incredibly important and valuable. And this is where the, “who you know,” actually matters a lot. Part of the research that you do when you're in the process of interviewing is figure out and you do this on LinkedIn. It's actually fairly straightforward to figure out who they know. Figure out who's part of their network. And then if they happen to know someone new, make sure you reach out to that person and say, “By the way I am interviewing with John Smith, you happen to know him. I'd love to give you an update on how it went. And would you mind putting in a good word for me?”
Those good words go a long way. And you want to have people supporting you in this effort doing just that. And I know many people who have gone to the point where they got the job because someone else that they worked for called and said, “You know, this person's a great person. And I highly recommend that.”
Think about it from the employer's perspective, what they're trying to do is they're trying to mitigate risks. They're trying to hire someone that comes well referred that they know will do a good job for them. It's hard to figure that out just from a resume. It's much better to hear it from somebody else or a few other people. It just gives you a sense of comfort in making the decision to hire somebody.
So absolutely talk to other people and, and try to have, if you can get people to go to bat for you, that's an excellent strategy.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Can you give us exact language that if you're sending that kind of request in an email to someone who's on LinkedIn, who you kind of know, who is connected to the person you're interviewing with, what do you put in the subject line, or if you run into them, what language do you use?
Pat Hedley: I think you have to be straightforward. It depends on the relationship that you have. If it's a close relationship, obviously it's much easier than if it's somebody that you don't know well, but I think you refer to the time that you spent or the way in which you were connected. “We worked together five years ago, I really enjoyed the time, I am now going back to work again, and I am meeting with somebody, would you mind, could I reach out to you?”
I'd connect to them so that I could have a conversation with them either in person or by phone, I would not do it on LinkedIn, the full request, and I would not do it just by email. There's a Harvard Business Review study, and I cite this often, that says that you are 34 times more likely to be successful with a request when you do it in-person versus doing it by email or text.
So if you reach out to someone that you haven't talked to in a long time, the reach out on LinkedIn, say you don't have their email, is, “Would love to reconnect with you. I'd love to give you an update on what I'm doing, and I'd love to hear about what you're doing. This is my email, I would love to get in touch.” Very simple, not detailed, just, “I'd love to get in touch,” then set up a phone call. If you can have a coffee, set up a coffee, especially if you haven't talked to the person in a while, it makes it that much more personal and you could also find out what they're up to and learn from them.
If they're working at the firm that you're interviewing with, do you want to hear more about the firm? Why do they like it? What would they recommend? What's going on in the industry that you can be more knowledgeable about, do it even before you go in for the interview, because that's part of doing your research.
So, the outreach can be an email and it can be very brief and it can be, “I'd love to reconnect. Would you have time for a 15 minute coffee with me or a 15 minute phone call with me?” And then, the more detailed conversation occurs over the phone or in person, ideally.
Carol Fishman Cohen: You talk about if they like you, then they'll help you in the book, and your main objective in some of these initial conversations is to simply to get people to like you, and you talk about the relationship between that and self-confidence. That's a hard thing to do, especially if you're a relauncher and you've been out of the job market for a long time, and confidence building is one of the biggest challenges. So if you're in the confidence building process and you don't feel a hundred percent confident, do you have any tips on how someone with that mindset goes about this networking quest?
Pat Hedley: I absolutely do. And, this is something that is shared, right?
You know, regardless of what your age is, and even what your experiences I've spoken with many seasoned executives that were going through transitions. People that you would think would be very confident who also had kind of this sense of nervousness as they got started in the process of doing this.
So, two pieces of advice on that, one is preparation gives you confidence. So the more research you have, the more information you have. The more confident you will feel. And the more meetings you have, the more confident you'll feel. So when you first start this process, It's going to be a little bit challenging and you know what? That is totally understandable and okay, you get better at it as you keep doing it. And that's why the book is entitled, Meet 100 People. This doesn't happen right away. This doesn't happen meeting one or two people. I think you need to regularly meet people, to build that confidence where you go into a meeting and you have both humility and confidence and can have a really sincere and open conversation.
This happens to young people, and I'm sure it happens to relaunchers as well. You almost have a feeling that you have to impress people right away. You have to do such a good job that they immediately want to hire you. And it's hard to be a little bit vulnerable in the process. But I actually think that if you're more sincere and a little bit vulnerable, it serves to your advantage because then people want to help you.
And I do think people genuinely want to help other people, not a hundred percent of the people do, but I think most people do. And if you go in and say, “Look, you know, this is what I'd like to do. This is how I'm thinking about the process. Can you be helpful to me?” Having many of those conversations will make you that much more confident when you go into interviews because you will have had those conversations and you are ready, have built up some of that experience in how to do this.
Like anything it takes practice and there's nothing wrong with practice. And in my opinion, there is no such thing as failure. You're only going to learn through this process and if one meeting doesn't go as well, that's okay. You go onto the next meeting and then, you know, the next few will go better.
And so it's iterative, you can't expect immediate results. You do have to put in the effort, not only to prepare and to research, but then to actually talk to people because you are doing your research by doing that.
Carol Fishman Cohen: This is Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch, and you are listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we talk about advice, strategies, and success stories for returning to work after taking a career break. I'm speaking with Pat Hedley, the author of Meet 100 People, and we're talking about the golden rules of networking. Pat, let me dive a little deeper into some scenarios.
So let's say you are at your 15 year college reunion and you are coming off of an eight year career break, and you're thinking about actively getting back to work and you know what you want to do. You're there meeting a lot of people that you went to school with, but you haven't seen for awhile.
And they say, “What have you been doing or what's going on in your life?” Can you model how you might respond to that question by acknowledging that you took the career break, but then talking about what you're interested in doing and sort of how to make that transition in the conversation?
Pat Hedley: Sure. I mean, obviously I have to acknowledge that you took a career break and you can get into some level of detail on that or not. In addition to raising children, some people are involved in their schools. They are perhaps participating in non-profits, those are all things that are worth a mention, but I would then very quickly focus on what you would like to do and what your aspiration is.
I think describing that is important, and the more specific you are about that, the better it will be for you because you will quickly learn if somebody is going to be able to help you. Or they might not be able to help you and either way it's okay. If someone can't help you have a nice conversation and then, you may have other ways to connect and keep that relationship going.
Or you meet other people who might be able to help you. I would certainly tell as many people as possible about this because the more people you tell, the more ideas you will have. And some people will resonate with what you're talking about. Some people will say, “Oh, I know somebody who is looking to hire somebody in that role,” or “I know somebody who is in the industry that you're thinking about entering,” or in the functional area that you're specifically interested in.
And at that point, that's when there are a couple of things that you can do that really help you when you have those conversations and someone knows someone. Maybe you should very specifically say, “Would you mind introducing me to that person?” Or, “How might I follow up with that person?” And even if somebody doesn't say it explicitly, there is a question that every single person should ask, whether they're a salesperson or looking for additional information or going through this networking process.
And that is, “Who else would you recommend that I speak with?” It's a simple question. Very few people ask that incredibly important question, which allows you to expand your network and talk to others. And when you ask it so explicitly again, someone might say, “You know, I really can't think of anyone, but let me give it some thought,” or someone might also offer, “You know what, now that you mention it, you really should talk to X.”
And then you have your next person and that's how you build your network. I mean, college reunions, a 15 year college reunion is a perfect time to go, and really try to build your network because these are people who are willing to talk to you just by the fact that you went to the same college.
So it's an easy conversation to start and to have, and if you meet, call it even 10 people at that reunion. I mean, it doesn't have to be everybody, but meet 10 people. I guarantee one of those 10 is going to be very valuable. Not all of them. But at least one will lead you further down the path of getting to where you'd like to go.
Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, I just went to my 40th high school reunion, people go in all different directions after high school, and any of these were meeting type situations. I used to go to an annual Christmas party for the company that I worked for that went under, even though the company went under, we still have the Christmas party every year.
So, how do you feel about telling people to go to these events, because sometimes you feel like you want to shy away from these events. If you don't have anything to, “report about yourself,” especially career-wise.
Pat Hedley: I think you should, and I totally understand that and believe it or not, I'm an introvert.
So going to events sometimes is a little difficult for me too. And I make myself go and I make myself go for a couple of reasons. One is I think, as a practice. You should put yourself a little bit outside your comfort zone and do things that are tough because that's how you grow, and that's how you learn.
And I go, because in the process of meeting people, you will learn things that you might otherwise never have discovered. And you might find that you are interested in something that you never even knew existed or would have heard about. And if you hadn't gone, you'd miss out. You wouldn't know that it was even there.
I have forced myself to go to reunions and honestly, every ride home, I am talking about how wonderful it was and how it was great to see people I hadn't seen or meet somebody that I didn't even know or hear about stories that were really truly fascinating and inspiring. And just because you think you don't have anything to report doesn't necessarily mean that's true.
Everybody has a treasure. In them. And the question is how do you discover other people's treasure and how do you reveal some of your own where you can establish a connection to continue a conversation and then a relationship? And if, even if it's talking about the bike trip that you took to New Zealand, and bonding with someone on either bicycling or New Zealand, that builds relationships that actually brings people closer together and your enthusiasm for whatever it is, whether it's attending concerts or, an athletic endeavor that you are totally excited about.
Share it with people. I mean, unless you've lived in a cave, you are doing something, you do have interests. You can learn about what other people are interested in as well, and perhaps be inspired to pursue something you might never have thought of. So, absolutely go to those events, join groups.
I literally did go on a bike trip to New Zealand and I met 18 brand new people over a nine day period of time. And it was joyful, it was wonderful. Did I think of it necessarily as networking? No, but I built my network through that process and I know now these groups of people, a couple of whom I will have a continued relationship with because I really enjoyed their company and we had ways that we connected with one another.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm glad you brought up the whole concept of introverts and networking. I just wrote an article for The FairyGodboss publication blog, and, bringing someone with you to networking events where both of you decide ahead of time that you're going to brag on each other's behalf. So, one person starts to be in one of those typical conversations, “What are you doing?” or “What do you do?”
And start along talking about it and maybe you're downplaying and the other person can interject and say, “You know, Carol's just being modest,” and then go into some sort of more elaborate and braggy kind of description, because it's okay for that other person to be saying those types of words on your behalf, as opposed to you saying it on your own behalf, any comments on that kind of strategy, especially for introverts?
Pat Hedley: I totally, absolutely love it. I really do. I think going to an event with someone else is a great idea. I think it gives you that sense of comfort that you know what you're not in there all alone. And I think praising a friend and highlighting their great qualities is a wonderful thing to do in general.
If you know, of course it has to be sincere, but it is a great way to continue a conversation with potentially a larger group of people. And really, it is hard sometimes to brag about yourself. But if somebody else says that about you, it's great. And if you take turns doing that, I mean, it's just truly wonderful.
I highly recommend that. I also recommend, if you do go with a friend, you need that security potentially for the beginning, but then I think you purposely have to branch out and you should challenge yourselves to say, “Each of us has to meet three new people and we're going to report back to each other on what we learned about those three.”
And so it almost makes it kind of a challenge to do some of that kind of research. It really is finding the treasure in other people. If you talk to people and you really ask them about themselves and it could be this is an opening question, “Tell me about yourself.”
It's as simple as that. And then really listening. Then when you hear something where you do have a mutual interest, go into it a little bit more deeply. I sat next to a person at a conference not too long ago. And for whatever reason, a topic of one of my favorite books came up and he said, “It's my favorite book too.”
And honestly we bonded over this book and, and it was the start of a relationship, I'm having coffee with him tomorrow and I've known him now for two years. It really started because we both love this particular book, and it's a really good lesson to people on how the bonds can occur on so many different levels.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Pat, I know you took a short career break. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you went back to work?
Pat Hedley: Yes. In fact, after I had my third child, I did go back to work and I worked for a year, but I realized at that point that I did need to take a little bit of time off to be with the family.
I took off about two and a half years, and to be honest, it was scary taking off the time. Eventually when I returned, because I didn't know what this new path would look like. And frankly being at home was a whole lot more work even than working. I went back to work again somewhat serendipitously.
So I was at the Whole Foods when I just serendipitously bumped into the wife of my former CEO, and we asked each other how we were, we had a very pleasant conversation and what happened next was the CEO called me and asked me to come in and talk and actually see how I was doing. But his idea was to find a role for me and he asked me if I'd be interested to come back to work, this would never have happened if I hadn't bumped into his wife.
It is a lesson that I think is very important in life. Serendipity can yield very interesting, positive benefits. Always be willing to talk to people, ask them how you're doing. You never know where it can lead. I know stories of people who found new opportunities because they talked at the sidelines of a soccer game.
And so it's very worthwhile to share with people how you're doing what you're doing. And if you have a desire to go back to work or pursue any kind of new next chapter, share it with other people because they're going to be able to help you.
Carol Fishman Cohen: You know, we're starting to run out of time. So I just wanted to ask you one more question before we have our wrap up question, but the last question I have for you, I mean the second to the last is how do you avoid, how are you able to talk about yourself without downplaying and how do you avoid getting into the trap of giving too much information?
Pat Hedley: It's a really good question. I think it goes back to really being systematic and prepared upfront.The way you avoid falling into traps is to have an idea of what you're willing to say and what you're not willing to say, and being really careful and cautious about that.
Some people could probe and you could say, that's the time at which you say it depends on what the, what the question is, but y may say something like, “You know,let's talk more about you,” really deflect it. I think you have to think about what your elevator pitches are as an individual, what do you want your brand to be?
How do you want people to think about you? What are the qualities that you should be known for? And if you spend that time in the preparation process and the self-reflection process, write those down and think about those as you go into these meetings. We are not gonna necessarily talk about how great you were at dealing with toddlers, unless you're looking to work in a school.
But you might talk about some of your great skills as an organizer or, the fact that you're really good at financial budgeting, if that's the area that you might want to pursue. And the work that you did for your local nonprofit in that area. I think you have to be purposeful and thoughtful and systematic about how you describe yourself.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thanks Pat. And let me just ask you one more question we ask all of our podcast guests, this question to share with our audience, the best advice that you have, even if it's something that you've already talked about during our conversation today.
Pat Hedley: My best advice for anybody going out and networking, and we haven't talked about it is on the followup.
So many people do the preparation, they meet people, and they may even have a really good seed of a connection during the meeting that they had, and then they fall down on the follow-up. The follow-up is the single most important piece to keep it going. And that is an email right away to say, thank you for your time.
Or I really enjoyed talking with you a quick one sentence about something that was of interest to you, and then what the next step is, if somebody offered to introduce you to someone say, “I'm really excited about your offer to introduce me to X, would you share their email or would you be willing to make the introduction?”
So follow up and then be specific about what the next step is. There won't necessarily be a next step for everyone, but everyone that you meet and interact with in a more formal setting certainly should get an email. And if you really want to impress, in addition, write a handwritten note.
Carol Fishman Cohen: That's excellent advice. And I'm so glad that we had that last question. Thanks Pat, for joining us today. Can you tell us how people can get more information about Meet 100 People?
Pat Hedley: Absolutely. You can purchase Meet 100 People on Amazon, if you are interested in the Kindle version. And if you'd like more information and some additional links and other events that I have participated in, just please go to meet100people.com and that's M E E T, the number 100, P E O P L E, all one word, .com.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. Thanks very much for joining us.
Pat Hedley: Thank you so much, Carol, for having me.
Carol Fishman Cohen: You have been listening to 3,2,1 IRelaunch, the podcast where we talk about strategies, advice, and success stories for returning to work after a career break. This is Carol Fishman Cohen, your host for today. If you want more information about what we do at IRelaunch, please go to iRelaunch.com.
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