• Ali Assareh

Networking Basics: Part III

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

This is Part 3 of a 3-Part post on Networking. You can find Parts 1 and 2 further down this page. _________


SURVEY RESULTS. So, what do we do if we don't have enough time or energy to network? How do we answer the generic request, "I would love to connect with you and hear about your journey and experience", in a way that is both respectful of our time and helpful to the requester?

And besides, how do we deploy our networking energy most effectively, so that we grow our network in quality, not just in quantity? (Credit to our talented student Arton Falahati for first posing this question to me.)

I am just beginning my networking journey. So I surveyed 3 of the best networkers I know, to collect their thoughts on these questions.

A. I asked Niki Khoshzamir first. Niki is the founder and CEO of PracticePro..

"When I was at the firm," wrote Niki, "I would write back and say my schedule is hectic but I may be able to help by email or a short call if they can send me some specifics they would like to discuss." Niki then suggested a really neat trick, which was echoed by the other 2 survey respondents too: "This amazing corporate partner who worked next door to me had a great system. He would tell them to send him an agenda for what they want to talk about. Half wouldn't respond. The other half, he would speak to them exactly 10 minutes going over the agenda and responding to what he could."

Being the CEO of a company that strives to help students equally, Niki also has to be respectful of her time for the sake of the students she is helping. That's why she manages the flow of requests by referring students to PracticePro's coaching consultation page, while providing periodic free consults, coaching sessions and seminars.

B. I then asked May Samali, who's one of the most energetic and unique human beings I know.

May constantly coaches and helps students and professionals looking to make career pivots, so she stressed the importance of having a disciplined approach to avoid fatigue. For example, May used to allocate a set amount of hours for pro bono conversation per (for example, 2 hours every Friday morning). She would also ask the requesters to send specific questions in advance: both to ensure that they had done their homework, and to ensure that she can provide them valuable advice, as opposed to things that can be found by a Google search.

May had another valuable insight: A helpful way of saying "No" -- when you have to, to respect your own time and health -- is to send the requesters to resources that may be helpful to them. May noticed that, overtime, she developed almost pro forma emails to respond to different types of requesters. These emails would contain links to resources (such as podcasts, blogs, websites or personalities) that the requester could follow.

In a perfect secnario, one could even author a LinkedIn or Medium post with their answers to the most commonly asked questions of them (their personal "FAQs"), as a way to both put helpful resources out there, and bolster their credentials as a service provider - which they are.

C. I finally asked Sara Farahmand, who is one of the most incredible *connectors* of humanity I have ever met.

Sara has also developed her own unique system for managing the inflow of requests. "Because I want to prioritize my focus," writes Sara, "if it’s from a person with a totally irrelevant background (e.g.engineering), if I can think of someone with a similar background, I just share the name of that person with them."

"If it’s from someone with a similar background," Sara continues, "I most recently learned that I can get back to them and say: 'I will be happy to help, tell me specifically what questions you have for me' or 'tell me why you think I can be helpful, what specifically I can do to help.' This question doesn’t take much of my time, and at the same time helped them articulate their specific ask for me."

I loved Sara's method of thinking of networking not just as "giving," but also as "connecting" -- sometimes connecting a requester to a right person other than yourself is the right way to creating the most value.


A PERSONAL GOAL. When I was a freshman at UC Berkeley, I took a class with a Professor Kiren Chaudhry that changed my life. I had gone to see Professor Chaudhry at her office hours one day -- as I often did with professors -- but like other popular and powerful professors, she already had someone in her office; so I waited outside. I could still vaguely hear what was going on inside.

Inside was a graduate student who was asking Professor Chaudhry for advice on his career after imminently completing his post-graduate degree. Professor Chaudhry asked what he wanted to do. And for each of his answers, Professor Chaudhry said something like, "Oh you want to work in finance? I can call the managing recruiter at Morgan Stanley right now and ask them for an interview.... Wait, you want to be on the government side? Ok, I can call the Undersecretary of Treasury to get you into the door...." She must have talked, at ease, about 4 or 5 potential positions like that.

I was in awe. How could someone have so much power, to be able to change a student’s life, just like that? I often remember that moment as a source of inspiration. I hope to be in a position one day to be able to help, not just by offering words of inspiration or advice (call it, “soft power”), but also by opening doors to jobs and careers, and to empowerment and change (call it, “hard power”).

What are your personal goals?

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