Networking – and your so called comfort zone

I love the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum. Over four years, Joe van Zwaren and Avigail Frij have set up monthly meetings that have resulted in dozens of business deals and employment contracts.

As the event moderator, I have great fun creating the structure of each get-together. Last week, over a hundred people came to listen to a panel of experts, discuss how to secure a new job. If there was one common theme – it was all about networking.

For example, many human resources specialists are ignoring CVs, deliberately turning to the social media for info on likely candidates. Increasingly, more key jobs are being found via word-of-mouth. Websites exist, which aggregate vacant positions. And these factors are not just typical to Jerusalem or to Israel.

As the participants arrived, they politely sat down in the auditorium and waited patiently. The start was slightly delayed and people waited,..and waited. I took the microphone, explained the situation and then took a risk.

I requested that everyone present move three seats down and start talking to a person they did not know. Surprised looks all round was quickly replaced by a deafening noise of interesting chatter. Networking had taken over. Comfort zones were pushed out the door in an instant! People were moving forward. 

As one person indicated afterwards to me: It was only after talking with and listening to so many other people that they realised how many additional talents they had. They intended to highlight those skills over the next few days.

The Financial Times recently emphasised the importance of such meet ups.

“I have got references for amazing people and I have found amazing people to hire at networking events. Many of my best ideas have come after a couple of drinks at the bar and talking to people,” says Michael Acton Smith, chief executive of Mind Candy, the games company. He started Silicondrinkabout, a Friday night social event for developers in London, named in reference to the capital’s so-called Silicon Roundabout tech hotspot in east London.

Where and what next? Each to their own, but don’t ‘keep it a secret’. Yesterday, I was nervously approached by somebody asking if I knew how he could find space for his expanding business. He looked somewhat quizical when I began to mention all the other people he could speak to.

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