How to Give Before You Get
How to give before you get and I thought no better case study for this whole idea, the give before you get, because if it's close relationships, if it's people we already know, you know, we can follow up with them, we can help them out with their project but what's the networking give when you really are in that place, we'll say that uncomfortable place of really having to ask for something and I thought what's a better example or what's the most difficult example of having to ask for something than when you have to cold call or cold email and where's the really one that puts the, I wanna say that sick feeling in our stomach when we're seeking a job? And page 59 of my book there is an absolutely magnificent case study on this and rather than telling you there's page 59, there's a magnificent case study on this, why don't we pull up, get on Skype, Jessica who is someone who found herself in 2004, 2003, 2004, graduating from the Kelley School of Business in Indiana, thought she was gonna...
go to Chicago for a job, that didn't work out, she wanted a job on Madison Avenue in marketing and advertising, you know, the good Mad Men job, she knew no one, so this is back before digital and the tools we have in terms of job search was as robust as it was but Jessica crossed that divide in a very, I wanna say tough job market at the time, we're still post-9/11, managed to cut through the networking noise, and land a job on Madison Avenue. So, why don't we go, I wanna say go live to New York City and let's get Jessica up on the screen. Yay, Jess!
Hey, Kelly. How are ya?
I'm good. It's so good to see you. So good to see you.
Thanks for having me, this is great.
This is like too much fun, like hanging with all my pals. So, I sort of briefly gave a little bit of your background but you're graduating from the University of Indiana, you thought you were gonna go to Chicago for a job, just give people a quick synopsis of where you were at in your to heck with you Chicago, I'm going to New York and make it there.
Yeah, I mean, it changed my life. So, I had an internship at a Madison Avenue agency called Kelly Scott Madison and this is the summer of and what basically happened was I'm from Minnesota, all my friends from high school, from college, were moving to Chicago, I knew which neighborhood I wanted to live in, I knew which agency I wanted to work at, so I was interviewing at this place called Starcom which is one of the top agencies in Chicago, made it all the way to the final round interviews and I basically said, of course I'm gonna get this job. I was an honor student, I was graduating from the Kelley School, I had this great internship with a great portfolio, and I didn't get the job and I basically said like, this is ridiculous, of course I should've gotten this job. So, what did I say? I kind of had this Yoda moment of do or do not, there is no try, and I said I'm going to New York. I said, I don't need to go back to Chicago, I'm gonna go outside of my comfort zone, I'm gonna get New York experience, and so that's what I did. So, I was kind of thinking like, where do I start, though? I knew the Chicago market from my network within college and within high school but I knew of some of these big flashy names on Madison Avenue but I just didn't know where to start. I had no relatives, no friends in this industry, so I took a very methodical approach in terms of figuring out how do I map out this landscape? So, again, at the time, you remember, this is pre-Linkedin, this is 2003, so this is pre-Linkedin, pre-Facebook, I had an email address but that was not the way I was gonna do it, so what I started to do is I recognized that as agencies, as ever-testing agencies won new pieces of business, they would inevitably need to stop to staff up their accounts. So, what I did is I started scouring and obsessively tracking all the new business ones in the industry trades, so I literally would take a highlighter and highlight every single time an agency won a new piece of business, every single executive that was quoted in those articles, and I had this meticulous OCD notebook of what agencies won what pieces of business and who was the point person that was quoted in terms of how they won that new piece of business and then I would just reach out to them, I would just blindly send them my resume and I would reference what I found about them online in terms of hey, Mr. Miller or whatever it was, congratulations on just winning the MillerCoors business, that's such an exciting win for your agency, I love their spots in X Y and Z, I bet that there's gonna be a lot going on in the coming months. Well, I'm a senior, this is what I did, here's my profile. In terms of what I had accomplished at my interneship, would love to talk to you about how you're planning on staffing up this account. So, fast forward, I did this for probably 20 or different agencies of just tracking, again, the news for a good three, four months, so I was graduating in May, I was going traveling for a little bit, new that I was going to move to New York over the summer, and I ended up getting a lot of interviews that way and I had, I ended up getting three offers from three different advertising agencies, top agencies in the city, Initiative Media, CaraMedia, and McCann Erickson and ultimately had my pick because they all were so impressed with my approach of understanding somebody at my level coming out of college, some of the mechanics of how the agency world worked of recognizing when you win a new piece of business, you're inevitably gonna have to staff up, so it enabled me to almost identify openings and opportunities before there was a post on Monster or wherever it was. But that really got me to New York and 15 years later, now I can never leave. But to Kelly's point, yeah, it's kind of one of those where I thought I'd be here for a few years, get New York experience in my resume, and then it just sucks you in and your network just spirals you into all sorts of different directions but every job that I've had since then has been through networking, so we can dive into that a little bit also but I think what Kelly's doing is so important because it just recognizes how to really harness the power of your network to find your next opportunity and kind of weave through that labyrinth of job opportunities because I have never once gotten a job through an Indeed posting or a Monster posting. And I think that that's a different sense, like really important, is because it comes through the reputation that you build and the network to get you ahead of all those other blind candidates.
I think it's so funny too 'cause I know from interviewing Jessica for the book, she sent me, you still have the notebook and I thought I wonder--
I'm just gonna pull up the notebook and these meticulous notes but you see, this is about interviewing for a job but think about if you were pitching someone for business. Getting yourself in the shoes of the other person, what's their pain point? How are you the one to really solve it? And that meticulous understanding and I remember I described Jessica's approach to someone who was searching for a job and they said oh my God, Kelly, that would take so much work.
What do you think, of course! You wanna hire that type of person.
But also, exactly, someone who expands at work but so is sending out hundreds of resumes and generic cover letters and sitting around waiting for a response it's the same as pitching business for someone and sending them generic hey, I've got the product that will solve your problems. Now, what's their problem? Sending out five, 10, 15 of the right letters that are researched and that was really this key 'cause I think this point of when we really need something, like a job, is when we feel so vulnerable. So, the reaching out--
Well, I think that's also, I'm just gonna say, I think that's also because I was sending these letters to the SVP or sometimes the CEO, I knew that I probably wouldn't get a response from them but I was also thinking okay, if this even gets forwarded onto HR or forwarded onto the hiring manager, they're gonna pay attention to it a lot more if it was coming from somebody senior as opposed to if it was just blindly it, so that was like a little bit of a hat trick and also just recognizing that, look, if I don't apply for this job, somebody less qualified will. So, it just cannot hurt if you do it in a well-researched, thoughtful way.
So what, I mean, I know you probably answered but let's talk about this 'cause it's been a few years since you were doing that initial search and knowing that there were a lot of college grads and people reentering the workforce, clearly pulling out a notebook and getting a paper copy of at age is not necessary anymore, how would you approach this now in our much more online-connected?
So, I'm all about getting warm introductions from people and it has never been easier to do through tools like Linkedin, Medium, Twitter, seeing what people are blogging about, you really almost need to think about it as running a sales process. So, something that a lot of my startup founders will ask me is, you know, how do we get introductions to investors? Which, I think there's a lot of different parallels there. And I think it becomes identify who is in your category, so who do you wanna meet? Who is your dream person? And then figure out what motivates them, what are they talking about, what are they interested in, and who do you know that is in your second or third degree that could help you get a little bit closer to that person? So, for example, from an investor perspective, it can be you read a blog post of theirs about X and maybe you really agree with it, maybe you don't agree with it, even better if you don't agree with it and you have your own perspective, but reaching out to them with some context about I saw you speak here or I read your opinion piece here or I really liked your Twitter storm about why or we have X person in common, it just, again, creates more of a connection with them to give them more reason to wanna connect with you. If you're, I mean, my biggest pet peeve is sometimes I'm a very visible person in terms of what I invest in, what my interests are from a technology standpoint, so if I get a cold email, this happens, I swear, all the time, that just says Dear Sir, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, or it's like, or I invest in, now I invest in early stage marketing tech funds but if I get an email that says Dear Sir, I am a grossed age health care startup, it's just like, all you needed to do was type in three words in Google and it would've allowed you to have such a more targeted approach, so I think you do need to do your homework and I think in today's tools, there's ways of non-creepy stalking that can come up, that can come off more thoughtful and relevant as opposed to cold. Like, I think the word cold email now is also almost becoming more and more outdated in this interconnected world because there's so many different touchpoints that allows you to connect with people. I also find that email, it gets lost in a vortex. I have to say tools like Twitter, all the time, Twitter allows you to insert yourself in conversations that you would neverly normally be invited into because anybody can just tweet at somebody and then if you can get them to follow you back, I've even DM'd with the President of Pepsi from one of my portfolio founders 'cause I basically said like hey, I loved your quote here, that was really controversial, do you know of X Y and Z company? Can I introduce you to them? My like nickname is Hooksbook Girl which is another story. But the point is that you are able to use technology to your benefit to help get you access to different people and understand what the contextual relationships are between you and some of those other people you wanna get access to.
Absolutely right. This whole idea, and you and I knew this from the get go when I interviewed for Build Your Dream Network, but this intentional deliberate researched approach and the idea of right, if I'm gonna get an introduction to someone, who can make that warm introduction? And exhaust all of those paths before you have to make the cold email and if you have to make the cold email or the cold call, know why--
Make it a warm call.
Or yeah, make it warm because you know why that person needs to hear from you and why you can truly be the resume, the product, the service that makes their life better. Like, oh my God, I've been waiting to hear from you. Tell everyone what you're doing today because I think too, the notion, so, Jessica's now a cooperate veteran capitalist, so you're probably thinking, all right, how did you go from managing, you know, accounts on Madison Avenue to and how did you expertise, 'cause I think that's another thing people now know your DNA and being researched and planned out, but talk about that vision of say, all right, my career's here, I'm going here.
Yeah. It's an interesting story 'cause I get that question all the time. So, fast forward, I spent about nine years on Madison Avenue and I was running Verizon Wirelesses Integrated Media Strategy from 2009 to and that really gave me a front seat to this mobile evolution and I say that because, you know, this is a time when the iPhone was locked into AT&T, so we hated the iPhone. I was part of the team that launched Android and we had this terrible campaign Troy does that we thought only millennial men would buy it. So, this essentially allowed me to be part of that strategy was switching away from the switchers of stealing customers between AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint and marketing people to upgrade to data plans. So, that to me was really a light bulb moment in terms of understanding the direction and the evolution of mobile technology and that got me working with startups. And I basically started working with entrepreneurs, helping them understand customers, helping them get their first customers, and I kind of recognized that there's this deficiency in the market of connecting brands and startups for different pilot programs, strategic partnerships, things like that. So, I had the business idea of going off on my own, doing my own consultancy, but ultimately I decided not to do that and I found another company that was basically executing on my exact business plan. So, I actually stalked the founder on Linkedin and I said hey, I work at Zenith Media and I manage all these big brands, read between the lines, you should hire me. And we ended up having breakfast, completely hit it off in terms of our vision and the way we saw the market evolving, left my Madison Avenue job to go to that startup, helped them build that company for a few years, we were working with brands like Kraft Foods and Unilever and Mondelēz to help them understand the technology landscape and one of the things I was responsible for there was building out our partnership network. So, again, I'm all about how can I create networks of people because I just selfishly wanna know everybody, for, again, purposes and networking and connections, so, I developed relationships with just hundreds of different venture funds, accelerators, incubators, shared workspaces from around the world, so, when I would get a brief in from a brand like Velveeta, I could tap into my network from Sydney, Australia to London, to San Francisco and say, this is what Velveeta is looking at, what startups are in your network that we should be looking at and just get an influx of introductions that way. So, it was through that network that I had a relationship with First Round Capital which is one of the top venture funds here in New York and when this role at a corporate VC opened up, they recommended me for the role and so this fund reached out to me and they said we know your background is digital media and marketing, have you thought about transitioning to Venture Capital? We're a corporate fund of a advertising holding company, we invest in marketing technologies, have you thought about that as a career progression? And I was like, yep, absolutely. 'Cause, you know, my vision for corporate VC was that we should be investing in things that we believe are pain points of the industry based on our domain expertise and we should be testing and learning what companies are portfolio, so I was really able to achieve that vision with where we are now but had it not been for the network and that perspective, I mean, I look at any role, and now I've been there almost four years, but had it not been for that network and that perspective, I always think that any time you take a new job or take a new role, I always look at it two ways. So, number one, if I'm thinking about leaving a new role, I think okay, in six months, if I stay here, if I stay in this current role, what am I gonna learn, who am I gonna meet, what new experiences am I gonna have on my resume that's gonna help me get to where I wanna be? Or if I take this risk and go to this new direction, what could I learn, who could I meet, how could I expand some of my professional experience to ultimately get to where I wanna be? So, that's number one and obviously there is a ridiculous waited pros and cons spreadsheet involved usually, but the point is is I always think about every new role as a stepping stone to get to the next spot I wanna be, so going from media then I wanted to go into the operating set of a startup and then going into a venture and now I look at my next 10 years of my career thinking how are the experiences that I'm getting today and at this current role gonna help me get to where I wanna go next and any role that I take after this is gonna have to give me bullet points or give me stories to be able to find the right people and talk about the right narrative to ultimately achieve that bigger vision, so, kind of networking but also job moving with purpose I think is really important.
Amazing, amazing. All right, I got one last question for you and I've asked of you before, I could probably open the book and find your answer but I'll test you again, what does networking generosity mean to you?
So, to me, I think that people love to be helpful but people also love to know they were helpful. So, if that makes any sense, so I think that, in general, if you're very pointed and candid about how somebody can help you, normally you're gonna be surprised and I think people are gonna do it but what is gonna make it a longer lasting non-transactional relationship is that back channel to that person in terms of understanding how they helped you because people wanna help you because, ultimately, it makes them feel good about themselves but you gotta give back of that social currency of saying you know what? That meeting was really productive, thank you. Like, it's amazing how much people take a simple thank you for granted. You don't need to give them a gift, you don't need to do any of that stuff but just giving people that personal satisfaction of knowing that their introduction helped you score a new customer or helped led to a job offer or helped led to a productive conversation with maybe some insight, that is just like, for the power connectors and the people that really kind of become a nucleus in your network, that, to them, is the motivation and the fire that they appreciate to want to continue helping you and helping other people. So, I would say always be doing the back channel which leads to, in my opinion, networking generosity.
Amazing, amazing. Thank you for taking time out of your busy New York afternoon.
Happy to help.
Yeah, looking at the time, it's time to get to your daughter. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And we'll see you soon.
Thank you, take care. (applauding)
Jessica is also an example of why you need diversity in your network. I will go to my grave and I could probably put this on my tombstone, does not know to create a spreadsheet. (laughing) Jessica clearly loves spreadsheets and that thorough research but you see how she fits so much of the pieces that we're talking about, that looking ahead, that well-researched, you know, you could say I'm gonna spend six months doing a job search, you could spend six months sending holus-bolus generic, you know, standard letters everywhere or you could spend the time and send the five, 10, ones the right way and cut through all that noise. If you've gotta reach out to someone, do the research, look around. The generous thing is to read and observe and watch. So, I sort of say this to people, if you can find the information online, then you could ask a better question when you do reach out to someone, right? If they've done a podcast, if they've written a book, if they write a blog, you can read all that in and then go right, here's what I need to ask you. You know, the difference between someone emailing me and saying tell me about your career and I'm like okay, I've talked about that, there's so much information on that one or someone emailing me saying, I don't understand how you made this leap. I've read this, I've watched this, I've heard you speak, I still don't get this point. I would get on the phone, I would, I, who do not like coffee dates, would have a coffee date with someone who would send that really pointed question, so that's really want I want, I wanna say one of the big reasons to get Jessica on here and to reiterate that point is even when you don't have a direct introduction. First of all, you should've exhausted that field but when you don't have that direct one, now double down on your research to say why do they wanna hear from me? How do I make their life better? Why do I solve their problem? Whether it's a job or selling your product or your service again. And so, the other point on what Jessica hit on as well is this whole point of what is generous when someone else has done something huge for us, taken our call, made an introduction, and I heard this over and over again, so many people don't want, when you think the networking give before you get something, people don't in kind, right? I'm gonna make an introduction for you when I feel it's really worth while for the other person. That's great, that puts me in a really great flow of opportunities for people. I don't necessarily need you to make an introduction for me. If I make an introduction, I wanna know what happened and that back channel, that follow up. I'm frequently asked what's the number one networking mistake and other than being a jerk, number one networking mistake, in my mind, is the failure to follow up. And it's in that context that Jessica talked about which was we can all send a simple hey, thanks very much for the call, appreciate you making the introduction. It's that follow up after that. By the way, this is what happened in the meeting. By the way, here was what the result of. And that's the kind of thing, that kind of follow up, that could happen at any time. You may, I don't know, you might've had that interview and you send the hey, thanks very much, your introduction helped facilitate me to get the interview, I'll keep you posted on what happened. What happens may not happen for six months, that's okay. People like that closure. One of the, just absolutely ferocious amazing human beings I've got to meet and I interviewed for my book is Alison Levine. Alison is bestselling author of the book Leadership on the Edge. She led the first all US women's team up Everest, like how often do you get to say oh, I know an adventurer? What the hell, right? Like, ridiculous. So, Alison, who is, you know, on the road and running around more often than not, you know, obviously a lot of people have asked her for things and she likes to be generous and this whole point of following up in that back channel that Jessica talked about, closing the gap and what you give to someone who's so accomplished, let them know what happened and Alison was so adamant on this point. I remember when I got her answers back for my book and I called her and I said Ali, I love the answers you gave me but I'm gonna have to edit them a little bit. She's like, what's the problem? I said, if I don't, my book is gonna come with a parental warning and a brown paper wrapper. So, I can't, it's like, I almost can't say this enough, you don't have to, oh, you introduced me to the CEO of a company, I need to introduce you to a CEO. No, no, no, no, no. Let them know what happened. Pull out your Miss Manners, pull out your Craig Claiborne, pull out whatever was your guide in terms of etiquette and just close that loop, that's all they want. They wanna know that the advice was valuable and how you used it. If they make an introduction and that other person doesn't respond, email them and say hey, just wanted to keep you posted, your kind introduction, I've done what you have suggested but I haven't heard from them, if you got any ideas. They want that closure that equally aggravates people who make super connectors like Alison, people who have the opportunity to open the doors for others equally drives them crazy when they hear that the person they were hoping to connect you to didn't respond, so keep them in the loop, that's really, really generous. Understanding the other person's position, thanking people for, you know, what they've done and keeping them in the loop, that's all they need. I'm often asked a lot of the time, people want a mentor. They're like oh, what am I gonna do for a mentor? I'm like, show up on time, let them know what you did with their advice, don't worry, you don't, your generosity doesn't have to be the same thing. Some other folks, let me just highlight in terms of generosity, Evan who has LDV Capital and other of the folks who I interviewed in my book, Evan has built a dinner community based on generosity. And the community decides, you know, who comes in and who doesn't get to say based on this ethos of helping each other out and it's, I wanna say these monthly dinners that he does, that, you know, it's 50/50 male/female, it's 50/50 investors and startups, it's really valuable room to be in but if you're not there and willing to help other people out, sayonara, you aren't coming back and it's really interesting, someone said to him, how do you police this? He says, it's really funny, you just know, the community just knows like who continues to give and then this attitude too that, you know, your success, you know, doesn't take away from somebody else's success and we can continue to build our networks, achieve what we wanna be, like, you know, let that little bit self-interest in, that little bit self-promotional, we could do that and not take away from what other people are doing and what they wanna achieve. Jenn, this is another really great example of what you do when you're moving somewhere and you don't know anyone and how you build networks and how you can build that based on generosity. So, Jenn was living in Texas, she was working in a law firm, not on the marketing side, and she was hired by a recruiter in New York City, a city she didn't live in, to come and build a recruiting practice for marketing professionals in professional services in legal industries, so accounting, consulting, all that kind of stuff. So, she took the job and moved to New York and that took over a period of like three weeks. So, there she is tasked with building a line of business in a city she's never lived in and an industry she's got sort of this, you know, sort of connection in but not fully in terms of knowing what was going on. So, like the others, she sort of like researched what's on the landscape, what's out there, she discovers there's an organization called, of all things, the Legal Marketing Association and she thinks to herself, I bet the people I need to know are there. Some of the stuff like, it sounds so funny, it's so obvious, it's like right, you know, at the end of your, it's like, your nose on your face, it's right there and what Jennifer did and this is one of those things too when I think so much of what we're trying to achieve again of, you know, the big person we need to talk to or the big task or something monumental when sometimes it's the routine in the Monday. And Jenn showed up for her first Legal Marketing Association event and there's no other way of putting it, the registration table and name tags were a hot mess. Disorganized. And Jenn knew she could do something about it. So, she looked at the organizers 'cause she had arrived early 'cause she wanted to scope out the room, you know, be the fly on the wall when everyone else came to see what the dynamic was. So, she looked at the organizers and she said, do you need some help? And this wave of relief over their faces. Little tip for everybody. Wanna know who's in a group or meet people? You're anxious about that when you're in a room full of strangers. When you hand out name tags, you meet every single person. (laughing) Another trick, don't ever have the name tags in a way that people can take their own. This way you get to associate the name and the face. Anyway, less than five years later, she was the president of the Legal Marketing Association. Where can you lend a hand? Where can you contribute? Where can you ask people to take on things that they're capable of taking on? This was one of the other lessons from Jenn's case study in the book, sometimes our greatest, our best contact is not the right person to ask 'cause there's something else going on in their life. Go back to what Jessica talked about with this digital age and the research tools at our fingertips. We can look on Linkedin or know from our life experience that this person with their corporate stature, their whatever it may be, is absolutely the person to open the doors for us but if we went over and looked at Facebook, if we took a look at their Instagram, if we Googled them, maybe we'd find something out that says you know what? This is not the right timing. If we ask their closest friend, what's going on, I wanna reach out to this person, is this good? You know, is it corporate reporting season? Did their dog die? You know? This is where we have this interesting intersection of the power of having so much information at our fingertips, why you still need your wonderful, evolving, beautiful, creative brain, your empathy, all your human attributes, 'cause technology can't tell us that and we've gotta piece all those things together. So, part of what is being a generous networker is saying is this the right time to ask? What's going on their life? An example of this, in my own life I got an email from a friend in New York who had tickets to an amazing event that I would have loved to have been at and she said I thought of you immediately. My company's a sponsor, I have some extra tickets, I was gonna email and just say hey, do you and a friend wanna come with me to this? But I realize you're out of town, so there's a couple of friends of yours that you wanna give these to, let me know, and I just paused when she said I know you're out of town. And I thought to myself, there's only one way she knows this. She's gone to my website and she's read the calendar of my upcoming speaking engagements. I can promise you, I hustled my butt to find her two really great people to go to that event with and I chose people not only 'cause they would be interested in the event, I thought, these are gonna be interesting business contacts for Suzanne because she spent that little bit more time, took that extra step, and understood what was going on in my calendar and the only way she could've known that was going to my website and that, to me, was just a ferocious act of networking generosity in our busy, hyper-connected crazy world. You know? We talked at the very, very beginning in terms of our fears of networking and it came up looking at my favorite front row, looking at the front row and saying hey, how do you cut through the networking noise? Little details like that. That cuts through the networking noise. Knowing something because you've done all that research.