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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the November 6, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Making the Most Of Networking

Everyone knows networking is essential to success in,

well, you name it. A job hunt, building a business, making friends

in a new town, all require networking. Yet, says Della


principal in Personal Peak Performance Unlimited, "when it comes

to networking, people have false ideas."

Menechella lays out a plan for mastering this important process when

she speaks on "Keys to Effective Networking" on Tuesday,


12, at 11:30 a.m. at a meeting of NJ CAMA at the Doral Forrestal.

Call 609-799-4900. Cost: $45.

A Brooklyn native and Rutgers graduate (Class of 1986), Menechella

worked in human resources for Viacom in Manhattan for 10 years,


from her home in Edison "through two pregnancies." She then

joined her husband, Michael Menechella, in his contract maintenance

business before devoting all of her time to Personal Peak Performance

( She consults to companies and gives


on developing a "winner’s mentality."

Vivacious and engaging, Menechella uses every bit of her training

— formal and not so — in her presentations. Now suffering

the aftermaths of painful shoulder surgery, she says, "I know

I’ll use this in future programs. They’re about change, about what

you do with what life hands you."

What life hands just about every human is the task of making


with other humans, in short, networking. "Most people hate


says Menechella, but the animosity is due to the fact that they do

not understand how to do it. Here’s her guide:

Practice at the grocery store. Stepping into a room filled

with 400 strangers, all of whom seem to know one another, surely is

the stuff of nightmares. How to break in? How to walk up and start

a conversation?

Consider networking a sport and practice your technique on cashiers

and on the folks in line with you. Menechella makes a game of it.

She picks the grumpiest cashier, the one growling at little old


and makes a friend of her. It’s easy, she says. The key is asking

how she is doing. A sympathetic "looks like a tough day, when

do you get off?" will elicit a smile every time.

It also gives the wanna-be networker confidence, and practice at


small talk, something that does not come naturally to many people.

Be realistic. Networking is not an event, declares


It is a process. Going into a chamber event and expecting, what….to

come out with six new accounts, five job offers? That is unrealistic.

The first meeting with anyone is just a start, just the beginning

of a relationship. If you meet two or three people, and enjoy speaking

with them, you are doing a fine job of networking.

Set goals. Research an event. Find out who will be there,

and decide who you want to meet. Menechella recalls an event at which

the head of a 19,000-person company was going to be present. She had

heard of him and thought her services could be a good match for his

company. Her goal was to say hello to him. That done, she considered

her attendance at the networking event a success.

Deciding to use a networking event to meet three potential employers,

one potential business partner, or six co-workers you have passed

casually in the hall turns an amorphous challenge into a manageable


Ask about everyone’s favorite subject. CEO or water boy,

CFO or runway model, it is easy to determine everyone’s favorite


It is, of course, their own glorious self. Ask, and conversation will

flow. Be genuinely interested, and you may have a friend for life.

Offer to help. It is impossible to fake caring, and


it, networking is a failure. Don’t even undertake the exercise if

your goal is only personal gain. If the networking event centers


job hunting, be prepared to share leads and helpful Internet job



See the event as a first step. Here is the bad news.


can take a long, long time. It is the process of building a


Menechella relates account after account of relationships nurtured

over five or more years. People met casually years ago became friends.

She helped them out when she could, and then, often unpredictably,

they called to offer her assignments.

Think of every outing as a networking event. After all, it is

entirely possible that the grumpy cashier’s sister’s mother-in-law

could be looking for a person just like you to head up her company’s

Paris office.

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