Not too long ago, Jack Killion, horse breeder, university instructor, managing partner of the Eagle Rock Diversified Fund, and partner in career coaching firm Bluestone + Killion, found himself in line at the Kings Supermarket in Morristown, doing what he always does.
“I said to the lady in line behind me, ‘Where did you get that beautiful accent?’” he recounts. “She said she was from South Africa. We got talking. I asked what she did for a living. When she told me she ran the entrepreneurial studies department at Fairleigh Dickinson, I said: Well then you have to come have coffee with me. Why? she asked. Because I want to teach there.”
Killion, who sees networking as “a life-changing topic,” now teaches the subject at Fairleigh Dickinson.
Killion gives a talk, “Beyond Facebook: Networking Strategies for 2013” on Thursday, April 18, at 4 p.m. at Barnes & Noble store North Brunswick. His talk is part of a free seminar being offered by Barnes & Noble as part of its Educator Appreciation Week.
The event, open to both educators and the general public, will offer information people can apply to their careers, as well as tips to help students prepare for the future. For more information or to register contact Miriam Libove at email@example.com or 732-545-7966 by Friday, April 12.
The seminar also features a talk by David Deutsch, founder and chief strategist at SynergiSocial, who will offer practical suggestions on how to get acquainted with and utilize social media and traditional networking to enhance your career.
Killion, the son of a secretary at Penn Central Railroad and a tool maker, grew up in northern New Jersey “without much money.” He graduated from Yale with a degree in mechanical engineering and M.I.T. with a master’s degree in management. He was president of a computer manufacturing company at age 23, then served in the Army for two years before joining McKinney and Company, which he left at age 30, choosing entrepreneurship over a partnership track.
It was then that the necessity of finding clients pushed him into networking. “Up until 30, I didn’t have a clue,” he says. “I didn’t know how to do it, why to do it, who to do it with. But I had quit my job and had to learn. That was before the Internet, before cell phones. I went to Grand Central with a pocket full of quarters. I would sweat through my shirt.”
Reaching out and building relationships was hard, but Killion says that growing up without much of a cushion was a help. He says that to this day he remembers his start in business and favors others who had to make it on their own. “I would rather invest in someone who’s been broke,” he says. “They know how to survive.”
Killion’s networking soon gave him his start. He spent five years raising money for small companies — among them Rolling Stone magazine. From there he and a partner went on help run Harper’s magazine and to start up Country Music magazine. “It was all about networks,” says Killion. “I had no contacts.”
Over the years, Killion has built up an enormous network that has been tremendously helpful. He insists that this is something that absolutely everyone needs. His tips for building one:
Start young. Killion and his wife, Judy, founder of publishing company Garden State Woman (www.GSWoman.com), have a son, Jonathan. Now an investment banker, Jonathan was groomed to be a consummate networker well before he hit high school.
“He was a good golfer,” says his father, who encouraged him to go out in foursomes with “three older guys.” By the time that Jonathan was 12, Killion decided that the boy needed business cards to pass out to the golfers he met.
“It’s a critical skill everybody needs,” says Killion. “It should be taught in every school. It’s as important as reading and writing.”
Suck it up. Asked how he overcame his fear of networking, Killion says, “I didn’t.” He says he gets nervous before every networking event. What’s more, he thinks that’s a good thing. “If you’re nervous, you’re sharp,” he says.
He has heard every excuse people make to avoid networking. “They think it’s sales, or they say, I don’t have time. I don’t know what to say. I don’t like crowds.” Killion is an exceptionally friendly, congenial person, but he has absolutely no tolerance for networking-avoiders. “Your network is your net worth,” he says. “If you’re stuck in a middle management job and you won’t network, that’s where you’ll stay.”
Make it part of your routine. “I network 15 to 20 minutes a day,” says Killion. Still not crazy about doing so over the phone, he often networks through E-mail. One day he might write to tell someone he has met that he has just heard of a job that might be perfect for him. Another day he might send E-mails to 10 friends telling them about a jazz club he has discovered that he thinks they might like.
In addition, Killion says that he “tries to have a meeting every morning, six or seven days a week, before 9 a.m.” It has become a habit and has resulted in business, friendships, and thousands of interesting encounters.
Arrive early. For many networkers, the packed room is even more frightening than a spot behind a lectern on an empty stage. Killion sympathizes. Even he does not like to have to squeeze into tight knots of chatting, laughing conference attendees, or chamber networkers. His solution: Get there early.
Being among the first to arrive gives you the chance to chat with the organizers, perhaps to offer to help with last minute chores. As one of just a few people in the room, it also gives you a chance to welcome new arrivals. “That way,” he says, “the event builds around you.”
Hold your own networking event. Killion’s father started a machine shop, and when he died, Killion took over the small, struggling company. Early on, he attended a trade event in Chicago at which the only space he could afford was a small booth in the basement. Knowing he would be easy to overlook, Killion decided to hold his own event.
“We put together a 10K and a 5K race,” he says. “I got in touch with the United Way and told them I wanted to donate all of the proceeds to them, but I needed help with marketing.” The United Way readily agreed and their marketing efforts included getting Ella Fitzgerald to sing before the race, which attracted a good amount of publicity. In addition, race participants had to drop by Killion’s booth to pick up their T-shirts.
Was this a lot of work? “Not at all,” says Killion. “We just had to get T-shirts and make a few phone calls.”
Learn to love funerals. “I don’t go to a funeral with the intention of networking,” Killion is quick to say. “But,” he admits, “they’re great places to network. People are sad, but then everybody goes for lunch afterwards and it becomes festive. Most people don’t know each other. It’s an amazing opportunity to network.”
Go ahead and ask. A Billion + Change is an organization that puts large corporations together with non-profits. Killion’s partner called them up to ask if there was any way for small businesses to participate. The organization welcomed the inquiry and invited the two of them to an upcoming networking event. “It turned out to be at the White House,” says Killion, “and we were the only small company there.”
Get going — now. A big mistake that beginning networkers make is expecting instant gratification. It doesn’t work that way, says Killion. It’s all about building relationships, a process that takes time.
“Everything takes a year,” says Killion. “If you’re not networking with someone now, you’re not going to be doing business with him in a year.”