Laying the Foundation Through Networking

348422722_c38f0d91bf_m.jpgBack in February, I emailed a senior marketing manager at a commodities exchange and asked him to have coffee. I met him at the Chicago Trading Forum last October, and after bumping into him again at the Financial Times’ Meet the Press event, I wanted to know more about his role at a large Chicago exchange.

His first email reply seemed like a blow-off, but he said to contact him again in three weeks. Then he asked for another two. I waited about a month and tried again. I was surprised when finally he picked a time and place.
The day of the meeting, I was prepared with a list of questions and my goal was to network. I wanted to know how he got his start and what industry associations he could recommend. I asked him how he measured a company’s marketing success, since I work in marketing, and this is one of the skills I am trying to improve. Also, I asked him if he had any advice for me, as I was starting out my career.

We talked for about a half hour and then I walked back to my office. I was proud of myself for arranging the meeting. I could tell that I made a good professional impression on him, and I learned a lot. After writing a thank you note, I realized I was on to something.

I learned that networking generally works most of the time. Most people will give you their time just to share information – and even better if they get to talk about themselves.

I started looking through business cards of senior executives I had met along the way. People were happy to share their stories, give advice or talk about the futures industry. I got great meals out of it too. I had lunch at Elephant and Castle, an early dinner at “9.” All these contacts were more senior level. The people I met with either had a job that I aspired to in the future or I thought that they could point me in the right direction.

One thing I’ve noticed is that most of my mentors are male. Female role models, while they exist, are few and far between. I’ve seen that women are making progress but we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, I need to work with what is available to me and reach out to more people in my network.