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Archive: July 2014 (Features)

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014
Cara Quinton

Since Donald Rumsfield explained why invading Iraq was not a stupid idea, we have all been familiar with the notion of ‘unknown unknowns’. But unless you are a cutting edge life scientist, there is really no such thing. Sure, there are lots of things each one of us doesn’t know that we don’t know. But somebody knows them. And that is why networking is such a wonderful thing.

Are you planning to migrate to a software platform you’ve never worked with before? You can ask questions of the distributors – but there may be all sorts of things you don’t know to ask. But if you talk to somebody who has used it or, better, has recently migrated to it, you can learn all sorts of things you didn’t know you didn’t know. The same goes for new techniques, new application areas, jobs in new fields…without talking to people who’ve been there themselves, you are missing out on one of the most vital sources (and in some case, the only possible source) of information.

Networking as information exchange is not only essential to developing good professional practice, it is also an activity where we can all be givers. Generosity with one’s own knowledge is the mark of a good professional.

Many people prefer to build their networks through serendipitous encounters. They are put off systematic networking by the idea that networking leads to ‘using’ people for your own ends, or that it is to help the sharp-elbowed gain advantage. So it can; but it can be so much more universal, and reciprocal than that. What’s more, it can also be fun.

The speed networking session at the ‘Making an Impact’ practitioners’ stream at OR56 is the perfect occasion to see how this works. It is designed so that even the shyest of us can join in without embarrassment, and the outcome is an immediate boost to the number of people you may be able to turn to in the future – or who may be able to turn to you.

What makes the speed networking so exciting is the chance to let people know enough about you in a very limited time and evoke their interest. One of the ways to do this is to have an elevator pitch ready.

Whether you are an analyst trying to pitch your idea, or a consultant trying to land another piece of work, a head of department constantly trying to get your budget approved or increased or an O.R. professional looking for people you could learn from or who could learn from you – what would you say if you meet your CEO, a client you have been yearning to work with, or an expert in the very field you are trying to study?

So imagine you are in an elevator, and have 30 to 60 seconds to leave an impression by providing enough information to be invited for the next conversation. Start with a “pain statement” i.e. a problem that you are trying to solve. Next, state what your value proposition is and how what you do solves that problem. Lastly, be clear on what you are looking for. Keep it short. Have a hook. Pitch yourself, not only your ideas. Practise.

Have your perfect elevator pitch ready for to gain new insights, expand your professional network, catch up with O.R. colleagues and last, but definitely not least, to have fun!



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