Written by Cyndi Thompson, Vice President of Client...
Marcus is a friend of Cinder and a phenomenal networker! He is a senior recruiter at Instrument and has worked with a wide variety of organizations, recruiting everybody from veterinarians to C-level executives. As an equity consultant and community advocate, Marcus is dedicated to building diverse ecosystems within the innovation economy. Over the past few years, he also led several diversity and inclusion initiatives at Cloudability.
Marcus, what role has networking played in your career?
Over the last 3 to 5 years, I’ve pivoted my perspective about networking and tried to embody and think about ways to build community. I’ve tried to focus on the person – not necessarily their skill sets or what they can do for me. For example, I think it’s more important to understand their motivations and values and gather an understanding of the various intersections that influence them.
Do you think there’s value in having a diverse network, even if you don’t agree entirely with everyone?
Diversity is growth, and I think we cheat ourselves by creating echo chambers in homogeneous networks. Growth – be it a skill set, mindset, concept, opportunity, etc. – is often a response to difference. I love the opportunity to engage with topics and people that are willing to provide context and insight to their experience, no matter how different it is to mine.
As an experienced networker, what are your best networking tips?
Number one is to see people as three-dimensional before you see their skill set or evaluate what they can do for you. Networking can be difficult when one holds onto binary notions. I think you have to be open to each conversation and not necessarily assume linear progressions.
What’s the most challenging thing about networking for you?
I’m often the first person to engage, and that takes some courage. To an extent you need to know your audience and be comfortable talking with someone who might not be interested in networking.
Do you have any strategies for overcoming the anxiety surrounding networking?
The two things I lean on are being authentic and always having one or two ways to spark a conversation. For me, being authentic means I don’t trap myself into thinking I need to be an expert or represent or act a certain way in order to communicate with others.
What are some of your go-to questions for starting conversations?
I don’t have go-to questions because the environments I am in vary. For example, today I gave a diversity and inclusion speech at a golf course. Saturday, I addressed 120 college students at a university. Thursday, I’ll be presenting in front of 28 CEOs.
That said, I do have a general framework for what types of questions to ask. These are somewhat vague ideas, but I think it’s fairly easy to go to any networking function and ask questions of reason, evidence, clarification, viewpoints, perspectives, implications, and consequences.
Do you have a go-to method for establishing follow-up meetings?
If I feel like someone is pretty open, and we’re getting along well, I’ll extend the invite and say “I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn or grab your card, hope to follow up with you to get a coffee scheduled.”
With all your activity, how do you keep track of your network?
I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other accounts to notify people that “I’m speaking here on this day,” or “I’m going to be attending this meetup group.” I also do this when I’m partnering with different people in the community or organizations.
Do you have any stories about when your network has been helpful to somebody else?
I love connecting brilliant people. I would say on a weekly cadence I connect individuals to community organizations, job opportunities, and/or personal connections that are willing to help the next person achieve their goals. Again, I think the focus on building community allows momentum that’s not contaminated by whether or not someone can help me vs here’s a way this person and/or my ecosystem will grow with them.
You’ve certainly been a great resource for us, and this is a good reminder to see each person for who they are, not for what they can do for you. Thanks for your time Marcus!