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Forrest Gump Teaches Everything That Matters About Networking

Illustrated man thinking and sitting on a bench with a suitcase with a tree in the back.

Whether you are networking to expand your connections, interviewing, or having a career discussion with a mentor, create the best experience possible.

By Liz Gelb-O’Connor, Global Head of Employer Brand & Marketing

Earlier this fall, I had the pleasure of attending one of ADP’s HR Master Classes led by Jason Delserro, our Chief Talent Acquisition Officer. The class was a quick thirty minutes and presented incredibly useful tips on intentional networking. All fast and insightful tips presented under the context of lessons learned from Forrest Gump. 

Most people have seen the 1994 Academy award-winning movie featuring a younger Tom Hanks. Not only does Forrest extend himself to strangers, but he greets his old friend Dan with the exuberance he feels based on what he perceives as the value of their relationship. Because of Forrest, Dan ends up in a much better place. Forrest goes on to inspire millions with his run across the country. 

There is something so simple yet powerful about how Forrest sees and interacts with the world and draws people in. Whether connecting with new people to expand our personal networks, requesting an exploratory discussion about current or future career opportunities, or actively interviewing for a new job, how can we harness the same magical power and incorporate it into successful and enriching interactions? 

Reinforced during the talk was the intentional nature of great networking, including a cognitive exchange of ideas and information between people, leveraging commonality, special interests, and/or opportunity. 

Four Questions suggested that you should ask yourself before networking or interviewing:

  1. What can I learn about this person before meeting with them?
  2. What do we have in common? 
  3.  What’s important to this person, or is there a problem I can help this person solve? 
  4. What can I offer this person? 

Here are some common pitfalls Jason mentioned that people should be aware of, especially when meeting with senior leaders or in the context of career discussions. Just remember, preparation and effort pay off in forming positive and lasting impressions.

Things to avoid:

  1. Not preparing or doing your research
  2. Not respecting people’s time
  3. Coming in too casual
  4. Lengthy and dense presentations
  5. Not following up on takeaways!

Researching a person you plan to meet with can be quick and effective. Use LinkedIn and study the profile of the person you are meeting before connecting or interviewing. Pro tip: They can see who has viewed their profile and will know you invested the time. For internal resources on colleagues, look at internal collaboration portals and internal profiles. If you are meeting with an executive, they might have been featured in company videos or blogs. Review their work.  

Whether leveraging a LinkedIn profile, article, or even their Instagram account, a well-placed comment or observation can go a long way in making a meaningful connection and creating commonality. 

To summarize, whether you are networking to expand your personal connections, interviewing, having a career discussion with a mentor, or just someone willing to give you thirty minutes of their time, create the best experience possible.

Remember to do these things:

  1. Research/prep
  2.  Find common ground
  3. Schedule for 30 minutes and plan for 15
  4. Be authentic!
  5. Ask, “How can I help you?”
  6. Follow-up
  7. Send a ‘Thank You’ note for their time.

Based on Jason’s advice, it’s that simple. Or, to quote Forrest, “That’s all he has to say about that.” 

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