The pandemic is relentlessly flipping our work and personal lives inside out. We miss the in-person meetings that make connecting so easy. People want to hear from you. Next time you want to reach out to a coworker, colleague, or anyone else, anywhere in the world, try a surprise.
In a recent coaching session, Maura mentioned that her dedication to virtual networking is starting to pay off. This time last year she had a dozen connections. She’s tripled that number by targeting potential mentors within her company, experts in a field she’s exploring, and former colleagues. Each time she reaches out and connects with someone around the country, she feels a boost in confidence. Thinking ahead to the end of the year, she planned to reach out and personally thank everyone for their insights, recommendations, and career advice. I asked her, "why wait? What can you do or share with someone that they’d enjoy or appreciate? Comment on their blog or social media post. Share an article or blog you read, a video you watched, or a podcast you tuned into." Maura paused, and, not an instant later, she had a company executive in mind and knew exactly which article she’d share with him that afternoon.
When you discover something worth sharing, pass it on. Create a text or email that becomes a welcome surprise. Over time, every outreach renews your connection, keeps the lines of communication wide open, and contributes to creating a strong personal bond that can last for decades.
Who will you surprise today?
When you peer into your crystal ball, do you see a career move in your future? If yes, you’re in good company. Twenty-eight percent of people surveyed by University of Phoenix hope to change jobs within a year and are either actively looking or will consider a move for the right opportunity. Your success in landing the best job hinges on the people in your network, the colleagues and friends who will alert you to new opportunities before they are posted and introduce you to their colleagues who are influencing decisions or doing the hiring.
Who do you want to add to your network? It’s OK to blur the lines between your personal and professional life. If you are female, you’ll see in this excerpt from a recent study, Understanding the Dynamics of Network Inequality that it’s especially important to think strategically and approach events with a plan that targets the specific attendees you want to meet. In an experiment at an I. T. conference, attendees received an e-mail with networking recommendations from the conference organizer four days in advance. In the control group that received generic advice, “women met fewer new contacts, spent less time talking to them, and added fewer connections on LinkedIn” than men did. However, naming specific (though randomly selected) attendees to connect with allowed women to increase “the number of new contacts met by 57%, the time spent talking with new contacts by 90%, the number of connections added on LinkedIn by 29%, and the odds of changing jobs in the 12 months after the event by 1.6.”
Looking for a networking recharge? Checkout Andrea Nierenberg’s 9-step I.N.C.E.N.T.I.V.E system.
Stretching your network can be instrumental in achieving professional goals. One client confessed that he thought networking was supposed to be terrible. He's not alone! Read his story to find out how he stopped overthinking it.
I thought networking was supposed to be terrible. That was my experience with it: you go into a room full of strangers and try to make a “connection”. What that meant to me was to impress my contacts and convince them, in a short conversation, of my brilliance. As I never succeeded at this, I wasn’t really sure what would come next, or what I hoped would come of it (perhaps an immediate job offer?).
Clarity gives you the courage to walk through the door and curiosity makes it easy for you to keep your emotions in check. Armed with both you will make connections and initiate conversations that are as powerful as they are totally unpredictable. These talking tips were inspired by science-based conversation hacks.
Encourage people to talk about themselves and when you do, it gives them as much pleasure as food or money. Smile, make eye contact, and ask simple, open-ended and unexpected questions. Listening without interrupting takes practice. Read their name badge and use the information actively in conversation. “Hi Bill, you’re from BGH Consulting, what’s your specialty?” Play off a change of seasons, “It’s September. What were the highlights of your summer?” Focus on the event. “We’re hearing from a futurist today, what trends are you interested in learning about?”
Networking is very much alive but the dreaded elevator pitch is finally dead - and not a minute too soon!
We’re replacing the phoney, one-sided, introductions that cause other people’s eyes to glaze over while they silently scream, “Please get away from me!”, with a calm curiosity that gets people talking. When we listen to others, we uncover the clues that allow us to make real connections with them, and to support them in unexpected ways. Science shows that providing people with the chance to talk about themselves gives them as much pleasure as food . . . or money!
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