Random Observation/Comment #241: Panel speakers at leadership forums have the most badass introductions. These leaders have led a fruitful life with a never-ending path towards greatness, family, and – generally – more ridiculously cool stuff. I am in full admiration, and my mouth’s “wow” expression is hurting my jaw. New Goal: In 3 years, my introduction will make others’ jaws hurt.
In my previous entry, I offered a short mental process within a networking setting that can be used to help open people into a comfortable topic. It involves some sneaky injections of random comments, but after a few exchanges of ideas, a common ground can eventually be reached. If you’re lucky, you can form a mutually beneficial relationship through a short conversation – plus, it removes many awkward silences. Always keep in mind that people are very enthusiastic to share their opinions and help others because it flatters them and makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside.
This whole idea of networking started with being interested in people’s stories. You must be engaged and bring your personal ideas to the table to be an interesting audience. Chances are, this person has told the story many times, but his/her joy is to be able to see different reactions and reflections from the story. I don’t think he/she practices it in the mirror, so it doesn’t make sense to act like one. Once you’re interested in the story, everything flows better and your motive is no longer to pick and choose your resource from someone, but rather to just learn with an open mind.
This entry, however, is about what to do afterwards. There is a big difference between networking and pimping. Pimping is basically using your contact as a resource with only your own interests in mind. It’s easy to see when someone is pimping. It often leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I notice it.
Consider the following scenario: you’re a manager and you’ve recently been to a networking event and met an analyst. He chats with you and writes a nice follow-up email. A year passes by and you start to forget this character. Sometimes you’re sad because you thought you made a good impression as a mentor, but he didn’t wind up picking you or looking to you for advice. Then, all of a sudden, he starts talking to you again like he had been on vacation for a year. You may be flattered that someone is talking to you and reaching out to you for advice, but the relationship is unfair and imbalanced. There’s no give and take in your eyes because all you seem to be is a tool. (This could be interpreted out of context for other relationships as well.)
Let’s take it back to reality where you’re the analyst and you probably warrant no privileges to abuse contacts. Especially in an early career position, do you want to give that impression? Do you think you’re sneaky enough to have it go unnoticed? Those random networking contacts don’t have any obligations to help you and I’d be surprised if they even match the name to the face after a few months.
If you want to network effectively, you have to offer your knowledge, skill sets, connections, and opinions. If there so happens to be the chance that there is no possible intersects, you probably shouldn’t have given out your business card or reach out to them to just disappoint them. It’s not always quantity – it’s also the quality. Would you rather have 20 good friends or 3 best friends?
I think people, in general, are quite selfish – it’s not a bad thing; people just naturally worry about themselves before thinking to a larger audience. Hopefully that selfishness grows to close friends and family, and eventually affects a small niche in the community, but when shit hits the fan with stress, there’s pretty much just you and your cluttered problems/responsibilities.
I bring this up because you grow in a relationship (whether professional or personal) by taking time to consider other people’s responsibilities and agenda. Honestly, the best way to follow-up is to actually treat this person as a friend. It’s simple: you think of their interests and contact them when you see something that they might be interested in. You remember their workplace and hobbies, and then you bring it up if something reminds you of them. For example, if I see beef jerky, I automatically think about my friend Jake. In the networking case, when I hear about wine tasting events, I actually have 4 people on the top of my head that would be interested. Even though they probably won’t make it, people like to be invited.
~See Lemons Follow-up