Chapter OneLEAVE YOUR RESISTANCE AT THE DOOR
LETTING GO OF BELIEFS THAT SABOTAGE YOUR PROGRESS
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Neale Donald Walsch
Do you live to network or network to live?
There's no right or wrong answer. You can be successful either way. But you have to ask the question and be honest with yourself. I'm not worried if you fall into the first group, of course, since getting out there is not a problem. Networking is a lifestyle. It's part of your DNA. I'm actually not so worried about the second group either. You may not get out as much, but if you're able to develop strong relationships that support your goals, that's what matters.
Personally, I network to live. There are other things in life I live to doeat well, travel, spend time with my husbandbut networking isn't one of them. People are surprised when they hear that I'm not always networking. For me, it's a way to reach a goal, not a goal in itself. So there are specific times I set aside for networking events and meetings, and when I'm there, I'm fully immersed. But that time doesn't blend into my personal life, at least not on purpose. Have I learned of opportunities appropriate for me or someone in my network while I was out with friends? Sure, but that's never the objective; being with my friends is.
While you can be successful whether you live to network or network to live, it's difficult to be successful in your career or business if you don't network at all. That's the group I'm most worried about. If you just haven't gotten around to it yet, let me ask you this: when were you going to start? Your plan may be to stay right where you are, but that might not be your employer's plan. Job security is a thing of the past. The only security we can count on now is our own ability to adapt quickly, and those who can't will struggle. Sooner or later you'll either want to make a change or have to make a change, and when you do, you're going to need the help of other people to get you to that next level.
What's Holding You Back? Skill or Will?
What keeps people from networking effectively, or at all, is sometimes simply a skill issue. For example, when I'm asked for tips on what to say to exit a conversation gracefully or how to be more memorable, I know that the people asking the questions are looking for an edge that will make them more proficient with networking.
It's a different issue, however, when I hear questions like these:
"I mostly don't have any interest in talking to anyone at a networking event even though I know that's the whole point of attending. How do I get past that?"
"So I've introduced myself and said 'hi.' Now what? I am truly not interested in anything the person, who may be a valuable networking asset, has to say."
"How do you break the ice and not seem like a networking machine?"
Believe it or not, these are actual questions asked by real people. When I hear them, I recognize that their aversion to networking overrides any benefit they can see to making new connections. It's a lot like exercise. Some people really love it, but for many, it's something they know they must do for good long-term health. They'll slog to the gym and try to enjoy their workout as best they can.
Networking takes that same kind of motivation and mindset to move forward even if it isn't the most exhilarating thing on your to-do list. Before any technique is going to be effective for you, you need to overcome the mental hurdles and find the will to network. I can teach you how to write the perfect follow-up e-mail, but if you don't want to get out there in the first place, you'll have no one to send it to.
Look, I've been there. In one of my corporate jobs, I had to attend numerous conferences with colleagues to prospect for potential partners for our company. I hated that. Even though the conferences were designed as networking events where people from different parts of the same industry could meet and collaborate, it didn't seem that easy to get people to meet and collaborate with me. I didn't know what to say to get them interested in what I or my company had to offer.
But that's a mindset issue. Back then, I thought that networking was about people getting together to pitch their wares, like a white-collar flea market, so that's how I operated. It wasn't about a relationship; it was about a transaction. No wonder it was so uncomfortable. I could do that job so much better today. I would have asked more questions, listened more carefully, and then followed up later with the contacts whom I could add the most value to based on what they said they needed, not what I wanted to sell them.
The skills are the easy part, and you'll learn some powerful ones in this book. But the will to start? That's something only you can ignite. How do you make the shift? By opening your eyes to what's happening around you.
Resistance Is Futile; Networking Is Here to Stay
As much as you might prefer to leave networking to others because you feel it's just too unsavory for you, consider the dangers of burying your head in the sand. In the old days, our fates were determined at birth and traditions directed our lives. Folks had little control over what they could become. If you were born into a blacksmith's family, you became a blacksmith, unless you were a woman, of course. Then you were married off to another family to do the cooking and cleaning.
Today we're able to forge our own paths, and new rules are being made up every day. Unless you're wealthy enough to opt out altogether or you've reached your pinnacle of success, you're going to need to network. Here are three big reasons why:
1. Higher Creativity + Greater Speed = You Can't Do It All Yourself
Peter Drucker once said that we live in a knowledge age. Increasingly, our jobs have become less rote and require us to be more creative and more resourceful. Combine this with rising global competition, and we all need to deliver more with greater speed and to think on our feet more quickly in order to respond to new challenges. More is expected of us every day.
What this means then is that you can't do it all yourself. Even if we could boost our brain power with more breathable air and less reality TV, we still have only one body. We can't do two things at the same time in two different places. Until we can clone ourselves, getting other people to help us will have to be the next best thing. The greater your ability to rally people to your cause, especially when they do it because they want to and not because they have to, the greater your chances of success.
2. Information Is Currency; Relationships Are the Clearinghouse
The faster the world moves, the more you need relationships to gather information and filter it for you. Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, is the ultimate don't-do-it-yourself guy. He recommends that we eliminate what doesn't need to get done and outsource what does so that we can spend more time on the things we enjoy. He's also a proponent of what he calls the "low-information diet" and limits his time checking e- mail and reading magazines and newspapers. One of the ways he gets information when he does need it is by talking to people he trusts. Instead of following 14 months of minutiae in the 2004 presidential elections, for example, "I let other dependable people synthesize hundreds of hours and thousands of pages of media for me," he writes.
The more information you're able to get both when you want it and when you're not even looking for it will be invaluable to your career or business. Information such as who might be hiring, what your clients are doing, and what projects people are working on inside your company will help you make better decisions about what you should be doing.
3. More Ways to Communicate Means That It's Easier to Be Left Out of the Conversation
Before the prevalence of the Internet, finding people to get certain jobs done, such as fixing a broken window or printing your corporate stationery, was limited to looking in your local phone directory or asking someone you knew. Now, not only is it easier to find people, but it's also easier to find out what other people think about them. Were they respectful or rude? Reasonable or a rip-off?
Today, people still ask those they know for recommendations, but with so many of us on information overload and, according to marketing guru Jack Trout, exposed to 4,000 marketing messages a day, if you're not top of mind because you haven't been very visible online or in person, your potential recommenders will forget you exist.
Or, say you're trying to market your business and a journalist is looking for an expert in your field for a story she's writing. If you don't have a blog for her to review how you think and determine whether you're the right source, she'll ultimately go with someone who does.
On the job-search front, recruiters have always been focused on finding people for jobs and not jobs for people, a common misconception. They would much rather fill an open position with someone who already has a job rather than with someone who's out of work. Networking sites like LinkedIn are making it easier to find these passive job seekers, and you can't be found if you're not there.
It's hard not to notice that there are more and more ways to network today, with more ways than ever to be found, be known, and be connected. But there are also more and more reasons to network as well, and the people around you are leveraging these trends to move their lives and careers forward. If you have any aspirations for the short or long term and you're not taking steps to line up your support right now, you'll be starting off with one foot in quicksand. Rather than continue putting off the inevitable, why not learn how to make networking work for you once and for all? Get in the game now before you get left behind.
Give Yourself Permission to Try
Most negative perceptions people have about networking come from fear. I once heard Mark Victor Hansen, coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, define fear as "false evidence appearing real." In doing more research online, I discovered other appropriate acronyms at AcronymFinder.com:
Failure expected and received
Finding everything a roadblock
Finding excuses and reasons
Face everything and recover
Whatever you may fear about networkingand I've felt it myselfI want to tell you that it's okay. Underneath that fear, however, is a reality that is waiting for you to shine a light on it. You don't have to get over your fears completely; just know that there are great things waiting for you on the other side if you can manage to take that first step.
Fear: I don't want people to think I have an agenda. Reality: It's okay to have goals. Everyone does.
Some people resist networking because they don't want to be seen as having an agenda. Somehow, this innocent word has gotten a bad rap as in, "He had an agenda," or "I didn't want to push my agenda." The American Heritage Dictionary defines agenda as "a list of things to be done." That doesn't sound ominous to me, quite honestly, but if it bothers you, try replacing it with the word goal. Now when you say, "He had a goal," or "I didn't want to push my goals" it sounds really silly, doesn't it? Of course we have goals. Anyone with any ambition to make life or career improvements has goals.
Even though the two words aren't entirely synonymousAmerican Heritage defines goal as "the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; objective"for the purposes of networking, they're close enough. An agenda just takes a goal further along in execution. You need to compile a list of the things to do to reach a goal anyway so you will know how to move forward.
Although the literal definition of agenda is pretty harmless, if goal sounds better to you, go with it and strip agenda right out of your vocabulary. No need to think about it ever again. Tell people you're pursuing a goal, or less ominous, that you're working on a project. That way, you won't sound so menacing, especially to yourself. It's all just semantics anyway.
Fear: I don't want to appear helpless, or worse, desperate. Reality: It's okay to ask for help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. None of us can achieve our goals completely on our own. Even world-class athletes need help from coaches, trainers, team members, and their families. On the other hand, none of us can expect our goals to be delivered to us on a silver platter while we lounge in bed all day eating bonbons. We have to take responsibility for moving ourselves forward. If people sense that you have a clear goal and a plan to get there and that you've been taking action and are ready to take more action, they're less likely to see you as helpless or desperate. And they'll be more willing to contribute when you ask for their help.
Fear: I need to feel totally comfortable first. Reality: You get comfortable only by doing.
Feeling awkward is normal. Before a skill can become second nature to the point that experts call "unconscious competence," you'll often have to stumble through a period of "conscious incompetence." Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? Do you remember how hard it was to coordinate your pedaling and your steering to stay balanced? You probably fell off a few times, or crashed into things, but with a little practice, soon you were able to ride around the block.
It's very unlikely that you could have ridden a bike perfectly the first time you tried just by thinking about it. It's not an intellectual activity. It involves mind-body coordination. While networking may be slightly more intellectual, it still takes coordination. You won't ever get comfortable without doing. Throughout the book, I give you details about what "doing" means, so that when I say something like, "Start reconnecting with people you know," you actually have steps to follow to help you do it. But despite my directions and encouragement, accept that you might feel awkward at the start of any skill-building endeavor. Accept that you won't be perfect. Accept that doing is the only remedy to your discomfort and that practice makes progress.
Fear: It will take too much time. Reality: You don't have to network all the time.
Are you ready for another confession? It probably won't shock you much at this point: I rarely speak to strangers on airplanes. I'm the kind of person who needs downtime to be alone with my thoughts. Once I've settled into my window seat, my first desire is usually to bury my nose in the latest Seth Godin book or brainstorm key actions for my next project, not to talk to my seatmate. Of course I'm never impolite; I just don't encourage conversation.
I know, I shouldn't do this, right? Have I missed the chance at a million-dollar consulting contract because I didn't strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me? Perhaps. That's a risk I'll take because that's the best way I've found to preserve my energy in order to be fully focused when I'm purposefully networking; and I've done just fine without it.
Some experts say that you shouldn't compartmentalize networking into such distinct situations. They argue that you should always be doing itnetworking with everyone around you everywhere you go. That just doesn't work for me. That may work for you, and if it does, that's terrific. Keep doing it. I won't tell you not to. However, I've found it tremendously helpful to compartmentalize. If I didn't, I'd collapse. I'm certainly interested in meeting new people and learning about them, but I'm not up for doing it all the time, not on planes, not at church, and not when I'm out with my husband. I network to live, remember? I don't live to network.
When I do put myself in networking situations, however, like going to an industry event or having a one-on-one meeting, then I'm there 100 percent. That's time I've dedicated to myself and to the people I'm with to learn about them, have them learn about me, and see if there are ways we can help each other. This means that I'll never take a phone call in the middle of the conversation, and I'll always try to ask questions that help me learn about them on every level. What are their goals? What drives them? Where do they need help?
If you want results from networking, you're going to have to get out there. If you need to reserve your strength, energy, or sanity, then be deliberate about when you choose to network and commit to being present 100 percent.