Monday, October 15, 2012

When is it OK to talk to strangers?

At a networking event, getting the conversation rolling may seem daunting, but really it’s easy. Here are a few starters:
  • Talk about the purpose of the event. Is it a one-time gala event, the kick-off to a season of events, a fundraiser?
  • Ask about his or her connection to the organization sponsoring the event.
  • Be ready to chat about something other than ‘work.’  Be up to date on the day’s news, relevant blogs, current trends.
  • Pause. Let him or her say something, listen, and ask a question.
A few “don’ts”
  • Don’t talk exclusively about yourself. Yes, you can tell people about your business, your job search, or yourself. Just don’t become known as the person who only talks about her search or himself.
  • Don’t talk about sports unless you know the game—the players, teams, and standings this time of year.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Soon in this space and in your daily email box: More Networking Know-How

I'm the first one to say our careers will have twists, turns, and transitions. Well, for me, this summer has been an opportunity to think: "What turn do I take next?"   

Starting in mid-October, my "what next?" will be to send members of my network (I hope you will join) a daily Networking Know-How email. It's a one-a-day, 3-4 sentence networking tip with a key take-away (highlighted in bold).  My blog will continue with posts every Saturday, and will look at how you can manage and advance your career. 

I'm looking forward to adding the daily email to my social media networking and to being able to share the knowledge, wisdom, research, and success stories that I have accumulated over 20 years helping professionals move forward in their career, leadership and business development worlds.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Know Your Relationship

Was I taken for granted from a member of my network? or did I take it for granted that he was a member of my network?

Guess what, I occasionally find myself doubting my own networking advice; especially the one about having an opportunity every day to help someone in your network.  Because let’s face it, it’s a lot of work (time, effort, energy that could go elsewhere) when you “help” someone and that work is not always acknowledged. I’m OK with that, because networking is about paying forward as well as paying back.  But as I recently learned, helping someone may also NOT be what that person wanted! 

About 2 years ago, I spent some time helping a person who wanted to change his career focus from individual contributor to management.  Since then we have done an occasional email update message and last year I received a “join my LinkedIn network” email.  I followed up with a nice-to-hear-from you and a suggestion we do a phone call and catch up. Then, as the saying goes, “life happens while you are making other plans,” and the telephone call never happened. About 4 months ago, when I learned business was taking me to this person’s city, I emailed an offer to meet for coffee. After several exchanges, a time and place was determined.  I emailed the day before to confirm and later in the day received a reply that a client meeting had “suddenly come up,” could we reschedule for the next day?  Since I was leaving town later that day I replied I it couldn’t happen, but let’s keep in touch.  Now, I’m thinking, “too bad; it would have been great to see each other again.” 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I met someone from this person’s city and industry, well connected, possibly a great potential resource—and willing to meet/network with him. So, I emailed “person A” the name and a little background with the suggestion he do some research and get back to me about making an introduction for him.  His email was polite, but his reply clearly said although she sounded like an interesting person, she was not someone he thought would be helpful to his career. So, no thanks.  Huh, I thought, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Now in the spirit of remembering that there are two sides to every story, he may have had an unexpected client meeting or his research may have turned up information I did not know. But this experience did point out to me that our professional relationship was a transactional relationship. It never made the transition from “nice to know you” to “let’s get to know one another.”  For that to happen, at some point one of us should have switched from text and emails to picking up the phone and having a real conversation—this would have sent the signal and given each of us the opportunity to figure out the type of networking connection there could be and the amount of effort and help each wanted to extend—and receive.  

There is no bad guy/gal here; it’s more a lesson in recognizing two important facts:
  •       When you meet or work with someone and then solely rely on tools like LinkedIn, texts or emails as your main communication method to build your relationship-- there may not be a relationship, and
  •  Reaching out for help or to give help is better saved for people who you know want it. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Breaking the Rules on Thank-you Notes

Here’s an email I just received. Although it doesn’t follow the rule of not starting a letter with the word “I,” it is a terrific letter. It’s sincere, personal, thoughtful, well written, and speaks to our conversation and actions taken, keeping me in the loop. What do you think?

Dear Patti: 
I’m about to start calling some contacts. I’ve identified about 8 people to start with. I have developed an overall script and will customize each call based on my research via websites and library. 

Attached is the version for Company X.  What do you think? (You will see some of your prior suggestions in the attached script.  Many thanks.)  Appreciate your advice and counsel, as always.

This note shows me that Bob listened. He took the time to identify an idea I offered and how it helped with an example and then nicely asked if I would help again in a specific, easy to do way—and of course the last sentence was a fabulous way of saying thank you! My rating? Two thumbs up!

Don’t you just love a great thank you note? Have you gotten any memorable ones recently? 

Friday, September 7, 2012

8 Tips for a “Table of Eight Please”

Mid-sized groups are hardest for some people. How can you get your story out without appearing to be monopolizing the conversation and the table? How can you avoid being bored by a conversation monopolizer?
  1. If the seating is assigned, glance at the place cards (or ask someone at the registration desk for the names of others) before people go to the tables. That will give you a chance “put a name to the face” with few interesting questions about the individuals and their organizations.
  2. Play host, introduce yourself and then ask everyone around the table to introduce themselves to the group and for the next few minutes facilitate a full-group conversation around the intent of the event, or topic of the speaker. Once the food arrives and the room gets louder, it will be time to switch to conversations in small groups or 1-1.
  3. Which means be sure to talk with the people on both sides during the course of the meal.
  4. When you are talking to the person next to you, be sure the people on either side of your little group aren’t left staring into space. Lean back (or if it’s coffee time, push your chair back) and, invite them all into the conversation.
  5. Ask open-ended questions, listen to the answers and then ask a follow-up question; that shows you are listening and often that's how the real connection is made. 
  6. Keep your own talk positive and upbeat—no one needs to know how long the drive home will be or how early you have to get to work tomorrow.
  7. If you end up sitting next to someone who just won’t stop talking or only focuses on one subject:  when they take a breath—if they do—jump in and politely say, "That’s fascinating, what are your thoughts on…." and introduce a subject of interest to you.
  8. And yes, we have all sat next to the person who looks bored, acts bored and only answers your questions with a curt yes or no, or is so focused on selling themselves or their business to a perceived bigwig that he/she ignores you entirely.  Reach out to another small group at the table  and join their conversation or enjoy your meal and then say, “It was very nice meeting you all tonight,” stand up, and taking your dessert to another table! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Your Reputation: What Do You Wish They would Say?

Here’s a good exercise: Ask yourself, If people could just use one word to describe me, I wish it would be •••••••. So I wonder: what can I do that will make that a more likely description of me?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reaching out if Shyness Isn’t Your Problem

Maybe you are one of those folks who thrive on meeting large groups of people, who positively sparkle in a party? This may give you a way to give back to your network. Next time you plan to attend an event, think of a shy person who would also benefit from meeting the group’s members. Invite this person to attend with you, and help them break the ice by introducing them to a few people.