- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Networking’
I was at Sunday service at Unity Center. The topic was “Science and Religion”. The point was that the two have not always seen eye to eye. As such, there were many references to Albert Einstein. I love Einstein. I find him fascinating, but not for the same reason that others may. I find he really “got” life.
Ever since I changed careers and went from being a lawyer (left-brained) to being a personal branding expert (right-brained), I struggle with how much of my left-brain should I be showcasing to the world. I still fear not being taken “seriously” sometimes by those left-brained people I need to be of service to the most.
So Einstein is my hero and a role-model. (No, I’m not saying I’m brilliant like Einstein!) He maintained harmony with his left-brain (his Theory of Relativity, etc) and his right-brain (his perspective that we should all be living as though everything is a miracle). He did it with ease and grace.
Perhaps my favorite manifestation of Einstein’s harmony of thought was his belief that we should all be using our imaginations more. Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence isn’t knowledge, but imagination”.
The problem is we are so sure that our book smarts are the keys to our success and happiness, we never stop and consider anything else. Look at me- even after all these years of success in personal branding,I still occasionally (more than I know?) struggle with being seen as “a smart lawyer” and not an imaginative and creative branding expert.
What does this have to do with networking? My formal definition of networking includes the concept of being interested in others. If you are not curious and interested in others, then no networking (or social event for that matter) will “work” for you. Not only will no one peak your interest enough to get to know them, you will not attract anyone to you because your body language will show that you’re just not interested.
When we use our imaginations, we are exploring the wonders in our world. We are allowing ourselves to be curious and experiment with live. We are living in our right-brains. We are open to the world and admit that we may not know everything.
So what does this mean for you?
-Try to see the world, and each networking opportunity, as your chance to exercise your curiosity and imagination.
– Show up places with an interest in others.
– Use your imagination about how the networking event could be a success and fun, instead of “hard”, “boring” and “shallow”.
Picture it: you walk into a huge room of people you don’t know. Everyone is in a blue or black suit. Everyone seems to know each other, except for you. You muster up the nerve to walk up to someone. “So it’s really cold outside today”, you say, in an attempt to strike up a conversation.
Sound familiar? Most people just don’t like the idea of networking. They equate it to dragging yourself to an event, going into a room full of people you don’t know and having to figure out how to get business from them.
Just about the only thing worse for people than all the above actions, is the dreaded conversation that comes with networking. I was talking to a client the other day and she called this casual small-talk, “worthless”. I was really surprised to hear her call it worthless, especially given she is CEO of a nonprofit that does so much good in communities. She’s all about helping people. So I knew it had nothing to do for her with being kind to people or not.
So I stopped to think, is it really worthless, this small-talk we have with people in networking events? If so, why? If not, then how can we re-classify it for ourselves so we can enjoy the process more.
For my client, the thought of worthless talk is so negative, she does not even show up at the networking events. That makes me really sad for her, knowing that she may be missing out on a golden opportunity and that others may be missing out on her.
I appreciate that we all act and react differently in these types of settings. It’s often been said how we act has to do with our nature. As Susan Cain masterfully writes in her book, “Quiet”, extroverts get energy from being in a room full of others.
I am your typical extrovert and I find myself in the minority regularly. I am the oddball that really enjoys walking into a room full of strangers. I love trying to get to know new people and learn about them and teach them, if I can. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of moments when I, as the extrovert who loves getting to know strangers, don’t want to be around groups of people. I would rather be home alone snuggling on my couch with my dog. So I can imagine how bad it is for introverts.
Cain finds that introverts feel like all their energy is being drained from them when they are in a room full of others- especially people they don’t know. No wonder introverts (and most people I know) don’t want to be networking. Who wants their energy drained?!
However, getting out there and meeting people is not really optional. We need to do it if we run a business, are responsible for bringing in business AND if we are trying to find a friend and/or spouse.
What if we stopped and looked at small-talk as a different level of communication with people where our goal is to engage them at a basic level, impart basic knowledge and receive the same back? It doesn’t mean we are not being genuine if we talk about the weather, for instance. It just means we are beginning our communication with people at a more basic level, which can include dialogue about basic things, like the weather, traffic, what you had for lunch and the color of your jacket.
So next time you are out networking, make the conversation concept easy for yourself. Try thinking about your conversations as if there are levels. You have to start with the small-talk first in order to see if there is any possibility for deeper conversation afterwards.
I’m a big proponent of everyone having their story (Personal Connection Story, is my terminology) down well as part of their effective personal brand. But this is always the hardest part of personal brand development for all our clients. For starters, no one appreciates their story- not just the significance of it, but the need for it, how to communicate it, etc.
People always ask me what parts of their story they should lead with because otherwise they feel overwhelmed by their own story. After all, if you know your story well enough and have developed it well, your total story should be significantly lengthy. I’m assuming you have all lived at least 25 years, which means you’ve got a lot to share with the rest of us.
Always keep in mind that you are looking for a connection with whoever is in front of you. What do you have in common with them? Why? Once they know this information, people extrapolate an assumption that you “get” them. Connections come once I think you are on my team.
In other words, people want to know if you are on their side. WHY do you do what you do and how can you help them? So look at when and how you are an ADVOCATE for your clients and/or customers. Then convey that part of your story to prospects/whomever you are trying to connect (i.e., network) with. That’s what I need to feel/know from you when I meet you.
Making the decision to change careers and then taking the big plunge to actually change careers is hard enough. I know what it is like. I remember it all too well. Sometimes I look back and wonder where I ever got the nerve or the courage. I have even asked myself if I would do it all over again, knowing what I know now. The answer is always a resounding “yes”.
Changing careers is scary because there are so many unknowns. We ask ourselves all sorts of questions, including:
– Will I like my new career better than my current career?
– Will I be a success?
– Will I make enough money to live comfortably?/ Can I pay the bills to survive?
Part of the difficulty in changing careers is the unsettling notion we have about how we can conform who we are, as individuals, to the new job. The problem is that most of us identify ourselves with our careers and jobs. If you asked me 15 years ago who I was, I would have told you I was a lawyer.
Clients often say to me that they do not know how to represent themselves (ie, position their personal brands) in networking events, on business cards and in front of others in general. For example, one client practiced as a CPA for twenty years before switching careers to go into the mortgage industry. Not only did she have a challenge with what to verbally say as she introduced herself and her new career, but she also had reservations around her visual brand- how does a mortgage industry specialist show up in public? Is it the same as a CPA or not? More conservative or less? The list was endless, understandably.
The hesitation and confusion is understandable. There is a very real loss of self followed by self-discovery in this process. You have to go through the journey of figuring out how to distinguish yourself and your new personal brand within the context of the your new industry and career. This requires you to know your uniqueness and your story around it. Then you need to find the overlap in your uniqueness, talents and story between your two careers.
So ask yourself: 1) are you ready for a change? 2) would a new career make you happier possibly in the long run? 3) do you have a contribution to society that fuels your passion and purpose? 4) where are the commonalities and differences in your two careers and your skill-set and offerings- ie, where are YOU the same in each career?
Have you ever wondered if people really care what you do for a living? I go to so many events where people stand up to introduce themselves and lead with what they do- “I’m a lawyer, I’m a dentist, I’m a CPA, I’m an engineer”. Blah blah blah.
Do you really think that you will captivate us, inspire us and have us remember you this way? In a world where it seems every other person is a coach, lawyer, doctor, accountant or engineer, who really cares that you are one, too?
So a few days ago I posted a video from a few years back by Simon Sinek where he explains the reason your “why” is so much more important than your “what”. I love this video because it helps me explain why your personal brand is so important. Even better, Simon’s video articulates my entire personal branding mission and work so well.
The point is that your “why” is the sweet spot. It is where I get to have that emotional connection with you. If I “get” your why immediately, then your personal brand is optimal: I remember you, I feel a connection to you, I am inspired by you, you seem credible and I’m much more motivated to get to know you….and hire you or refer you or promote you.
The reason most people do not lead with their “why” is because they do not know their why. Often they are so involved in the substantive work, they cannot be bothered with superfluous stuff like the why. Or it is too painful to really look inside to figure out the why. I’m not going to kid you- we spend TONS of time in so many different ways with clients so that they can find, own and build a brand around their “why”.
So, what is your “why” around what you do? Email me your answer and I’ll help you develop it offline.