“Daddy, I want someone to play with.”
We’re at the “Top of the Park” summer music festival here in Ann Arbor. Elizabeth and I are relaxing and listening to the band that has just taken the stage. Abby, our younger daughter is looking bored. Big sister Kaylie is at summer camp, so she has no one to play with…
… except the ninety or so other kids who are also here with their families.
“Why don’t you go ask that little girl if you can play with her? She has a ball and everything. Maybe she would like to play catch!” My wife, Elizabeth, always seems to find the right way to encourage the girls. I tend to go with something less useful like “You figure it out.”
Anyway, with a little initial trepidation, Abby approaches the young girl and in short order an evening of playing catch, hide-and-seek, and catching fireflies ensues. In fact, in short order, the two new chums become the core of a horde of younglings racing around our area. On the way home that evening, Abby declares it’s one of the “funnest” days she’s had.
We adults could take a lesson from my daughter’s experience.
I can’t tell you the number of times someone has approached me after one of my programs to tell me that they haven’t had much luck with networking. They aren’t getting the results they want. No one wants to play with them.
Their mistake? They aren’t asking if the other kids want to play.
Of course, I don’t mean that literally. What I mean is they aren’t taking responsibility for the process and the results. They are waiting for networking to happen to them. The problem is that networking is an active process. Passively waiting until someone else does all the work ends up with, at best, tepid results.
So where are some areas where you should be taking an “active” role in your own success?
- Approach others at the networking event. Grabbing your food and sitting at the corner table is unlikely to create a lot of new connections. Pretend you are the host and make everyone else feel comfortable and welcome.
- Sit with another company. This is a corollary to #1 and especially important at your industry’s association events. More often than not, attendees will sit with their own company at meals and breaks. The best benefit, though, comes from crossing those lines.
- Ask them about them. Be interested. Be curious. Be fascinated. The more you know about them, the more you will know if they would make a good networking partner. Most people aren’t comfortable just talking about themselves, so ask good questions to get them going in the right direction.
- Get their contact information. If it makes sense to follow up with them — especially if you already have found some way to be of service — don’t wait for them to reach out to you. It probably won’t happen. They might mean to, but people get busy — usually about thirty seconds after they walk out the door. They will forget and you will lose the opportunity.
- Schedule the next meeting. Assuming it makes sense to continue the connection, take the initiative to schedule your next meeting while you are still in each other’s presence. Whether you are still at the Chamber lunch where you first met, sitting down over coffee, or having a phone call to catch up, determine when would be a good time to meet again. You could just call them then, but it’s far too easy for that to fall by the wayside, allowing the relationship to deteriorate for lack of contact.
Whether you want other kids to play with or you want to build a powerful and productive network, you have to be the one to put forth the effort. Waiting for networking to happen to you will end up with you sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else having fun.
Photo by Pixabay user Mimzy