I just received confirmation that my first “real” book is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, so I felt it appropriate to commemorate the occasion with a blog post that explains why I wrote the book in the first place.
Also, since I’ve started having to explain what my new book is about to total strangers (airplane seatmates, wedding table mates, and so far 1 press person – OMG!) I’ve become acutely aware of exactly what it is about the book that initially appeals to the folks that don’t know me or what I refer to as my “How do you not know this?” corner of the world. So, I thought I’d share a few of the questions I’ve been asked and how I answered them.
Stranger: So, what’s your book about?
Me: Well, the title is, “I’m at a Networking Event—Now What???” (I usually then pause and wait for the giggling to subside). It’s a practical guide to getting the most out of any networking event, and if you read it you’ll feel like you spent some time with a fairly entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is networking coach.
Stranger: What made you want to write a book about networking?
Me: There were 2 things:
1) I was tired of all the bad behavior I was encountering at the majority of the networking events I’d been attending and I also wanted to help the folks in the 80% group of the Pareto Principle out there that just don’t seem to be fans of the activity. I’ve found that besides some of them being shy, most usually aren’t fans as a result of having been on the receiving end of some of the aforementioned bad behavior such as watching someone scan the nametags of others while they’re supposedly listening to you, and
2) Then, there’s the fairly well-documented phenomenon in the Seattle area called the “Seattle Freeze” (you can Google this) which relates to the arms-length-only friendliness of the Puget Sound area in general, and the lack of genuine welcome many new settlers to the area often experience.
Both factors motivated me to start hosting what I started calling Pay It Forward (PIF) Parties, and then I wrote a few white papers earlier this year on my “12 Rules of Networking.”
The response to the above generated lots of interest (1200+ downloads of my white paper), as well as the encouragement to write a book, and that gets us back to where I started. As I was working on the book, I was always on the lookout for supporting evidence for my own theories and beliefs about networking best practices, and while I liked to think of them as rules (as in etiquette), I kept finding proof that they’re also the most effective.
For instance, one of the studies I site in the book comes from the folks at Upwardly Mobile Inc. and the Graziadio School of Business Management at Pepperdine University. They conducted a study on the habits of what they call, “elite networkers” and their behaviors as they relate to networking in general.
Finding worth sharing #1:70% of executives credit networking as THE activity that leads to career opportunities, and 75% of study respondents said they spend fewer than two hours each week directly managing their networks. Bottom line: If done right, you can spend a manageable amount of time on it.
Have you actually developed reciprocal and quality relationships with your contacts? Can you count on them when you need a favor? Do they know that you’re there for them when they need the favor? These are the key questions most elite networkers can answer positively.
Finding worth sharing #2:Not surprisingly, the study notes that most people approach networking fairly ineffectively. They focus on quantity of contacts instead of the most important factor—the depth of the relationship (or my interpretation – trust between the 2 parties a.k.a. good social capital[*].
I’ve noticed loads written about whether people will recommend you or not as the ideal measure, and while that matters if your only goal for networking is getting more leads (whether they be job or biz/sales related), I believe that good social capital should be the real goal. I strive to cultivate quality relationships that often turn into friendships where a natural by-product is that I know when/if I need some help or a favor I can unhesitatingly reach out and ask for what it is I need, actually receive it directly or indirectly, and then work to make certain that others know they can count on the same from me.
But back to the idea that “It’s not you, it’s them.” I also wrote my book because I wanted to encourage reluctant networkers to recognize that it’s not their fault that the person scanning the other nametags is doing so. You’re not boring — they’re just RUDE! And, I believe that we can help rehabilitate these people at the networking events we attend by “flipping the script,” and instead of being passive and waiting for someone to ask what brought you to the event, so that you can launch into what probably feels like a canned elevator pitch you may have even paid some coach to develop for you, you can act as if you’re walking into a gathering of your closest friends, and simply beat the other person to the punch and ask them what they’re working on these days and whether they need help with anything in their life right now. The idea is that by setting the example of showing genuine interest, and potential assistance, the recipient will hopefully follow your lead and respond in kind so you can actually have a meaningful conversation. And, if they don’t, you’ve just learned that you should save yourself a whole bunch of time, follow-up and trouble, and politely move on.
Based on my own experience, many of the Google alerts I’ve been reading, and the popularity of the PIF Parties I’ve hosted or attended, offering help to others first appears to be an approach that’s really starting to catch on. Hopefully, my book will provide the encouragement to get folks confidently back out there, and maybe I’ll get to meet them at an event soon because, quite frankly, I’m a little tired of running into most of the same usual suspects (a.k.a the 20%) at the networking events I attend. 😉 I welcome the opportunity to meet some new people in the New Year!
[*] Social capital is defined as the resources such as information, ideas or support that individuals are able to procure by virtue of their relationships with other people. The uniqueness of social capital is that it is relational…it only exists when it is SHARED.