3 lies we tell ourselves about networking

Minion: 3 lies we tell ourselves about networking

“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

This phrase is bandied about quite a bit. Usually by people who feel stuck in their jobs, can’t see a way out of it and start complaining about how the government should do something about foreign talents. But you know what?

They’re right! Your relationships will matter more than your technical skills as you progress in your career. That’s just the way the world works. You can complain all you like about how incompetent your managers are and nothing will change. Top performers never worry about being out of job. They’ve invested time to network with the right connections so they can quit a job on Friday and have offers lined up by Monday.

But a lot of us have psychological hang ups that prevent us from networking effectively.

3 lies we tell ourselves about networking

  1. “People who network are sleazy; I don’t want to be sleazy”. It’s an assumption that everyone who is eager to meet new people are sleazy. If you’re constantly touching base with people with the goal of making of use them, people can tell. People who are successful at networking are always looking to add value to others. Whether it’s by connecting other people or providing them with knowledge of value. They’re not the sleazy salesman type, if you hang out with them, you’ll like them because they’re cool.

  2. “I’m not the kind of person who could network. I hate selling myself.” What you’re really saying is that people are naturally born with the skill to network. It’s a skill that can be picked up over time. My favorite activity is actually reading a good book in a quiet place. I also have no problems having lunch or the movies alone. But I’ve learnt the skills by practicing over a long period of time

  3. “I wouldn’t know what to say.” Well of course you wouldn’t know what to say. I look back at some of my early, fumbling attempts to meet people and they were just awful. But you study what experts do, you practice and you get better. Kids never say “I don’t know how to ride a bike”. You teach them by putting their butt on the bicycle and pushing them off. At some point, you have to get out there and practice. Reading about tactics will not get you anywhere.

I’ll be focusing on different aspects of building your network over the coming weeks. There are books covering literally every aspect of networking from how to insert yourself in small groups, groom before the event and the correct way to shake hands. But they never focus on testing what’s most important.  All of these details matter to some extent, but as long as you don’t look like you’ve just finished wrestling a pig and you only have hair in the right places (nasal hair should be trimmed, people), there’s just one thing that will determine how interested people are in talking to you.

The most important thing other people don’t focus on

It’s estimated that you have 10s to make a positive impression. And everything after that are just people confirming their first impression. First impression counts more than everything else. So why is it that no one tests their introductions?

I’ve field tested different introductions myself.

Question: “What do you do?”

Aksel Answer 1: “I work in technology for company XSG.”
Interest level: 1/5. Person’s eyes glaze over and you can see the “Oh my god, the only thing I know about technology is the guy who always tells me to turn my computer off and on again. Should I ask him about what computer parts to buy?”

Aksel Answer 2: “I’m creating a new department in company XSG”
Response: Interest level: 4/5. “Really? What kinda department is it?” This leads into a whole conversation about the challenges of creating something new in an established company.

Both are valid answers to the question of what I do. People’s interest levels vary wildly based on the words that you use. Answer 2 is a conversation starter; it invites people  to probe further on what I do. It’s gives just enough information so the other party is interested.

Here’s something I noticed that was even more radical from my previous position.

Question: “What do you do?”
Aksel Answer 1: “I’m a scrum-master in an Agile team”
Interest level: 2/5: Subtle bewilderment. Ok, what the hell is a scrum-master? Should I even be asking? Will I sound stupid if I ask?

Aksel Answer 2: “I’m a coach in an Agile team”
Response: Interest level: 4/5. “Wow. What do you coach?” A scrum-master simply coaches high-performance teams in software development.  Same job, different word; less chances of being misunderstood.

One word changes everything.

You’re asked the same questions hundreds, even thousands of times over the course of our lives.

  • “What do you do?”
  • “Where are you from?”
  • “Where do you live?”
  • “What do you in your free time?”

These questions come up whenever we meet anyone new. But we never actually take the time to perfect these responses so we have the ideal tools when we meet people for the first time.

Have you ever tested your responses?

PS: If you are interested in techniques on how to know the right people and finding your dream job

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  1. Well advise. thanks for my morning learning today

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