A few days ago we went out for a family dinner. It was the opening night of a new Caribbean restaurant in the area. Karl (my partner) happened to have some close ties with the proprietor’s friend and it was nice to have a table reserved for us even though we arrived a little late. The advantages of being in the mix eh?… Well this was the first time that I actually took in and absorbed my whole attitude to networking. I think because I am quite a reserved and introverted person, I have always had a bit of difficulty keeping in touch with people and conversation mostly flows if I click with the person.
Did you know that according to many polls at least half to a third of the population are introverts(including Obama)
Most of us go through our lives meeting people that are genuinely interested in us, they see something in us that attracts them (not necessarily always romantically). These are people who want to be around us, see potential in us and truly want to be apart of our success. People that could be our companions, mentors and our aids on our journey to accomplishing our dreams. Remember that one person/friend/contact, whatever you wish to call them opens up a whole new door to their own network. It definitely is about who you know more than what you know as I have come to realise more and more, how true this is.
This is why even as introverts or just people who like to turn off every now and then to refuel, need to find ways to adapt to social situations and make the most of the opportunities that come our way. After all these are ‘opportunities’ to meet people and make new connections. As an introvert, at times I feel so disconnected with the world that I often imagine what it would feel like if I was watching my own funeral and there was no one there to see me off.
WHAT WENT WRONG THAT EVENING?
The other night was an example of how I let an opportunity to network pass me by. So we walk in and the lady who invited us; Joan, happens to be the mother of the proprietor’s friend. A lovely lady from Guyana. Karl happens to know her as she was one of his clients (he works in finance). I should really take some pointers from him, as you can see he is very well connected. Back to the subject, on this table there is Joan, her neighbour Michelle who I’ve never met, Karl and I, and our two boys. We start talking and getting along very well, as you would.
There were plenty of other people in there including a local celebrity couple from ‘The Only Way is Essex’ reality TV show who were sitting right behind us. Now I don’t watch this TV show, nor did I know any of their names, but Michelle was the one who pointed them out to me and said her daughter would be well impressed if she got a photo with them. At some point in the evening, Joan had conjured up the courage to ask for a photo. Karl had asked me if I wanted to go up, to which I replied “I don’t really know who they are” and you can understand what I meant by that. No one would feel compelled to go up and take pictures with a total stranger that they have no knowledge of, and who isn’t even an acquaintance of an acquaintance.
IF I COULD GO BACK
What I could have done there instead is just put on a smiley face, got up and just taken a moment of my time to find out who they are, may be later on in Google. But for the time being I could have had a laugh, introduced myself asked how they were, what their plans were for the rest of evening, heck I could have even told them about my blog and said I will be posting the pictures up later on. I would hope this would have intrigued them to ask about my blog and pay a visit. I could have added them on twitter, tweeted about them and hey presto, that would have been a boiling hot new connection right there.
This is called stepping out of character, as introverts we find we have to do this a lot but I still don’t think we do it often enough. Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain (fellow introvert) talks about the concept of stepping out of character in this video if you’d like to see. Highlighted below is an example of stepping out of that comfort zone, don’t think too much, just do it.
Now there were a lot of other people that night that I could have made an effort to talk to but this was one example. I have to say I am so lucky to have Karl because he loves meeting new people and in a way I almost rely on him to do it for us although I really shouldn’t. I usually tend to jump in after an introduction by Karl.
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
The bid deal is that I have a lot of expectations of myself; ambitions and personal reasons for wanting to be a better mingler. I admire people who live a full life which is why I asked the question to my nominations for the Liebster Award a few posts ago; “how full do you think you have lived your life so far?”. I also aspire to be a successful business woman and know that people are what makes a businesses work, whether it’s the end customer or the team behind making it happen. This restaurant’s night was pretty successful as far as I could see, because of the power of the network it had behind it. Networking isn’t just important for career success but also for life success, there may be a time when you need help with your personal life and people in your network may be able to help you. But also remember you have to be willing to give and not only receive.
LIFE LESSON: REWIND BACK 8-9 YEARS
There is one life lesson that I will never forget that someone taught me when I was about 16/17. I attended a summer school run by ‘Fahion Works‘ Creative Director Doreen Adusei, MBE. I could see that she had taken a liking to me immediately. Maybe it was because of my drive to be different and think out of the box or just my nature. Out of twenty or so girls over this two week period, for some reason Doreen had chosen to invite me to her workshop in the evenings. She wanted me to have enough time to complete my project at her workshop, using her specialist knowledge and equipment. So I went along for a couple of evenings and got some one to one mentoring at the same time, meeting some of the designers she was working with.
At some point during my time with Doreen, we got into a conversation about how she got her MBE, and one thing she said to me stuck. She talked about looking at people in our lives and knowing how much value they give to us. I didn’t quite know what she meant at the time but I think I know now.
We all have the power to choose who plays a significant part in our lives, use that power and see that nothing seems impossible.
All we need is positive energy around us, shed the negativity and you will see a big difference in your perspective.
I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to have met this woman and even though the time I spent with her was short lived, it was definitely worthwhile.
I have always remembered that conversation but have for some reason been so wrapped up in other things that I failed to realise that simply knowing this isn’t enough, its putting it into practice that really matters. We do this with a lot of things in our lives, we know the theory but forget that we have to actually do. I never managed to keep in touch with Doreen, although about a month ago I found the scrap of paper she had written her address on in my sketch book, I have kept it through all those years. It’s never too late to start learning.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Take the chance to get to know people and show a genuine interest, do not let your reservations get the best of you. Do not pre judge. Do not doubt yourself, go out and build your network for a rich life and successful career.
The first step is always the hardest but we all know that it's only when we are marinating in it, that we forget all the excuses.
Be receptive to everyone, be aware of your subconscious and the signals your body and voice might be giving off, always. You can take time out later to analyse whether you’d like to keep in touch with that person or not. If you find it hard to converse with people, learn how to. I’ve had a book called ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie and I have to be honest I haven’t read all of it from cover to cover. However, I have read large parts and I tell you, it has some really insightful tips on how to basically, make friends and and make a good impression of yourself. It has some brilliant anecdotes and is a light read for those who aren’t especially keen readers.
I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about Shameless Maya before, I love that girl. She made a video on how to network and make friends and in it, she basically talks about a few people in her life who have been able to help her and where and how she met them. To most people the things she talks about may come as second nature but to some of us, it’s really eye opening, valuable information that a lot of people who have this skill tend to take for granted.
The most important thing of all is to make sure you keep in touch with people, not just when you need something but keep in touch; find out how they are, let them know about what you are doing in your life and ask about what is going on in theirs. If you are genuinely interested in them, every response will fuel another question and spark the most interesting conversation.
I know that I do these things with a few people but I don’t do it near as much as I should be and I’m certainly not connecting with enough people for the goals I hope to achieve. It doesn’t mean I am not meeting new people, I am, but I’m just not being effective in my networking skills to keep them in my life. This will surely be the last time that I will have been oblivious to the power of networking.
Please share with me your thoughts. This post is very personal to me and even after much research, it’s a subject I would still love to know more about.