I write to you tonight as victim of a networking faux pas. Last week, I spent an indulgent day at the spa with a good friend. After our mani-pedi-massage experience, we wandered across the street and treated ourselves to gourmet cupcakes and cookies. A delicious day all around!
While there, my friend ran into several people who she knew. Upon seeing one person in particular, she said, “Oh, you have to meet Ellie. You remind me so much of each other – both are professional, outgoing, active and engaged moms.” Then, she took me over to make the introductions. We said hello, shook hands and I said, “I understand that you recently started your own consulting practice.” Ellie’s response, “Yes.” That was it. She was done talking.
Now, to be fair, she had already told us that she was prepping herself for several back-to-back nanny interviews. Without having to say it expressly, it was clear that she was feeling anxious.
She didn’t ask me one question about myself… what did I do, where did I come from, did I really think it was a good idea to add cupcakes and cookies to an already gluttonous day???
I’m willing to cut her some slack, but, on the whole, how disappointing – for Ellie and for me. She showed no interest in getting to know me and as a result, I am unlikely to go out of my way to get to know her. And, yet, we have a good friend in common who thinks that Ellie and I have a lot in common. Plus, at the very least, the very nature of having a mutual friend suggests that, indeed, we might make very compatible networking acquaintances.
Today’s lesson: Show a little interest. It doesn’t have to be much. Be mindful of the other person. For some, this is uncomfortable – it may even feel forced. My suggestion to you is to actively and intentionally step outside your comfort zone. Be prepared to lob at least one question over the proverbial divide. What business are you in? How do you know our mutual friend? Is this your favorite cupcake joint?
So, next time someone asks you about your new company, smile and give an enthusiastic, “Yes! I did just start my own firm. It’s a lot of work, but we are making great progress! In fact, I am about to have four back-to-back nanny interviews because I’m finding that we’ve gotten so busy at work that I could use the extra help around the house.” In my own case, that would have been enough to leave me wanting more and potentially interested in grabbing a cup of Coffee with Ellie at some point in the future. It wouldn’t have even taken a, “And, what do you do?”