Intro from Alana:
I was introduced to today’s guest blogger, Eric Johnson, many years ago by our mutual friend, Kris Carlgren, who, you may recall, was a featured CLC guest blogger last November with her piece, “Immersive Experiences & Building Relationships.” Since then, we’ve kept in touch, done some work together and exchanged favorite business book titles.
Eric is the Executive Director of Graduate Career Services at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He is responsible for leading the office which coordinates the professional development initiatives across all of the graduate programs offered at Kelley. Eric is also a certified executive coach and leadership consultant, who focuses on helping individuals improve their abilities to lead themselves and positively motivate and influence their teams.
Prior to his work at the Kelley School, Eric spent 10 years with Eli Lilly and Company, where his most recent role was the Chief Marketing Officer for Lilly in the United Kingdom. While with Lilly, Eric was a leader through many marketing challenges and change initiatives, such as the launch of Cymbalta in the US and the initiation of the Customer Engagement Model, and he was a two-time winner of Lilly’s “Manager of Choice”. He is most proud that more than twenty of his employees have been promoted during his tenure as their coach at both institutions.
Eric lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his two children: Brayden, 12, and Siena, 9. He is currently riding a 759-game losing streak at Parcheesi. Please welcome Eric Johnson to CLC!
“Be Yourself” by Audioslave. Guest post by Eric Johnson.
Authenticity is important to me, and lately it has become a central theme in the conversations I’ve been having with my career coaching clients (of all ages). This is particularly true when we’ve been preparing for first time networking conversations with others. For this reason, “Be Yourself” by Audioslave is my song of choice for networking advice.
My favorite line in the song is, “To be yourself is all that you can do.” Have truer words ever been spoken? As I think about what it means to be yourself in networking, there are three things that come to mind:
- Talk as you would to anybody else. A colleague of mine told me that her clients who excel at networking, “are great at it because they behave in these interactions as they do with everyone in their lives.” I agree, and encourage my clients to stay true to their personality type and demeanor and approach each new interaction as they would one with an old friend. It’s just a conversation, like the millions which have preceded it, so stay present, listen with intention, and trust your judgment on when to speak and what to say.
- Share your genuine interests and dislikes. Remember that every networking interaction is the start of a new relationship – one that you hope blossoms over time. There is no value in pretending to like something that you don’t just because you’re trying to impress the other person. Eventually, the truth will come out. Additionally, you are most fascinating when you are passionate about a topic, and passions are rooted in interests. So talk about the things you know well and care the most about if you are hoping to create a lasting connection.
- Be curious about what you really want to know, and not focused on what you think the other person wants to talk about. Some of my clients try to use networking conversations as an opportunity to impress the other person (often an employee of a company that my client is interested in working for) with questions that show their vast knowledge of a company or industry. They come off as blowhards, and also fail to get any information of true significance in return. Part of the value of networking conversations is that you get to learn about things that may help you make a decision about what to do, or where to work, in the future. So ask about things you really care about – the stuff that keeps you up at night. Not only will you receive information that is meaningful to you but you are also more likely to leave a positive impression on the other person because they’ll feel like they know a little something about the real you.
The real you is the only you that should show up in your networking interactions. So be yourself – it really is all that you can do.