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Networking means conversations, not collecting business cards — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

June 10th, 2011 Comments off

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I have often said that I have some of my best ideas when I am talking with others. This seemed to be in effect this week when I was involved in the online Twitter chat #careerchat. As part of the conversation about networking I said,

“Sometimes we overthink networking, too. Engaging with people is simply/or should be, part of your life. #careerchat”

For whatever reason, this message resonated with many people in the chat and beyond. I was re-tweeted many times and it got me thinking about not only networking, but the host of other tasks we over complicate in our lives.

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The fact is, we often make simple things complicated in our lives. During my college career, I was required to take a course, several actually, in Interpersonal Communications i.e. talking to one another. It sought to apply psychological science to the very human act of conversation. We even had these exercises called “dyadic encounters” where we had to converse with a student partner and notice all sorts of things about the conversation, beyond what was actually discussed.

Now sure, there is some benefit to studying things scientifically, but we can easily take this to ludicrous extremes. We can spend so much time analyzing something that we begin to ignore the very reason why we were doing it in the first place. This is certainly true with networking. I see people worry so much about connecting with X number of people or, even worse, X number of the “right” people that they ignore, if not offend those around them. For them, networking quickly becomes a game of numbers rather than a process of growth.

Networking, and other career-building efforts, should be an integral part of your life, not something you strap onto the side. Instead of worrying about numbers or specific people, learn to engage others, all others, in conversation. If you can do this with any regularity, you will find that the quantity and the quality of the people you meet will take care of itself. This doesn’t mean you don’t have goals of people you would like to meet and network with, only that this isn’t the driving force behind your networking.

We have all met people who are consumed with networking as a task. They dash from group to group, interrupt the conversation to hand out their business card and then dart away to the next group. How do you feel when someone does this? I know that I barely remember these people, beyond the fact that they annoyed me in some way. When people network in this way, they are showing what they truly believe — “this is all about me!” Rather selfish of them, if you think about it. In many ways, they are insuring that their networking efforts will fail. For me, without conversation, there is no networking, there is no benefit.

So, if you are headed to a networking event, or better an event where you will find networking opportunities, what should you do? First, walk in, pick up a beverage and join in the first conversation you meet. Listen first to gain the tone and topic of the conversation. Introduce yourself — by name, not some 30 second elevator speech — and simply converse. If this group of people isn’t discussing topics of interest to you, excuse yourself politely and join another conversation. Work your way around the room in this fashion. If you find one particular conversation that deeply interests you, don’t be afraid to stay there. Your deeper conversation with these people will far outweigh lighter conversations with many others. You are looking for those connections, those relationships that most interest you, not some fixed number of people.

If you want to know if you are networking in a way that I find most useful, check your own attitude. Are you enjoying yourself? Are you having interesting conversations? Are you meeting interesting people? This is how I know I have had a successful event. On the other hand, if you are worried because you didn’t hand out enough business cards — or get enough business cards — there might be a problem. Did you leave the event early because you had handed out all your cards? Are you unable to remember people’s names or anything you talked about during the evening? This is a clear sign of “hit and run” networking and you might want to adjust your methods.

Anything in life can be over-complicated if we let it. We constantly need to be evaluating how we are engaging with the world around us and not let the method of an activity subsume the value of the activity. Think beyond hard numbers — like business cards and resumes — and start thinking more about engaging with those around you. I think you will find that conversations are far more interesting and far more beneficial.

Categories: Audio, Podcast, Show Tags:

[Tip] Video: 29 Ways to Stay Creative (1:50)

June 10th, 2011 1 comment

Get a jolt of support this morning with this short video – 29 ways to stay creative. I do most of them, but could certainly do better at others.

What are you going to create today?

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Categories: Elsewhere, Tips, Video Tags:

#Trust30 Day 10: You are responsible for your own happiness and capable of achieving it!

June 9th, 2011 Comments off

I am writing a blog post each day as part of the #Trust30 project on my personal blog, My Word. Today’s prompt and response also relates well to you and your career, so I wanted to share it here. — Douglas

Today’s prompt:

Your Personal Message by Eric Handler

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is burning deep inside of you? If you could spread your personal message RIGHT NOW to 1 million people, what would you say?

(Author: Eric Handler)

My message: You are responsible for your own happiness and capable of achieving it!

Too many of us think ourselves trapped in convention, trapped in society, trapped in poverty. Yes, there are burdens we all carry to some degree, but we are inventive, creative and resilient beings who have the will and the tools to make life special. Don’t give up trying for a better life. You will never reach perfection, but each step you make along the way will be worth so much.


#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing.

Categories: Career Tips, News/Opinion, Tips Tags:

CareerCampSCV Discussion Session and Presentation

June 6th, 2011 Comments off

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Now that I have scheduled our big trip to visit my wife’s family in Sicily, I am assured that I will be in town for the second edition of CareerCampSCV on July 16, 2011 in Santa Clarita, California. The College of the Canyons University Center will be hosting us once again.

I signed up for my free registration today and it made me think about what I might present this time. Two ideas came to mind and I might do both of them over the course of the day.

1. Social Media/New Media Breakout Session

Our discussion last year was one of my favorite sessions last year, so I plan on hosting it again in 2011. This will be a free-wheeling, open discussion of all the ways the careers and social media interact. We’ll talk Facebook, Twitter, blogging, podcasting and more.

2. Find your first career…and your next and your next

When you are first looking for a career, or looking for a new one, we tend to focus on jobs — which job should I take, do I have the skills for this job, etc. You should be asking more career-related questions though like, do I enjoy doing this type of work? Where might this career lead me in 5 years? Are my needs changing when it comes to my work?

This talk will build on the Career Compass talk I gave last year, but you need not have attended that talk. I will tie it all together with some new thoughts I have had over the last year.

I hope to see you at this year’s CareerCampSCV. If you are outside the Southern California area, consider hosting your own CareerCamp. I can assist you in planning and organization. See CareerCampInternational.com for more information

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