I'm currently reading and enjoying former Cosmo editor, Kate White's book "I Shouldn't Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know." (2012, Harper Collins). One of great tips she shares is the importance of networking. White says " You need to keep your networking going at full throttle. The chance to meet, talk, and get to know new people not only provides you with ton of great info but also many of them can become valuable resources if not today, at some point." White's idea is right on. The intern that is barely known in the office may seem like small potatoes now, she may become someone everyone wants to know within a year.
Remember when you were a child in preschool? You sat in the warm and crowded sandbox as another tyke waddled by. Without hesitation the following questions spills out of your mouth "Want to make a sand castle?" The other little one responds "sure." Fast friends in two seconds flat. Being an adult tends to make people lose the spontaneity and unrestricted conversations. White also encourages 'chitchat' which means making small talk and expanding the discussion to include other topics. Use humor and connect to other people's interests and activities. In order to step outside the sandbox, learn about connection's backgrounds and what inspires them. When using a social media site I read the bio and profile descriptions. I identify a few similar patterns that can be used as a conversation starter.
Careers are uncertain and molding and morphing over time. The top person at a newspaper could be laid off and have to start back at the bottom of the stairs. The person who was stepped on along the way won't easily lend a hand. The tried and true adage is treat people how you want to be treated. As I have said in previous blog postings, I have met amazing people who are supportive and really take an interest in their connections. In life there are a small few bad apples that try to spoil the bunch.
I recently added a person as a contact using social media. The person is an writer and editor. The following was my message:
"Thanks for adding me on ****. I can only imagine how busy you are. How did you get your start in the writing business? Out of all of the respected accolades you earned, what meant the most to you professionally and personally? I look forward to seeing how we can network together. Have a wonderful week! "
It was short and sweet and frankly to the point. Expressing interest is an excellent way to get to know someone. If someone is busy they will respond with a quick thank you and talk to you soon message. Little did I know there was a rotten apple in my connections. This was the response I was emailed.
"My start is conventional: I studied journalism in college, worked on campus publications, secured newspaper internships and later full-time jobs. The accolades question I will pass on.
Sometimes I accept *** invitations from people I do not know because most folks are looking to network professionally. Sometimes, I get queries from folks that, out of the pressure to be polite, I answer.
Respectfully, these out-of-the-blue queries that are meant to start conversations, well, I just don't have time for that. Of course, I will advise a student or professional transitioning into journalism. But I don't have time for aimless queries, and I think they are poor etiquette in an era when we are all pressed for time.
I wish you so much luck in your writing life. If you have a more direct question about how you can get into journalism, I will answer that. But, sorry, I don't have time for just getting to know people here on ***."
The person was so busy yet there was suddenly time to fire away with this snarky response. Secondly, why participate on social media you don't have time to get to know someone? Needless to say, this soured me on networking or even making small chit chat with this individual. Clearly the nameless person felt he/she was more important then he/she probably is. I would have preferred not receiving a response than having the rudeness put a damper on my day.
While bad connections happen from time to time, giving up on networking is not the answer. Recharge, relax and keep building relationships. For every jerk there is a person who will give you the time and their expertise to help you make your career dreams come true. Every successful person has been at the bottom of the stairs. They understand the struggles, obstacles and frustration that distracts the climb to the top. They also know the victorious feeling of making it past all those flights of stairs.