“So, what do you do?”
I work at home. I love the distraction free environment, but it can be a bit lonely. I was visiting with another home-based businessperson the other day. He told me that it was time for him to get out and socialize. He said, “A man was jogging past my home office window, and I ran outside to say ‘Hello!’ I realized how isolated I’ve become.”
Even if you work in an office, it is the same faces, the same situations…day after day. Without fresh conversation and new experiences you can get pretty stale.
Time to get out and meet some new people. The business jargon for making new friends is networking. You can tell your boss or your spouse that you are going to a cocktail party to network and it sounds like you’re really working, not playing. That’s fine. One of the advantages of branching out and creating new relationships is that you might drum up some business.
A great way to forge new friendships is to join an association, the Chamber or a breakfast club. Let me give you a few ideas for making the most of your networking efforts…
When you first meet someone, don’t offer your business card and ask for the sale. Not so fast. I know, I know…that’s what everyone else tells you to do. But, I’ve been to networking functions that resemble large water tanks filled with hungry fish. Everyone is circling and stalking and attacking potential clients. Lighten up!
Don’t worry about being interesting. Be interested. Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics says, “Imagine that everyone you meet is wearing a sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’” Don’t start talking about you and what you do. First, find out about them.
Avoid pre-judging someone based on what he is wearing or driving. A few years ago, I went through a Dale Carnegie course. On the first night, I sat next to people who looked “cool” and avoided those who didn’t. During the twelve-week course, everyone spoke every week on a personal topic. The folks that I had shunned the first night astounded me with moving tales of honor and bravery. My prejudice had blinded me to some incredible people.
Ask compelling non-work related questions. “What do you do on your days off?” “What is the best place you’ve ever been on a vacation?” Whatever…just don’t start with, “So, what do you do?” If you get a conversation going, work will come up eventually. Connect on a human-to-human level.
Ask yourself, “How could I be of service to this person?” By really listening to someone, you are doing him an incredible service. It may come up in your conversation that your newfound friend is an avid gardener. So are you! Great. Maybe he would be interested in the cool gardening website you found on the Internet. Maybe he’s looking for a new office space and you know a terrific commercial Realtor.
Business consultant Sarah Edwards says, “The biggest myth of networking is that you’ll come home with business every time you attend a meeting or event. It just doesn’t work that way. Business usually comes from the slow and subtle process of establishing long-term relationships and focusing on what you can do for other people so that they’ll do something for you in the future.”
The person you meet at the chamber meeting might never turn into a client. Maybe you’ll discover a new fly-fishing buddy. Maybe you’ll find the marketing mentor you’ve been searching for. Maybe you’ll meet an ambitious entrepreneur who’s just starting out. You might make him your protégé.
Maybe you’ll find yourself saying, “Thank goodness I am not as arrogant as this guy. All he wants to do is give me his business card!”
In any event, it’s time to meet some new people. Go on. It’ll be good for you.
Ellen Rohr’s mission is to help folks make a living doing what they love.