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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been awake since, I think, two. Two in the am. Usually, if I'm awake at that hour, I'm up to no good, so I'm having fun. This was not the case last night. Instead, I was living the big pimpin' lifestyle of being self-employed, which means it never ends, dear god I was deeply engrossed in creating new marketing strategies. So, I'm a little tired. Soon I shall drink The Kitten's (chubby) weight in iced coffee and go nag someone and all shall be well(ish). But right now...let's do this.

By 'this,' I 'bite-sized' guide to networking. I say 'bite-sized' because unfortunately too many people envision the very word, 'networking,' as if it were capitalized and trailed by incipient storm clouds. Many people think of networking as this terrifying and distasteful process. They feel dirty...and not in the "Damn, where are my clothes and I need to get home, but wait, what city is this?" kind of way. Alas.

 Alas, because once you see how easy networking really is, it's fun. It's basic. It's easy. I promise. The essence, after all, of networking, is human interaction. Networking is biology. You’re already networking all the time, you probably just aren't aware of that fact, so you don’t take it as far as you could. But what if you saw networking as just another human activity?
Instead of thinking of networking as begging for favors, take a deep breath (or...have a coffee, light a cigarette, watch Kate Upton do her cat dance... whatever, I'm not here to judge.), and consider that, at heart, all networking really amounts to, is making an emotional connection with another human. You think I'm bringing up emotions because I have a vagina, but no. Human beings are by definition emotional. We act on our emotions, eat on them and especially pray on how could emotions not drive whom you interact with in order to accomplish some goal?

And here's the thing: emotional does not have to mean anything truly substantial. This isn't your 7th grade crush. If you get your coffee every day, for example, at the same shop, and the barista starts to recognize you, starts to know how you like your coffee, maybe he or she starts having the coffee ready for you at the usual time, and so, you begin saving  some time in the morning. You get your coffee a little faster. Maybe, hopefully, you give the barista a better tip and a smile...that's all the emotion you need.  Not a very deep emotional connection, but it’s there. Maybe you know each other’s names, you smile, you joke around a bit. 

So, on a "slightly" bigger scale: lets say you’re looking for a better job in a different industry. How to begin?
You could think about what industry you'd like to transition to, and then make a list of the skills, education, and experiences you already have, which would be conducive to moving into this new industry. This will help you get organized and begin the process of figuring out what you need to know. Then, just to have someplace definite to start, you could go through your friends on Facebook, to see whom, if anyone, you know who is working either in that particular industry or in a related industry. 

You’re going to start with your friends on Facebook, because these people are more likely to help you, you have that emotional connection with them. Maybe you went to school or camp with them, grew up near them...whatever, they have some kind of connection with you. Now before you roll your eyes and return to, I promise you: you are going to be pleasantly surprised. Even if you only have one or two connections in your chosen industry...that's enough to get started. If handled intelligently, those one or two connections will lead to more.

Some of you are already initiating the freak-out sequence and frantically texting me all the various and convoluted reasons why this scenario won't work, and you'll fail, and end up with four first names, growing beets in some cult in Montana...whoa. You’re only trying to establish contact with these people. You are trying to get a conversation started. Even if you went to Vassar, I refuse to believe you cannot have a dialogue. Keep it "bite-sized." DO NOT think of this future eventuality as: "I have to impress this person, so she can get me that job which will solve all my problems and fix my life and give me something to brag about on The Facebook." Um, no. Kind of a pressure-cooker, no? Instead, Sunshine, just think about these connections and the future conversations as a way to gain more useful information about the industry or opportunities you’re interested in. Keep it “bite-sized.”

So now, you could start reaching out to these people, take them out to coffee for example. And guess what: you’re networking. Tah-dah! It’s that simple. Ok, not all of them will help you…but some will—if you pay for coffee, and are nicely groomed and have done your research and have intelligent questions to ask.  If you’ve done your home work and know what you’re talking about and are presentable,some of those connections  will likely suggest friends and colleagues of their own, whom you can contact and look at you: networking like a champ…mazel tov! (...sunrise...sunset!)

Just don’t forget to afterwards send out hand-written thank you notes. 

 If you think of networking, or really anything you need to accomplish, as a series of small, realistic,
“bite-sized” acts, and then you start with one small, realistic act… you probably are going to be very surprised by what you’re able to accomplish.

Want some more ideas on how to keep things "bite-sized" and thus manageable? Email me @!

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