Networking is NOT a Bad Word (Part II)
He basically called me boring! True story! I got some pretty tough, but well deserved, feedback during my internship days and it has served me well throughout my career.
I’ll come back to my boringness 😉 later, but for now let’s recap post 1 on networking. We established that leaders tend to feel more comfortable hiring someone who they’re familiar with because every decision can cost them time, money, and credibility. Thus, by networking to highlight your accomplishments and contributions, you are simply helping your organization be aware of your strengths and where else you might add value. Permission granted to proudly, and appropriately, share your work. Next, the question is: how do you actually get on the radar of your leaders?
Do Everything with Excellence
Do not despise the day of small beginnings.
A few years back, I was working in a role that I initially wasn’t all that excited about because I really wanted to work in brand marketing. My very wise manager encouraged me to treat one of my projects as a marketing project, which I could then use as an example when interviewing for my next role. (Shout out to brilliant leaders who can inspire their teams when they’re going through a rough patch.) I took his advice and transformed an important piece of our curriculum. There were many components to the transformation, but 1 project was a real hit and it landed on the desk of a very senior person in our Human Resources Organization. Believe it or not, as a result, this person has been a mentor to me for 5 years and was integral to my move to Singapore.
There is a Bible verse I love, which says “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” It means that if you don't spend your time belittling your situation, you can find greatness right where you are. I could have become bitter and disengaged in that role, but I chose to reframe it as an opportunity to learn and grow. How about for you? If you’re experiencing a delay in your career, how can you reframe it? Maybe the delay is refining your character. Maybe it is testing your patience. Maybe you need to be there to support someone else. I talk to many people who feel that they’ve been passed up for jobs or that they’re not getting noticed. I am sure this is true in many cases but let me ask you a question. In addition to simply getting your work done, are you innovating, are you transforming what you touch, are you leaving it better than you found it? If not, that’s a great place to start. If you are, wonderful! Let’s talk about how to make sure the right people are aware.
Ask for the Meeting
I think there’s something special about you! The only problem is you don’t think there is, so you don’t take the shot.
You might be saying, “Elisa, that’s all good and well, but I do great work, and no one ever notices it”. Fair enough! Perhaps no one is noticing because they don’t know that you have further interests. Here’s another approach you can try: Ask for the meeting! I once was in a marketing meeting and they brought in a senior leader to speak on the future of health care. At the end of the presentation, I asked a question because it was something I was really passionate about. I followed up with an email to the presenter stating my interest in this space and requested a meeting. He, similarly, became a mentor to me and requested to have me work on a special assignment. If you’re keeping track, I am 2 for 2 here. Is there something special about me? Maybe! But I think there’s something special about you too! The only problem is you don’t think there is, so you don’t take the shot! Leaders are looking for engaging, dynamic people who are solution oriented. Your opinion needn’t always be right or rocket science, but if you’re passionate and well versed in the topic, they want to hear it. Please take this in the right spirit. No one wants to be around the know it all. Make sure you’re humble and that you are listening and learning before speaking up.
Don't Be Boring
Some people are interesting and others are interested.
On that note, I promised that I’d come back to this story. I was a 19-year-old intern and was chatting with a leader about how to be a successful sales representative. He said he thought I’d do a good job, but basically called me boring! Well, his precise words were, “Some people are interesting, and others are interested. I think you’ll have a problem being interesting.” Shock, horror, it was true. Interesting meaning that you need to be someone with whom customers and colleagues want to talk. Interested meaning that you should be intellectually curious and care about them as individuals. For many years, this was my problem. I felt so insecure that I was more focused on not putting my foot in my mouth and I wouldn’t speak up. This cost me several opportunities. Surely, there’s a time for both silence and speaking, but I had gone to the other extreme. Moral of the story… be interesting!
To me, being interesting has 2 components: be interesting as a professional and as a person. When it comes to your profession, you should have a point of view. You should be a critical thinker and be solution oriented rather than only doing the bare minimum. I read a lot, listen to podcasts, and exchange ideas with friends in other industries. This helps me stay on top of my game and bring new ideas and ways of working to the office. In this way, you’ll have interesting topics with which to engage others. I'll take this opportunity to remind you that the world doesn’t revolve around me or you. Your manager is also trying to prove themselves to their leadership. If you’re contributing new ideas and helping to improve culture, you’re benefiting them and your teammates.
In addition, on the personal front, I can promise you that your peers and leaders want to be around people that are energetic and optimistic. I try to find ways to infuse fun and humor into the teams I work on. For example, when I started eating healthy and juicing, I made fresh juice for our department meeting. When my teammates walked in the room and smelled the fresh lemon and ginger, their faces lit up. I also like to find ways to shine a spotlight on others. For one meeting, I asked some of my musically inclined peers to bring in their instruments, which resulted in a big impromptu sing along. In your case, maybe you’re an avid reader or a health expert. You could host a book club or a morning workout. As a leader, whether it’s in your title or you’re aspiring to be one, part of your job is to create a healthy, collaborative environment. That, more than anything, has a lasting impact. Shine bright and shine the light on others, darling!
We Need You
I can hear you saying, “No one wants to hear from me. My co-workers are going to hate on me if I do too much”. I struggle with those same concerns and doubts, too, but I want to remind you that you are uniquely special and there’s no one else like you on the planet! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the world is in a heap of trouble. To thrive, your organization desperately needs your contributions and whatever is cooking up in that beautiful mind of yours. Get out there and let your peers and leaders know what you’re up to. Networking is not a bad word, friends!
Cheering you on to greatness!
PS Let me know which of these approaches you'll try next or if you have other tips to share!
PPS I could have written a Part III on networking, but I'll save it for some time in the future. Let me know if you'd like more tips!