I know I write a lot of posts about networking, but I have a good reason- I royally suck at it. I go to these networking events and end up hanging out by the free alcohol, which you would think would grease the wheels a little, but it totally doesn’t. All that happens when I drink is I believe I’m a criminal mastermind who absolutely MUST engineer a mustard bottle heist (while maniacally giggling) and I (badly) lip sync to every song whether I know the words or not. Oh and I’ll probably tell you this one story about dancing on hay bales just so I can do the hay bale dance. These things are mildly entertaining (at least to me), but they don’t make a good networking strategy. So, I’m always striving to be a better networker- reading books, articles, and painfully slowly trying things out.
One thing I read that really struck me is that we’re always networking whether we realize it or not. Just interacting with people is networking. How your present yourself on a day-to-day basis is so important and so often forgotten. I know I forgot it for a very long time. I don’t mean how you dress or anything. I mean just being the type of person you would want to work with. You know that saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Well, be the type of person you would want to help out. No one is saying you have to be super freaky happy all the time or a constant damsel in distress. Then people just start to think you have a drug problem or are trying to convert them to your religion. A guy at my old job was super freaky happy all the time. Turned out he was stealing things out of people’s lunches. Be genuinely you, because you’re awesome. Being genuine, helpful, and hard-working- and not stealing from the fridge- go a very long way.
I think we all know people who are extremely good at what they do. Sometimes those people are nice, flexible and it’s a joy to work with them. Sometimes they are anything but those things and you’d rather jab your eardrums with a rusty nail then work with them. Now let’s say you are in a position to help someone career-wise who are you going to help? Fun and Flexible or Eardrum Jabber? Even if their skills weren’t quite as good as Eardrum Jabber, we’d all probably rather help out Fun and Flexible.
We can’t just wait until we’re ready to make some kind of change to decide, “Oh, okay, I think I’ll stop being a jerk now that I need help from people.” If you are going to be a jerk, then own that, but realize you’re probably going to go it alone. Some people prefer that and it really isn’t a big deal to them. For me, though, I’ve found that it’s a much easier road if you’ve got some people who genuinely want to help you out.
Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to be happy when good things happen for you. People are going to try to undermine you and some people you’ll be friendly with just because it’s better then being their enemy. But they’re the exceptions. Most people are nice and kind and want to help others out just because it feels great to help people.
One of my favorite quotes is from Conan O’Brien. “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Now enjoy this unrelated musical interlude from The Beastie Boys. I’ll be over here doing my hay bale dance.