"Bodacious" means to be bold, outstanding, and remarkable. Take those attributes to work and you're on your way to building a fulfilling, bodacious career. Does having a bodacious career sound exciting to you? It is! After starting as an $8 an hour customer service rep, I rose through the ranks of AOL, accepting four promotions and surviving over six layoffs to become the head of corporate training for 12,000 employees. Along the way I learned I needed to be bodacious to achieve the career I wanted. Out of that experience I created my "cheat sheet" of ten essential Bodacious Career Builders.
Here's number three: Take the Work Out of Networking
Networking. I find that women either love it or hate it. When they love it, they truly enjoy meeting others and are great at it. When they hate it, they'd rather go get a mammogram. At least in that situation, no one expects you to do more than stand there. Knowing how to network well can make or break your career.
I'm not keen on the term "networking". The problem is the word "work". How many times do you walk into a room full of people expecting to leave with actual work in hand such as a signed contract? It doesn't happen! Because before someone signs their name or hands over a check, there's lots of getting to understand each other, lots of exchange, and making a connection.
So, I say we rename "networking" to "netconnecting". Meeting and getting to know new people is about gathering - netting - several good connections. Once you've connected, sharing business cards is simply the convenience of not having to write down their contact information on a napkin.
Today, people who know me have a very hard time believing I was very shy as a little girl. One time in first grade, my mouth was shut for so long, my lips dried together! Seriously. I remember prying them open. (Anyone who knows me now realizes this will not be happening again anytime soon!)
When I left for college, I was ready to leave home but I was a bit intimidated about meeting lots of people. It wasn't until I had to make small talk with college girl after college girl at sorority "rush" parties that I became comfortable with talking to people I didn't know. There's something to be said for diving in to overcome your fear and discomfort.
What I learned from these early networking experiences is that I made it much more work than it had to be. In fact, it was easier than I thought once I realized something so obvious: People love to talk about themselves, especially when they're nervous! What better thing to do than to ask them about the topic they know best?
The key to netconnecting is having a few easy, open-ended questions to get started. Something as simple as, "Hi, I'm Mary. Tell me, how do you stay out of trouble during the day?" (Notice I used a humorous way to replace the tired old question, "What do you do?" Humor is a great way to break the ice and put people at ease.) At that point, all you have to do is listen. Often the person will provide information that prompts you to say something like, "That's interesting, tell me more."
The best part is they feel good about you because you made them feel good about themselves!
At some point you need to share about yourself. The good news is that by this point the ice has melted and you are both comfortable. Simply share a few, succinct things that you'd like the other person to remember. For example, what I often say is "I enterain, enlighten and inspire busy women to increase sanity in their lives and confidence in their careers - all while having a bit of fun!" That usually cracks a smile and gets them curious. At that point, I usually get a question or response that launches the conversation into a direction they're interested in. I'm always ready to talk more about my background or the products and services I offer. Most of all, I've created a connection. And, you can, too!
BODACIOUS CAREER BUILDER TIP: Develop a few simple, open-ended questions to start conversations to get new people talking about the subject they know best - themselves!