Benign to Five on networking
I find the idea of wandering up to a small gathering of strangers and nodding earnestly as one member of the group acts as an industry trends soothsayer or as a 1990s-style spruiker outside the front of a shop that sells his or her own professional acumen about as desirable as warm tomato juice.
I don’t like it mainly because I can’t do it. I avoid networking at all costs. And when I’m forced to partake, I attend the venue, but rarely if ever engage in the expected mingling. Instead, I look at my phone. Sometimes I read Twitter. Sometimes I make amusing updates to the Haught Facebook page. In this instance, I fired up Google Docs and managed to type out an entire 280 words of hilarity over the space of what would have been an excruciating hour and a half of pretending not to be a social misfit.
Do try it.
Every moment in your professional life is a networking opportunity.
If you don’t manacle that philosophy to your wrist, then hold it close to you from dusk until dawn and whisper its name as you drift off to sleep, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.
Humans, above all, are creatures of commerce. We implicitly understand other humans’ desire to sell and ingratiate themselves; we are naturally predisposed to talking at length about other people’s minor work accomplishments. For this reason, when it comes to networking, erring on the side of conservatism is a terrible policy.
See a luminary at a business breakfast but have a marmalade-slathered chunk of toast in your mouth? Don’t hold back; she’s almost certainly been spattered with orange zest and partly masticated rye in the name of a business-card exchange before.
Want to talk about your recent consumer incentivisation success to a senior colleague at a company gathering but worry that he’s in deep, anxious discussion with the managing director? Butt in! They’ll thank you for changing the subject and lightening the mood.
Recognise the shoes of an industry bigwig sitting in the lavatory cubicle next to you? Give a light knock on the wall and go straight into your A-grade lift pitch. (Don’t wait for an answer.)
Stumbled upon the CEO and the new girl making whoopee in a broom closet at a Christmas party? As long as you carefully maintain unwavering eye contact, you can feel comfortable telling him about your unit’s productivity gains.
Be bold, be forward, be obnoxious. There’s no such thing as the wrong time to network.
This article originally appeared in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. You can read the latest column every Saturday in the MyCareer section.
Haught fact of the day
‘To make whoopee’ is an old fashioned verb meaning ‘to do sex with’.