How to dramatically increase your networking opportunities by making one minor change.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
I was riding my bike this morning. I came up to an intersection to make a left turn. I pulled into the middle of the intersection, just like someone in a car would. As the traffic went rushing by on both sides, I started to feel a little exposed. Okay, maybe more than a little exposed. What if someone wasn’t paying attention? What if they cut someone off while changing lanes – causing someone to swerve uncontrollably into the middle of the intersection? And what if that car came careening toward me? What then?
See, when I ride my bike, I just assume the drivers are paying attention. I assume they’re not talking on the phone, texting or yelling at their kids in the back seat. I assume they’re paying as much attention to the road as I am.
And therein lies the error of my ways.
But this got me thinking about how much we pay attention in life.
When I sit in Executives Network meetings, I usually assume people are paying attention. I assume they’re paying just as much attention to the meeting as I am. I assume they’re paying just as much attention to others as they want others to pay attention to them. But now I’m thinking I couldn’t be more wrong.
Because I continually watch people not pay attention. These people are very easy to spot. I even saw one guy playing solitaire on his Blackberry during the meeting. You know what? If our meeting is going to interrupt your solitaire game, please, by all means, do us all a favor and don’t come. But here’s what this guy will never know. He’ll never know how rude I think he is. He’ll never know how much I have no interest in helping him. Because I’m afraid if I give him a networking contact, he’ll show up at the meeting and play solitaire. I can’t take the chance. Even if I’m wrong, I just can’t take the chance.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next person of not always giving everything my undivided attention. But, if you want to get good at networking, at connecting, at identifying opportunities, you need to start paying attention more closely. You need to start paying attention to the people you meet at networking functions. To the people you meet on airplanes. To the people you meet standing in line. You need to be incredibly interested in their career, their family, their life, their story. You need to listen attentively. And through listening, you’ll be able to identify some opportunities. It might be an opportunity for you, or it could be a chance to help out a friend, business associate or acquaintance.
What if we just stopped what we’re doing, and started paying attention?
Opportunity is all around us. But what if the biggest opportunity of all is simply paying attention? Because without that, it’s really difficult to figure out how to leverage an opportunity you let fly right by.
And speaking of flying right by, next time you see someone riding their bike, take the opportunity to make an extra effort to pay attention to the road, the other drivers and their safety. They’ll appreciate it more than you know!