Hello SOTGC community,
There are endless things to network for, and venues in which to do it. Women are amazing resources for everything from career and business connections, apps that will make your life more efficient, to the latest and greatest skin care products. Networking can be done in a boardroom, at cocktail parties, or in the salon. Just remember that if it’s for your career or business, everyone around you could be THE person you need to be speaking with and getting to know.
So what is “passive networking” you ask? Well to some people, it’s just plain curiosity. Next time you’re on a plane and an opportunity presents itself, try starting a conversation with your neighbor (if they seem nice and pleasant, of course). Or, when you’re out shopping, try striking up a conversation with the person near you. One of the easiest, and most authentic-feeling ways to passively network is in social gatherings where there are always “friends of friends” who attend (you, perhaps being one of them).
It never hurts to learn about what the people around you do for a living or are working on in their spare time. Also share with them what you do, even if they are in another industry or have a job that you don’t understand. Everyone loves talking about what they do—unless they’re secret agents of course; then they probably won’t give you the real deal if that’s what they do for a living. But in general, people love talking about themselves. Some of the best connections I’ve made, both for SOTGC and my career in the medical device industry, have been through starting a random conversation with a stranger near me.
Passive networking is simply being friendly, being curious and interested in what the people around you do, and exchanging contact information or a business card with them if you want to stay in touch.Now some of you may not understand why you’d spend that much time networking for your business or your career when you’re not directly talking to a person who could bring or refer you business. Or you may think the most important person in the room to try to speak with is the person with the biggest and most impressive title. But you would most likely be wrong.
Remember that you NEVER know whom the person you’re talking to knows and, if after speaking with and being impressed by you, could introduce you to. For instance, I was at a networking/book signing function a few years back and while everyone else was standing in line waiting for their book to be signed by the author, I was hanging out at the buffet table. While deciding what delicious things I was going to sample, I made an off-handed comment/joke about the amount of cheese in front of us, which started up a conversation with the woman standing next to me. It turns out that she was the second in command to the CEO at a mid-size company in Silicon Valley, and her boss was one of the women featured in the book everyone was getting signed. She invited me to her boss’ private garden party/book singing party the next night. That lady and I have stayed in touch over the years and it’s been great to catch up when we can, buthad I kept to myself or gone after the “head cheese in the room” I wouldn’t have ended up at that garden party the next night with some very influential and interesting women in the tech community.
So, for those of you who want to start this “passive networking” but are not sure how to do it, here are some great openers and situations with which to use them.
At work: compliments (if given in a heartfelt and honest manner) are always well received. Try complimenting someone on her accessories or hairstyle next time you’re in your company elevator or common area and see where the conversation goes.
On a plane if they’re working on something: “That looks interesting, what do you do?” If they’re truly working on a deadline you’ll be able to tell really quickly that they are busy and don’t want to talk. But often times people who travel for work a lot are just killing time on yet another flight … and would happily have an interesting conversation and save the work for the hotel bar when they’re eating dinner or in the lounge during their connector flight.
At a formal or informal networking function and you don’t know a lot of people: I like to hang out by the food. You can ALWAYS find something to talk about around food and it’s a great icebreaker that can lead to some really interesting conversations and great connections.
Stay tuned for the next post on The Art of Networking …