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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

C-C-C-C-Confidence!

In behavior, books, business, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on May 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Skyhammer & Airlift Mini-Con  Power Core Combi...

That's what I'm talking about!!Image by Rodimuspower via Flickr

Can we get anything done without it?

Yet, and yet and yet, I have entire days I think I just can’t: make that call, send that email, ask that favor, knock on that door or send that resume.

People have told me for decades how confident I appear, and the operative word might be appear, for there are too many days I feel like some medieval warrior girding her loins before even picking up the phone or sending out an email.

As someone with no steady income, salary or pension down the line, I’m in lioness mode: I eat only what I catch and kill. That means having to hustle for clients every day, whether reaching out to former or current ones or finding and cultivating new ones.

Either way, it means a lot of people contact and no guarantee of the outcome.

Which, if I fail, means — I’m broke!

No pressure.

I can blame my reticence on a few things:

– I’ve been canned from a few jobs, which has permanently dented my sense of likability, no matter how businesslike a layoff can be

– I was badly bullied in high school for three years by a small gang of boys

– I spent ages 5 to 30 in Canada, a country that has no tolerance for self-promotion or boasting then moved to the U.S., a place with a population 10 times larger, competing with some mighty sharp elbows. Time to man up!

– I faced a tough crowd in my own family, people who often found much to criticize and little to praise

But without a cheery demeanor and the conviction you have something worthwhile to offer, it’s tough to get out there and ask for what you want, whether a job referral, grant recommendation or help with a new project.

I had recently reached out to two people, one an old friend who didn’t call back for weeks and one a new contact whose initial voicemail sounded fairly frosty. So it was with a heavy heart I called both of them back.

Both were delighted to hear from me. Both had lost my phone number and wanted to hear my ideas.

If I hadn’t had the confidence to reach out again, I would have lost out on some cool opportunities.

Do you ever feel lily-livered?

How do you get past it?

How (not) to network: Smile, listen, less small talk!

In behavior, business on March 22, 2010 at 11:24 am
Name Tags!

Image by freakapotimus via Flickr

I’ve just registered for the annual conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, April 24-25, on whose board I serve; if you’re an ambitious writer, it’s well worth the effort and cost to get to Manhattan for it.

I’m looking forward to catching up with dear friends: Greg from Minnesota, Lisa from Maryland and Randy from San Diego, who found me the best researcher to help me with my book. I’ll also meet many new-to-me people.

They’re great places to make a ton of new and incredibly useful contacts, but a conference can make your stomach hurt with social anxiety: all those people you don’t know, some of them terrible blowhards, some at a totally different level professionally, some vampires.

How to sort them all out?

From Bnet.com, a British business-focused website:

  • Question 1: “What do you do?” This is a neutral start. It allows people to talk about their favourite subject: themselves. The pompous types tend to give the game away immediately. They do not tell me what they do: they tell me how important they are by saying that they are a Senior/Executive Vice President or Director at MegaBucks. Interesting people tell me what they actually do. Whatever people actually do, be it cleaning toilets, pawn broking or exploring the Antarctic, they have interesting stories to tell.  The more they talk, the more I learn.
  • Question 2 — For the pompous types who failed Question 1: “So what is it you actually do in that role?” Some people make a miraculous recovery and become interesting again. Many others tell me more about how important they are. They meet important people (name drop), travel (place drop) and have big budgets and, by implication, big d***ks. For these people, I have to resort to the killer question.
  • Question 3: “So do you enjoy your job?” Anyone who has answered question 1 well, will already be exuding enthusiasm and passion for what they do. There is no need to ask them this question. The pompous types have never even thought of this question. They are so focused on being important, that nothing else matters. If question 2 makes them stop and think, question 3 creates total mental meltdown. It is a joy to watch.
  • From The New York Times:

    It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.

    “We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ — as long as you surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy,” Dr. Mehl said.

    But, he proposed, substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

    I recently attended an event in Manhattan for writers held by mediabistro.com, and met three people I found fun, interesting and potentially helpful future contacts: a fellow memoirist, someone writing a lot for on-line sites and an author with a book whose subject I found fascinating. I was surprised the author didn’t bother to follow up — I offered to write about her here (hello, free publicity!) — but it happens.

    If you do meet someone you enjoy, don’t lose touch. My trick is writing down, right away, when and where I met that person on the business card they give me. I used to wear myself out saying hello to so many people. Now I try to have a few, deeper conversations. I enjoy it much more and come away less exhausted.

    The worst, exemplified in this funny video, also British, (who love to skewer the pompous), from YouTube:

    S/he looks constantly over your shoulder looking for next, better blood supply; can’t be bothered remembering your name; talks only about himself and peels away at the first opportunity to the Much More Important contact across the room. Don’t be that person!

    Do conferences work well for you? Any tips on how to make the best use of our time there?

    When Is Help Worth Paying For? The Creatives' Dilemma

    In business on December 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm
    A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London

    Pick it, but for a price...Image via Wikipedia

    Correct me, please, if I am wrong, but I suspect that engineers or dentists or plumbers or dry-cleaners, when meeting someone socially, don’t get: “Oh, can I ask your advice?” Do you actually show a DDS your molars or point to a stubborn spot on your sleeve? I doubt it. It would be weird and rude and intrusive.

    Writers do get this question. All the time. Maybe because, y’know, it’s just writing.

    People email me, and perhaps also to many others, out of the blue to “pick my brain” as though that were an activity I might enjoy and find satisfying. Yes, it’s flattering that people think you have something useful to offer them. Sure, one works hard to acquire some level of visibility and credibility. But I’m not emailing random Big Name Person to ask them for their help, free. I know it took them years of hard work and experience, perhaps costly travel and education and internships and apprenticeships, to acquire the very knowledge I wish I had. Why should they just hand it over to me gratis?

    I also studied interior design for a few years, planning to leave journalism for that field. One of our classes was  focused on the legal issues designers face. Like being sued. We were warned, in all seriousness, not to hand out advice on anything too substantive lest the suggested curtains catch on fire or someone slips on that sisal or their kid got caught their thumb caught in the Knole sofa and they’d come after us for it. I also liked the basic message — we were experts and would bill for that time and expertise. Clients will ask for anything they think can get away with.

    I’ve spent many years mentoring, helping, advising dozens of strangers, free. Not so much any more. I plan to retire and in order to do so need to retain control of my time, which, in addition to my skills, is all I have to offer in the intellectual marketplace.

    Here’s the challenge. I’ve already committed to serve on two volunteer boards, for several years, that take up a fair bit of unpaid time and attention. I enjoy giving back.

    If you’re someone who really likes to help others succeed, as I genuinely do, and you like to be liked, as many of us do, yet you must carve out a decent freelance income from your well-developed, otherwise uncompensated skills, when and where do you draw that line?

    Do you think, or find, that women have a harder time saying “no” to such requests? Do you feel any hesitation asking such questions?

    Life In A Virtual Newsroom

    In business, Media on October 13, 2009 at 10:21 am
    Newsroom panorama

    Image by victoriapeckham via Flickr

    Losing a journalism job can also mean losing easy access to a pool of smart, talented, helpful colleagues whose work you know and whose judgment you trust. That’s a serious loss. While every newsroom and office has its share of divas, it’s a rare one that doesn’t also offer a few helpful veterans. Wandering across the room, even into another department, to get a phone number, brainstorm a feature or just share a joke is something I miss terribly. Freelancers are typically helpful to one another, but times right now are very tough and many people are keeping their cards much closer to their vest.

    TrueSlant has become my virtual newsroom. Yesterday morning I got an email from PJ Tobia in Kabul pointing me (thanks!) to a fun story — and I alerted another T/Ser to a Manhattan event that might help promote his new book. I haven’t met either of them face to face, nor did I know them before arriving here, but I’ve read and enjoyed their work here. I’ve been chatting via email with a dozen T/S fellow contributors who range in age from 20s to 70s, all across the U.S. Thanks to T/S, I’ve talked via email to new colleagues in Hong Kong and Kabul, two places I’ve yet to visit and am deeply curious about.

    I also get a kick out of the exchanges, however tart, that happen within an intergenerational community that (dinosaur alert) even includes the niece of one of my former Globe and Mail colleagues. My sweetie works at a newspaper where daily newsroom tensions can run very high between the 20 or 30-year veterans and the young ‘uns who are sometimes shockingly arrogant, dismissive of the Pulitzer-winning work some of their bosses produced before they were born. It’s easier to listen to someone 20 years younger — or older — when they’re not shouting at you on deadline or sneering at how you perceive and produce content.

    T/S is a virtual newsroom like no physical workplace I’ve yet seen: culturally and racially diverse, undergrads to senior citizens, physicians, policy wonks, techno-geeks. No newsroom anywhere would, or could, hire all of us. It should be one hell of a holiday party!

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