Transforming Talk at Work | September 2015


Dear Reader,

Judy called me just after getting the news that she didn’t get a promotion she’d been interviewing for. Instead, the job went to her colleague, Nikki.

“I don’t get it. I understand the challenges our division is facing and I have some great ideas about how we can make effective changes. Plus, I know the technology challenges inside and out,” she bemoaned. “I don’t think Nikki does. . . . I would have been perfect for that role.”

“What’s different about the two of you?” I ask.

“On paper, we stack up about the same. Well, actually, I think I stand out on paper. I’ve been with the company longer than she has and I have a Master’s degree.”

“And off paper?” I probe gently.

“Well, she knows a lot more people than I do. She’s on the planning committee of our women’s leadership initiative and everyone seems to know who she is. That shouldn’t matter, though, should it? I mean, shouldn’t the person with the best qualifications get the job?”

“Consider that having a broad network is part of the qualifications for the role,” I explain. “When people know who you are and what you do, it’s easier to get work done. Especially in a large organization like yours. Someone who has connections all across the company has access to people and resources that those without connections do not. She can pick up the phone or send a text and get an answer to a problem, or at least get one giant step closer to an answer.”

“I guess I wish we were living in a meritocracy where we were rewarded for what we know,” replied Judy, “but clearly we are not.” She paused thoughtfully. “Okay, how do I get better at this whole networking thing? Clearly it is holding me back.”

I advised Judy to begin building her network with a “pay it forward” approach, offering to help connect others to people and resources they might need. Using this approach, Judy will broker many helpful interactions – making introductions, sharing resources and being generally helpful. In doing so, she will create solid foundations in her new relationships. She will not only become more well-known in her organization and her industry, she will be known for being resourceful.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build a reputation as someone who is well connected and helpful. As the relationships develop, Judy will then be able to ask for an introduction to the hiring manager for that next promotion . . . well before the position is posted.

The next time you wish you had access to people or resources that feel out of reach, follow the steps below to grow your network and get a few steps closer to what you want.


Reverse Engineer: Build a Better Network

1. Identify your assets. What or whom do you know that can help other people? Being ready to help others first will go a long way toward building a solid relationship.
2. Get clear about what you want. What do you want to learn, do or achieve? Whether it is a career or personal goal, get crystal clear about your objective.
3. Identify the people who could help you get what you want. You can identify them generally (Chief Marketing Officer of a technology company) or specifically (Sue Smith, CMO at ABC Corp.).
4. Meet people either at events or through LinkedIn. Friends of friends is a good place to start.
5. Be of service. Share the assets you identified in Step 1. Give, give, and give some more. In doing so, you are creating a solid foundation for the relationship.
6. When the time is right (you’ll know), ask. Ask for an introduction, a resource, a specific piece of information.


Digest This: Creating Stronger Networks

The Networking Recipe for Success (Forbes)
Grab a wing-woman or wing-man and head out to a networking event. But don’t expect to close any deals. Find out why making a new friend should be your main intent when you are out and about growing your network.

99% of Networking is a Waste of Time (Harvard Business Review)
“Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people,” says Rich Stromback, otherwise known as “Mr. Davos” for the massive network he has cultivated at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Stromback dishes unconventional wisdom about how to make the most of the 1% of networking that does matter, so that you can make connections that matter most.

The Three People Who Matter Most in Your Network (Fast Company)
Find out what the most strategic type of connections are in building your network. For some people, being “strategic” when building relationships feels insincere. This article sets the record straight and shows how you can be both strategic and nurturing in the same turn.


My Treat: Quick Tips on Effective Networking

Even if networking is not your idea of a great time, there are some strategies that can make it easier. This very short video (just over a minute), offers three strategies to make it simple and smooth.


Hope to see you at a networking event soon,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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