Research shows that talking to strangers -- not people in your comfort zone -- is the single most powerful key to a creative career and business move. Yet many people resist. Sometimes they don't understand the concept of networking. At other times, they set impossible goals. Here are some guidelines for network for your second career, home or life.
Create your own supporting CAST
C= Cover Story. When you're a midlife, mid-career transitioner, you can't come across like an eager-beaver, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed newbie. You may not be comfortable calling to say, "I'm thinking of becoming a certified beach blanket analyst. Can we talk?" Decide whether you're seeking information, clients or both, and plan a positive opening that presents you as a fellow professional, not a beggar.
A = Action. Begin anywhere! Talk to people -- even those who seem unrelated to your dream. As you talk, you'll hear yourself refining your goal and moving to truth. Start with the nicest, friendliest sources you know and ask them for referrals.
S= Slow. It takes awhile to build a network. Begin before you need one, if at all possible. If you're starting from scratch, don't rush. Desperation drives away your best resources.
T = Target. Network to those who can help, not necessarily those easiest to find. Sitting at a table with eight potential clients gets you started -- but choose a networking event with eight referral sources and you'll move faster. Talking to ten sales assistants probably won't help you learn how managers hire sales people.
"No way -- not me!"
When you truly resist networking, we have to consider that:you're not sufficiently excited about the goal to generate momentum.
You're happily settled in a comfort zone and need an anti-gravity rocket to pull away.
You'd rather be boiled in oil than call and mingle.
You have unique challenges about the way you come across: you're too much of a maverick or too "different" to be effective
You're exhausted just thinking about it.
I won't ask you to become a new person, although I encourage responsible risk-taking and experimenting with new behavioral styles.
It IS true that the greatest rewards will go to those who can work a crowd effectively. My former colleague "Xavier" could give a twenty-minute talk and come away with at least three free-spending clients.
However, you can create an unconventional plan that builds on your strengths and allows you have to connect with strangers. You might take or teach a class, join an organization, promote your website aggressively and more. Your progress may be slower than your friend the networkinag champ -- but if you persevere you can reach your own goal without sacrificing your own sense of self.
About The Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.
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