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July 09, 2008

A Card Carrying Networker

-sculptures at Simon Fraser University (and nowhere to put their cards)

I speed-read that book that Darcy Rezac, managing director for the Vancouver Board of Trade, wrote quite a few years ago now. It's called The Frog and the Prince: The Secrets of Positive Networking.

The most significant piece of advice in it for me was the suggestion to think of networking as a way to ask yourself what you can do for someone else. If you think of it that way then you're just being gracious. It's about them, not about you. You're not selling anything. You're just trying to figure out how to help someone else.

Although, I did wonder when I read that line what would I be able to do for Jimmy Pattison? And, how might he respond to that question if I ever was in a position to ask it? I tried to imagine myself asking it. Now, Jimmy, before I go, is there anything at all that I can do for you? What would his answer be?

Take his photo? Wash his car? Shine his shoes? Wax his really big boat? I don't know. I'm sure there would be something! (If you're not from Vancouver Jimmy Pattison is a Vancouver businessman that everyone who lives in Vancouver would be familiar with even if perhaps you just said "Jimmy"). Yes, Vancouver is too small. It's another reason to be nicer and to network more, or less, depending on how nice or not nice you are.

The book is full of great tips. Never, ever, ever leave your house without your business cards. (Well, maybe if you're going swimming - or to the washroom as we Canadians like to call it - it's okay!)

But, first you must actually have cards in order to not leave home without them. It doesn't matter who you are, he says have a card. It doesn't matter if you're unemployed or if you're a housewife or a stay-at-home dad, have a card. If you're retired, have a card.

What if you're a street person? Imagine if a street person handed you their card instead of asking for money? (Of course he didn't say that in the book! It's just my warped mind conjuring up that image.)

Think of your card as Chinese take-out with your name on it. Less greasy. (He didn't say that either. I did). It's an exchange of information that's portable. It's not about what you do. It's just a way to remind someone of who you are when they get home and two days later think, damn, I can't remember the name of that person.

Make sure your cards are designed in such a way that the text is readable in low light and the paper isn't flimsy so that if you're passing them out at a conference, (or a bar) and the lighting is poor, they'll still be readable, especially after a few drinks. (Just kidding!)

Treat everyone you meet as an equal. The weak links in your network - friends of friends - are actually the most significant links in making connections that can lead to work. Apparently this has been proven.

Try and attend one function per week and force yourself to speak to 7 people at that function that you've never met. Don't walk away from them without giving them your card. Ask for their card in return if they don't offer it.

So, here's an example of why what he says (like so many things in life) must actually be put into practice.

Today, I was having a coffee, passing time before a meeting. This woman sitting at the window a few feet away from me had just finished her lunch. I look over at her. We start a conversation. She's from Melbourne. She is a business analyst with some sort of insurance company. She's here with all sorts of other people who work at different branches of this international company. They are being hosted at the Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver as a treat for doing such a great job. Why have I never worked somewhere like that I think to myself. Let's not go there is my answer.

She tells me that she's a bit nervous because she's recently separated from her partner/husband so she's the only one at this thing that isn't with her spouse and she hopes that will be okay. My first thought was, Who are these people? How is it that they're all still married? I refrain from saying that. I say that it will be fine. If they're all with their spouses, why wouldn't they want to talk to someone they've never met? She laughed.

Then, I thought to myself, if I was really following Rezac's advice, I would have had my cards on me. I would have handed her one. I would have asked for one of hers.

She told me she was in town for four days. I would have said, "Call me." We can go out with my friends. I would have said that I know someone else here who's from Australia who I also, by coincidence, met in a restaurant the second night after she arrived in Vancouver more than a year ago when I was with my friend Dee.

But, I didn't and I didn't. I didn't have my cards. I didn't say what I felt I should say. I was distracted thinking about the meeting I was about to have and not really being totally in the moment.

Who knows? She might have even known the woman I already know from Australia. And, that my friends has to be chalked up as yet another lost connection.

So, have I convinced you to get a card if you don't have one and use it because of what Darcy Rezac said in his book?

I think I've almost convinced myself!

1 comment:

Ben Anderson said...

good advice - I'll try it