As I clicked “Send,” I said a quick prayer and waited for their response. I need this meeting. I need this client. I need this opportunity. I REALLY need a nap. It seemed like hours and THEN, I heard it – the beautiful sound of victory – “You’ve got mail.” I know what you all are thinking, and yes, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were amazing in this film. However, this email did not fill me with the same joyful tears or riveting laughter. It gave me cold sweats and a quick heart rate.“Not again.” I sighed. As I perused each line, I was left frustrated, stressed and discouraged. I had created another FRIEND – a friend that would call me for free advice, but would refuse to see the need for a paid consultation. Isn’t networking about relationships? Isn’t this type of purposed interaction supposed to produce fruit? If so, why was I always forming ‘friendships’ and not a network?
I started to question my tactic and review my steps. As I mapped out my interactions, I realized where I had gone awry. I realized that my objective had to precede my outcome. What do I mean by this? I’m so glad that you asked. Take a moment. Grab a pen and paper and write down these 3 secrets and then share them with your friends:
1. DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP
Yeah, I went there. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about dating. I promise that I won’t start singing Barry White and lighting candles. However, I will give you one bit of advice. Have the DTR talk – the one that makes your knees knock, your palms clammy and your words stumble. If you want to get to the mountain top, you must pack your compass. If you want to get a paying client, then you must present yourself as a professional executive.
Too many of us are still approaching business like we’re in high school. We pray that the world will not see our fear, so we paint ourselves as the life of the party and run for Prom King/Queen. We win the popularity contest, but we fail to gain a reputable network. Why? This occurs because we fail to sit at the table. We beg for scraps, because we compare our resumes, instead of collaborating with our companies. When we chose to have the DTR talk, we remind those around us that we’re their colleagues, not their comrades.
2. FEED YOUR OWN INSECURITY
There’s a cult-classic musical called, “Little Shop of Horrors.” The story centers around a cannibalistic plant that hungers for flesh. I know it sounds odd, but it’s a great musical. Trust me. The main character Seymour, stands his ground in the beginning of the film and opposes this plant’s hunger. He refuses to murder. However, as the movie progresses, the plant’s hunger grows ravenous and the main character’s patience grows thin. He soon gives in to the plant’s desire and nourishes its need for flesh.
So, what’s my point? What does this have to do with our need for friendship?
Sadly, many of us are like this plant. We hunger for affirmation, inspiration, acceptance and use friendships to appease our own insecurities.
Professional networking requires us to see people around us as equals – It challenges us to give and take. No one can walk in your shoes. No one can walk out your vision. No one can feed your own insecurity. In order to gain a professional network, one must bring something to the table, not demand that their insecurities be fed.
3. BELIEVE THAT YOUR PURPOSE IS A MUST, NOT AN OPTION
Many times, we settle for friendship because we believe more in the vision of others than in our own calling. New Year’s Eve comes around, we make blanket resolutions, and then wonder why we lack follow-through. There’s a reason why they’re called resolutions. They’re not whims, wishes or hopes, but commitments – they’re contractual agreements that are meant to compel us when we feel like giving up. I get it. We live in an Instagram world – a place that’s filtered and perfected; however, we also live in the real world. In the words of Sister Mary Clarence from Sister Act 2, “If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention”.
If you want to get to the next level and build your network, you better wake up and be more purposeful.
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