Networking when you’re new in town

When I was a student, I was blasé about what it was like going to a new place. I pointed out to someone that it’s startling how often students choose to remain in those new places after graduating, how they so completely fit into the situation that it must surely be easy.

Uh-huh, said this someone. And then she pointed out that when students move to a new place, they meet a gigantic number of other people who have just moved there for the same reason. That’s why it’s at least easier than it would be on your own. So later on moving somewhere else new, by yourself, that’s hard and that’s why fewer people do it.

Can’t disagree. She was completely right, I was completely wrong.

All these years later, it’s an important issue because we don’t necessarily move around a great deal but we do need to meet new people. We need to network for our jobs and actually I’d say for our very souls: I love blathering with new people. The things they know that I don’t, the things they’ve done that I haven’t. The disagreements I can learn from like I did from my fellow student.

All of which is a long way to say that I want to point you at a piece by Meredith Fineman for Harvard Business Review: it’s a short, simple, practical guide to networking from scratch. Do have a read.

Ignore them

This is a piece from last August but I must’ve ignored it. Yet reddit just spotted it anew and it’s worth thinking about: the original piece argues that we must ignore some people and that the trick is to work out who.

The critical… is triage. Medical staff in a crisis must decide who requires immediate assistance, who can wait, who doesn’t need help at all, and who’s past saving. Triage for the rest of us entails not just focusing on the items that are most important and deferring those that are less important until “later,” but actively ignoring the vast number of items whose importance falls below a certain threshold.

The first step is to reframe the issue. Viewing a full inbox, unfinished to-do lists, and a line of disappointed people at the door as a sign of our failure is profoundly unhelpful. This perspective may motivate us to work harder in the hopes of someday achieving victory, but this is futile. We will never win these battles, not in any meaningful sense, because at a certain point in our careers the potential demands facing us will always outstrip our capacity, no matter how much effort we dedicate to work. So the inbox, the list, the line at the door are in fact signs of success, evidence that people want our time and attention. And ultimate victory lies not in winning tactical battles but in winning the war: Not an empty inbox, but an inbox emptied of all truly important messages. Not a completed to-do list, but a list with all truly important items scratched off. Not the absence of a line at our door, but a line with no truly important people remaining in it.

The Most Productive People Know Who to Ignore – Ed Batista, Harvard Business Review (20 August 2014)

Read the full piece.

Haaaaaave you met Ted?

There is an argument – posited by Cadence Turpin on Storyline and picked up by Lifehacker – that you shouldn’t introduce someone by saying “This is Bert, he’s an investment banker”. You should instead say something like “This is Susan, she snores louder than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Okay, maybe not. But as an example of making a memorable introduction, about valuing someone and about revealing a bit too much, that works. I just have trouble coming up with an example introduction that is neither job-related nor frankly annoying. Yet I get and like the point:

Introducing your friends for who they are rather than focusing on what they do will remind them they are loved before and beyond their titles. It’s an easy way to remind them that you see them for their hearts instead of their accomplishments.

Our resumes are just paper.

I want people to know my friend Carolyn is amazing at her job, but more than that, I want people to know the stuff inside her that makes her a great friend. The stuff that makes you want to stand by her at a party, in hopes that her thoughtful observations and quick wit might rub off on you.

Let’s stop introducing the people we love based solely on what they do, who they cash their checks from, or what’s on their twitter profiles. Let’s instead start reminding them of who they are. Let’s start conversations that don’t begin and end with who has the most interesting job in the room.

A Better Way to Introduce Your Friends at Parties – Cadence Turpin, Storyline (12 August 2014)

Read the full piece and see if you can do better than I. That’s a thought, I could introduce you as the one “who does better than I”. Cool.

Take a moment to look around you

This afternoon I was saying to someone that I realise I rarely stop to look around. As in the Ferris Bueller sense of how life moves pretty fast and if you don’t look, you may miss it. Fine.

Except, I then spent this evening at a poetry event. I went with one friend and by chance knew many, many people there. At one point in between the poets performing, I took the moment to absorb that I was sitting in a group of seven people I like very much. The chance of it, the people involved, it was startlingly special to me and I looked.

Okay, I’ll bite: the organisational habits of highly successful people

I’m intrigued, cautiously intrigued. (I type that and my heads it in a Bond, James Bond voice. Let’s find out whether highly successful people do this.)

Setting goals, both short and long-term, is one of the simplest ways that highly successful people maintain focus and direction in whatever they do. Take the example of Oprah Winfrey, whose success has been defined by setting multiple goals.
In addition to setting their sights high, highly successful people incorporate deadlines and due dates into the structure of their goals. This ensures their short term goals are met regularly, and long term goals are worked towards steadily and methodically.

The Journl Blog – Inspiring Better Organisation – no author listed (what is it with not listing writers?) (24 October 2012)

Read the full piece with lots of quotes from the aforementioned highly successful people. I’ll leave you to see what they quoted from me.

Spell Happiness with four Ps

There’s an overwhelming amount of happiness research. Forget incorporating it all into your life — merely remembering it is daunting enough. I like to keep it simple: Remember the 4 P’s.


Work those into every day and you’ll be smiling more.

The Way to Happiness: Remember the 4 Ps – Time

Ye-ess… I’m listening… tell me more.

Just tell me. (And I’ll just tell you.)

When I’ve got to brief someone or I need to effectively recruit them to work on a project, I will do the news approach of telling them what I need them to know. But most of the time, I am off doing something for them and they are off doing something for me. And in that case, just tell me.

Always tell me, always make sure I know what I need to know. Er, this is making me think I should’ve used “one” instead of “me”. Whoever you’re dealing with, never leave them hanging. Some people need to be told every inch of something, others are happy to let you get on with it – but every single person worries.

Just like you do.

When you’ve delivered a piece of writing to someone, you cannot fail but go in to the Writer’s Trap:

I hit Send forty seconds ago, why haven’t they replied?

Everybody is the same. I got a call last Friday from a fella who’s doing a thing for me and the entire purpose of his call was tell me that he hadn’t done it. I thanked him – and I meant it. He’s not late, he’s doing what he said he would, he just hit a delay and wanted me to know.

I thanked him and I meant it. Eventually he’s going to have to do the thing or I won’t be thanking him so much, but I am completely relaxed about it just because he called to tell me.

Use the news approach to get people listening

Nobody’s rude. Okay. Not many people are rude. Alright, the people you talk to and who get to work with you, they’re not rude. But they are all as busy as you are and it’s hard to get them to do what you need even if they need it to. Even if they want it too. (Hopefully you’re not spending a lot of time forcing people to do things they hate. You know that. I just had to say it.) Without trying to criticise the whole of humanity in one massive generalisation, here I am criticising the whole of humanity in one massive generalisation:

Faced between a massacre in a foreign country and stubbing your toe on a door frame, people fixate on the toe.

Because it’s closer.

Also, we’re horrible human beings, so, you know, there’s that.

But faced with everybody focusing on themselves and faced with the certain fact that you need people to work with you, do this. Do what every single television news bulletin you’ve ever seen does. This is a mantra for broadcast news:

Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em

Tell ’em it

Tell ’em what you’ve just told ’em

Why do you think news bulletins start with the headlines? If the top story is so important, why aren’t they just beginning with that? You can say it’s because the headlines are a quick way to see whether you want to watch the entire bulletin and I can then say aha, got you. That opening is how you get attention.

But look at the next bulletin that comes along or look at rolling news stations at the top of the hour. They headline the major stories yet they also headline smaller ones. Weather presenters now appear in the headline block saying things like “Will there be rain to spoil this weekend? Find out later on”. What is that doing in the news? Not in the headline block, why is it in the news at all? It’s weather – and they’re standing there refusing to tell us what it is. What is point teasing the weather?

The point is that they tell us what they’re going to tell us.

Then we get the news stories, we finally find out whether it’s going to rain.

And then we get “The headlines again”. Why?

Because it gets us watching and then it keeps us watching and finally it makes us remember. Three times’ the charm.

If you have to tell someone something or you know the work can’t be done, won’t be achieved, find three ways to tell them. Three ways and three times. You know it makes sense: you have seen it in action eleventy-billion times.