To be a Better Networker Don’t Try to Network

Indyfringe MagicThere are various reports, articles and statistics that reiterate the importance of networking in finding a new job or client. Networking is a vital tool in initiating new relationships, establishing your reputation and discovering opportunities.

No pressure there.

That’s the rub, there is such a high importance placed on networking that often people put so much pressure on themselves that they either:

  • Don’t enjoy it
  • Don’t succeed at it
  • Don’t do it

I would like to offer a suggestion to help take some of the pressure off and mix up the networking tactics: don’t try to network, just have fun.

Let me clarify one thing: I believe we network any time we interact with someone new, we just don’t realize it. But being reminded often of the importance of networking, we have somehow changed our concept of it. Often, it is thought of as a chore or choreographed activity.

In reality it is simply having a conversation.

My mom was the first one to teach me networking, but neither one of us knew it. When I was little and we would go to the grocery store, my mom was the one that would talk to everyone. I do mean everyone: people in line, the checkout clerk, the bag boy, people in other lines, the produce person….

I remember once she was writing a check and asked the clerk what the date was, June 14. When she heard this she told the clerk, “Oh yes, it is Flag Day.” Being about eight years old, I was mortified. It only got worse when they had a discussion of Flag Day.

But the point is, besides I have turned into my mother, that she was networking and the reason we did not realize it was because she was always having fun with it.

Last night I attended a fantastic event with a dear friend: the showcase event for the Indianapolis Winter Festival at IndyFringe. It featured snippets of the performers acts for this weekend’s festival.

Two words: mind blown.

The plan was attend the show and grab a bite after. We were quite late in getting that bite to eat because we had so much fun talking to the performers and other attendees after the show. We networked without trying because we were having so much fun. Beyond the magic, which again was amazing, here is what I gained:

• I made friends with a photographer who works at most of the fringe’s events, although he won’t be there this weekend; he and his wife have 4.5 cats and he realized one of them looks like an owl; and his wife is indeed taller than me.

• Owls are not as intelligent as we thought, it is kinda cool to watch them decapitate and eat a mouse (it was already dead) and they have teeny, tiny thin necks, the rest is feathers. The bird guy

• There is a certain theater in London that you should not wear purple because it burnt down some time ago and the performer at the time was wearing purple, also, London audiences are very polite – even if they love you they don’t really. clap Oscar Muñoz

• There are several classifications and competitions, world competitions for magicians.

• The audience, no matter the size, is the partner in the show; when performing it is a balance between performing, relating and engaging; no matter what they are doing or how long they have been doing their craft, they have this sparkle in their eye and enchanting enthusiasm with they talk about it. Trent James

• If they use cards, they buy decks by the pallet load, they are amazingly quick on their feet, adaptable and a little sly but the goal is not to have someone fall over themselves in amazement, it is a smile even from the most stoic and staunch person. Hannibal

• IndyFringe is like a magical garden to the members of the Board of Directors; they unselfishly and enthusiastically provide it with care, dedication and love transforming it into a beautiful and enchanting wondrous place to be shared with the entire community. They meticulously attend to every detail from the building of a second theater, attending to performers and guests and planning for what is next. They are parent gardeners and this is their child and they are a force of nature.

I found all these things out by talking with several people last night, by networking. I made new friends and connections. It was an absolutely successful evening of networking because my intention was not to network; it was to have fun.

Mission accomplished, and then some!

To find out more about this weekend’s Winter Magic Festival, click here. Shows are appropriate for all ages. I promise you will be amazed and possibly transformed back into childlike wonder…

The Forgotten Factor In Job Searching – Fun

swingingWe have forgotten how to play.


We spend so much time trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up and rushing to be a grown up that we lost that one great element about being a kid: the ability to play.


I have bills to pay, I have responsibilities, I have kids to rear, spouses to support, organizations to report to, friends to lunch with – I don’t have time.  Bull.


I do play – I play golf, softball, basketball, baseball, horseshoes, bowl etc, I do play.  Not the same.  That is competing.  Even if it is for fun, you are still competing.


I’m a highly competitive person even a game of horse with my son was a competition.  It didn’t matter that he is 6’1” and I am 5’ it was a competition and we both knew it.


The hilarity of me being competitive against a 20 year old, athletic, tall kid made it fun and that is when the playing began.  But it wasn’t the sport.  Because sports are competitive.


Job searching is competitive.  Learn to play not just compete.


Michael Jordan had a great quote, “Practice like you have never won, play like you have never loss.”  I think you should incorporate that into your job searching.  Be confident when walking into that interview like it is your job.  But don’t make it all about the competition.


When you forget to play you lose the love of what you are doing.  The competition becomes a job.  A serious of void actions you have to perform out of expectation rather than passion or desire.


That doesn’t sound fun.


And let’s face it, most of our decisions, whether we want to admit it or not, are based on if they are fun, pleasing or have any positive affects for us.  We like fun.  We are all about fun.  But we forgot how to play for fun.


I was coaching a client the other day on interviewing, they had a panel interview coming up and nerves were getting frazzled.  I suggested to bring in the element of fun, of playing.


We immediately size up people so have fun with it – play a game.  See who is open, who is not, who is really in charge, who thinks they are, who wants to be there, who doesn’t, who likes their job and who really hates theirs.  All in your head of course.


Then see if you can engage the negative people and bond with the positives.  Make it a little side game.  It brings the element of play in and helps relax you.


When we are playing we are alive.  We feel good emotionally, mentally and physically.  That is another way you can tell if you are competing or playing.   We express ourselves and are more open to others and the world.


I am so glad it is Spring in Indiana because I can take my daily play break.  I go out back with the dogs and play.  I don’t think about what I need to do, should do or might be doing and stop thinking about anything other than making sure one of the big puppies doesn’t jump on me – or step in dog poop.


I play.  I might throw sticks for the dogs to fetch or play chase with them.  Yes, a couple of the dogs like to think I am chasing them and they take off around the yard like a rocket.  I get lost in that moment and that moment alone which means I laugh – a lot, loud, often and unapologetically.  I roll around in the grass and give belly rubs and lots of praise.


This may take five minutes or 20, it just depends on the mood of the pups that day and how easily they wear out – ok, or me.  But in those few minutes I play and I become alive again.


Going back to my day I am revitalized, I am refreshed and I am relaxed.  My thinking is clearer, my mood is light and I am happy.  Because I played.


If I am out of the office all day in meetings or workshops I incorporate play in a whole new way.  On breaks I might find a quiet place like a park or outdoor area and take off my shoes and walk around in the grass.  Sometimes I have stopped at a park and got on the swings.  I loved that as a kid!  The point is   I find some way to disconnect and just be on my own in my own little world.


I may play a game of happy surprise.  That is giving random compliments to people and see how many are completely shocked that a stranger said something nice beyond “have a nice day.”  I tally it up and if I am the winner (which I always am since it is just me) then I might treat myself to ice cream or dark chocolate.


The point is we all have stress, tension, hectic schedules and lots of reasons to push aside time to play.  But those are not really reasons, they are excuses.  You have no reason not to play.


Sound strange, juvenile or just plan crazy? Good.  Normally things that work the best sound the craziest at first.  But just try it.  Go play today – give yourself five minutes of you time where you do nothing but something playful.  Don’t think about work, kids, spouses, bills, etc and enjoy the purity and simplicity of those few moments of play.


Do this a few times in a week (like Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and see how your attitude changes.  Notice the difference in how you talk to yourself, treat yourself and view your tasks.  Also, notice how others respond to you because there will be a change in you and whether they say it or not they will notice which will be demonstrated in how they change in their response to you.


Allow yourself to reconnect to the best part of you – the fun side!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.