Friday, January 09, 2009

Reaching Out

2008 was quite a year for all of us. For me it involved attending a 30 year class reunion, a family reunion on my wife's side, and just before the year ended, connecting with an old elementary school classmate.

2008 was also a year filled with staying in contact with people I met through my profession. I expanded my online or social networking through services such as (Click here to see my profile), and became slightly more active on Facebook, if you call checking once a week instead of once every three months, more active.

The last item on social media that I signed up for was (Click here for my Twitter Profile). I'm still not sure what will become of twitter, and I am plenty busy with my paying job in the radio, marketing and advertising business. Being on the computer all day is not what I do for a living.

I returned to my profession about 6 years ago in a town that I had never done this before.
"It" is selling radio advertising. I knew a lot of folks in the radio profession from my previous years on the air at places like WGL, WMEE, WAJI, WFWI and a few others, but the last time I worked on the air regularly was 1999.

However when I started in radio advertising in Fort Wayne in 2003, I knew what to do, but I had zero contacts. So I had to start from scratch. Now, 6 years later, I have more leads than I can possibly handle, enjoy helping clients grow and there is one thing that I have done that has made it all possible.

You have to reach out. I don't care if you are in sales, or not. You simply must reach out to others. Do it when things are okay. A favorite question I ask people is, "How can I help you?"

Sometimes they need an idea, sometimes they need an ear. Often they can't answer that question right away because they were not expecting it.

Because of my willingness to be a friend, I have had people reveal to me things that they would not have unless they trusted me. Last month I helped a former co-worker of mine land a new job by helping her tweak her resume. Last week I gave a friend an idea on how she can save her business. Two days ago I connected two friends who need the services of each other.

This reaching out is contrary to certain parts of my personality. I used to feel shy as a kid, then in my early 20's when working for WMEE, I had to speak in front of hundreds of high school students. Later in Detroit, I spoke in churches and then back in Fort Wayne I have given presentations in front of dozens of business owners.

The fact is very few people feel completely comfortable and natural when reaching out to others.
But as we go through a very uncertain time in our lives with the current economic conditions, you need to reach out now and get connected, make friends, and be prepared for whatever the future holds.

Yesterday the following tips came in my email from the DLM Blog that may help you:

Dumb Little Man - tips for life

Link to Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life

Five Networking Tips for Wallflowers

Posted: 07 Jan 2009 04:43 AM PST

Some people are naturally good at networking. You see these people at conferences: going around shaking hands, introducing themselves to anyone that will listen, handing out business cards, etc. All the while, you stand on the sidelines simply watching the action, feeling too shy or unimportant to do the same. Some people aren’t natural networkers. You might be quite introverted or perhaps you have some deep misgivings about the concept of “networking” (maybe it seems fake to you, and you think it’ll mean “using” people). No matter, you can still keep up friendships and make new contacts – without having to resort to some the tactics some would call "sleazy marketing". Here’s how:
  1. Be Yourselfsocialize
    My first tip is to simply be yourself. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m being informal, and when I’m able to chat to people about things other than work! Don’t try to force yourself to network in a way that feels uncomfortable to you: if big corporate events seem insincere, avoid them. If all your colleagues are encouraging you to mass-email “useful contacts”, go for a personal and authentic approach that suits you, instead.

    In the long run, the people who you want to surround yourself with are people who like you for who you are, and who want to do business with the “real you”.

  2. Be A Good Friend
    Networking doesn’t have to be a cold, corporate activity. For me, good networking goes hand in hand with being a good friend. That means asking clients how they’re doing, and taking a genuine interest in their life and their concerns. People are much more likely to send repeat business to you if you’re their friend rather than just some random contact they once worked with.

    This doesn’t mean you should try to be falsely chummy with people: as with the first tip, you should just be yourself. If a friendship doesn’t seem to be developing naturally, just leave it and move on.

  3. Stay In Touch
    A large part of networking is simply letting people know what you’re up to. This could mean sending the occasional “newsletter” to old college friends; you never know who might be in need of your products or services. It also means taking the time to send out cards or even holiday gifts to your clients. Don’t keep trying to expand your network whilst neglecting or forgetting about those already in it.

    You might even want to reconnect with friends from high school: with Facebook and other social networking sites, it’s easy to search for long-lost buddies and get back in touch.

  4. Use Twitter
    In my opinion, one of the best online networking tools is Twitter. It’s fun, geared towards informality and conversations, and isn’t intrusive like other forms of communication can be (phone calls, and even emails, can annoy people who feel they barely know you). If you’re a bit intimidated of getting in touch with someone in your field, try following them on Twitter first. This obviously works best for those involved in tech-savvy professions but it is really catching on in on in other areas as well.

    When you update your own Twitter, keep in mind who from your network will be reading. Most people won’t want to know that “Bob is eating a sandwich”. Try to make your Twitters relevant to big happenings in your work and life. After you get started, this post will introduce you to some advanced Twitter tools.

  5. Join A Club
    Although it’s easy to have a negative view of business events that are geared to networking, a “club” doesn’t have to be something that’s just set up for people to push their wares at one another. Why not get together with colleagues in your industry on a regular basis, or even network through a hobby or passion that you have? If you’re in a sports club, for instance, let other members know what you do for a living – you never know what connections you might spark off.

    Studying an academic or vocational course related to your profession is also a great way to meet people who are passionate about the same sort of work as you: I’m studying a creative writing MA and relishing the opportunity to work alongside lots of fellow writers.
If you’re “not the networking type”, how do you find new friends to help you in your work? Have you given up on seeking out clients and colleagues altogether, or have you found ways to make your personality work for you, instead of against you, in your attempts to make connections?
Written on 1/07/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.Photo Credit: Incase Designs

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