The other day, I arrived at the airport just in time to get on an earlier flight home. That never happens to me anymore. Ah, the good old days when we used to have flights every hour on the hour going to the major cities. Well, the joy of travel sure isn’t there anymore is it? (That’s another article sometime, I promise). I do a lot of pondering when I travel. I watch people. I listen to people. Today, I’d like to share something with you that is always on my mind.
This is how it all got started this time. I boarded the plane and found myself sitting next to an elderly woman on her way to Palm Springs. After a few moments, she started staring at me, like she had a question. So, I started up a conversation. It turned out that she was very concerned she’d miss her connecting flight in Dallas. We were a few minutes late and her next flight was at another terminal at DFW (which isn’t easy for even the most seasoned travelers). I offered her my suggestions and wisdom as the road warrior I am. It seemed to help calm her nerves down. As I watched her smile back at me as she exited the plane, I sat there thinking how funny it was that my personal mantra (I say this all the time) came into play yet again…
“You never meet anyone by accident, chance or coincidence.”
See, I may have gotten on that flight for the very reason to help the little old lady or something else I don’t even know about. I’ll never know if that’s why I was there at that exact moment in time, but what I am sure of is that there is always a reason. I started thinking about all the people I met that day. I know some people believe it is part of life’s journey, but I think it is more and I’ve been pondering the idea that we don’t meet anyone by accident a lot lately. Too many crazy coincidences keep happening to me. I think it’s more than the “six degrees of separation thing.” So, I thought I’d share this idea with you to get the conversation going. Think about it, how often we come in contact with someone and not even think about the complexity of how this happens. How many times as recruiting professionals do we find that right candidate by accident? How many time do we find ourselves networking with someone who was exactly who we needed for something right then?
I consider myself a network freak, guru, and sometimes even a junkie. So, I would like to tie this concept of not meeting anyone by accident into a networking conversation for recruiters.
I have so many stories I could share with you about encounters with people that turned into something surreal and maybe a little scary (“the six degrees thing freaks me out sometimes). I think I’ll start a log just for fun. For example, there are many times that all I wanted to do is catch up on my sleep on that plane ride back home. But instead, I decided to be friendly and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. You know that recruiter gut thing that tells you to speak up? Yep, that guy turned out to be a candidate, a future client, or someone I needed later on in my personal or professional life. I learned to listen to my recruiter gut more often.
I do believe that networking is a talent and skill. Some people are natural networkers others have to work harder at it. Most importantly, being a great at networking is one of the top competencies for anyone who wants to be successful in the recruiting profession. The best out there can do it in their sleep. So all you recruiters out there, take a deep breath and jump in and start to say hello to strangers (I know we are scared about the crazies out there, be smart but be friendly). You are sitting next to that person at the training class, the networking reception or even the doctors’ office for reason. It’s your job to find out why.
A good recruiter makes networking work for him everywhere, even at the beach (I take my business cards with me even to the beach). Networking can get you your next gig or introduce you to ideas you might never have thought about…but not unless you are approachable and open to it. Here are some suggestions to help you build your networking skills like the pros. Remember, it just a conversation:
- Learn to ask “what do you do?” with comfort, sincerity and interest.
- Be prepared to talk about YOU at any given notice. Make sure it is natural and doesn’t sound like a resume or a sale pitch. Get the conversation started.
- Think recruiting all the time, but don’t “recruit” until the time is right.
- Talk to people you don’t know wherever you go (be like one of those crazy friendly southern people from Dallas… like me).
- Think networking all the time. A good networker is networking when they are at the top of their game and people want to talk to them – use it and build your pipeline now. You may not feel like you have the time, but make it. You are investing in your future one person at a time.
- Always share your card and ask for theirs, invite them to LinkedIn and follow up.
- Attend meetings and participate (rushing in and out doesn’t work).
- Volunteer for committees and board positions: Membership and program committees are fun and not too much work.
- Stay in touch with everyone you like, value and enjoy (you never know).
- Become a better listener. Ask questions and then be quite until you hear the answer (this can be difficult for an extrovert, practice).
- Help others – take the calls. Remember this person has entered your world for a reason. Be smart and help others even if it’s just a friendly ear. What goes around comes around.
So, the next time you are looking forward to “catching up on some z’s,” I hope you decide to talk to that person sitting right next to you. Find out what they do. You never know, that person might just make your day (or vise versa) because…. “You never meet anyone by accident, chance or coincidence.” Go have some fun finding out why!
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