Last week I listened to an executive coach speak on the topic of networking. She started out by suggesting we refer to networking as netbuilding.
"Why do we want to do something that feels like work?," she asked. True. We should see it as something we build. Continually and mindfully.
She also introduced a concept I hadn't put much thought into before, yet it resonated so clearly. She said, "Before you go into any networking situation, manage your state."
Manage my what? Manage your state.
As she described, how you present yourself to others is often something we don't think about. Let's say I drive to an after-work social event. I pull up in my car, grab my stuff and head in. No thought required. Totally and completely autopilot.
Well, while an autopilot, I might be bringing the disposition of my day into the event with me. Maybe my day was stressful. Perhaps I listened to a heated voicemail on the way over. I might be tense, stressed or even just blandly neutral. Doesn't really matter what state I'm in, the key is that I am not paying attention to it. My unconscious state of being accompanies me into the room.
She suggests that for one short moment prior to engaging with others, you manage your state. Basically take a quick check of your mood, your disposition, your collective whole before you walk in.
Kind of a first impressions gut check.
I'm thinking this applies not only to a networking event, but also to a myriad of other situations: a job interview, an important meeting with my boss, arriving home to my children after work, a first date, a dinner party, and so on.
Mental state: slightly stressed
Emotional state: not really into attending this event/being here/doing this
Physical state: tired
If I walk in with the state described above, I very may well project how I feel onto others. And as I'mattempting to connect and network, my negative or even neutral state emanates. So contradictory to my goal of being there --making a good impression, identifying potential new clients, spending quality time with friends, meeting new people-- I actually don't.
Take a brief moment to gut check, then adjust your state.
Mental state: optimistic
Emotional state: excited to meet new people
Physical state: smiling
Now when I walk in the door, my state speaks positively on my behalf. My kids feel it, your potential employer feels it, your boss feels it, your husband feels it, the networking groups feels it.
It's true you might not always feel uber-positive and slapping a smile on might be the lowest thing on your list. Yet it's in those times especially, that you need to bring your unconscious state into your consciousness.
Check it out, adjust it up, and present the most positive state possible.
Thanks to Melissa West for the insight and inspiration that led to this post.