‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others’ – African Proverb
Tis the season to be jolly! For many of us here in Australia, it means beach holidays, summer bbq’s and lazy days where we have the time to really engage with those we want to reconnect with or spend some quality time with.
It is the season to catch up with family, friends, old colleagues and community networks. An opportunity to reflect on the year that has been and tell a few stories; and to discuss plans, hopes and ambitions for the year ahead. Invariably there will be old university mates; ex colleagues; sporting mates and neighbours in this mix. Familiar faces along with a few new ones who are all an extension of who you know.
It also means it is a perfect time for networking … and networking of the best kind – genuine opportunities to get together because you want to, with people you share some degree of common interest with and in environments that see us comfortable, relaxed and with time to engage.
Making the most of these genuine opportunities does mean though that you need to have your ‘bbq story’ ready. How we reflect on the year that has just passed and discuss our opportunities ahead is a critical part of building and establishing our own personal brand. Doing this with the people who are closest to us and who are or can be key influencers can be a challenge for many because the notion of work and life remain two very separate worlds.
True networking is about contribution. It is about the giving and receiving of support, advice and tools to help us be better at what we do and want to do. For most of us, the people that we hold in our inner circle genuinely want to be able to support what we do and our future directions. They can’t however do this if they don’t know what our personal journey is.
The way we tell ‘our story’ is a critical part of building our personal brand and reputation. This brand can help build our direction or it can become a hindrance. It is what others seek out to support key decisions, understand more about industries, companies and people. One of the most common misconceptions individuals have about their brand is that it is really only important for when they want to make a shift in their career. The reality is that it supports all phases of our career whether we are looking to grow, consolidate or change.
I believe that there are three key reasons why our BBQ stories are so important:
They Demonstrate: capability, resiliency, proactivity and insight
They Build: understanding, interest and reason for further connection
They Establish: opportunities for follow up
Top 4 tips for your BBQ Story:
- Think story not pitch: This isn’t the time to ‘sell’ your latest business plan, recruit your team or close a deal. It is however a time to establish interest in what you are doing and share some of the journey of how you are doing it. Offering insights into what you do, your style and your achievements is about establishing rapport and opportunity for future conversations.
- Listen more than you talk: Great networkers focus on asking quality questions and stepping back to understand what and how others think, act and behave. Asking questions that are ‘others focused’ allows you to uncover the stories of those around you and understand who might be in a position to help you and your journey and vice versa.
- Limit shop-talk: Keeping your discussions focused on scenarios rather than incidents will allow for others to contribute to the conversation. Diving into details that are workplace specific alienates others from the conversation. It can also very quickly lead to compromising discussions that become fodder for gossip and ultimately damaging for you and your personal brand.
- Remain future focused: Regardless of how good or bad your past year was, the ability to remain focused on the future and the opportunities ahead is crucial. Positive, proactive and forward thinking people are naturally engaging. Being excited about where you are going and/or new possibilities generates interest from others.
Your BBQ story is not about landing your next job, promotion or recruiting your next team member. It is about creating opportunity for building mutually beneficial relationships that offer support, insight and opportunities for future engagement. These networks like all good relationships require personal connection and time to grow. Taking the time this holiday season to establish or build upon these personal connections is a valuable opportunity to invest in your future career success.