Warning: This blog contains a reference to a senseless act of violence I witnessed this weekend. However, I think you can learn important lessons from everything you experience. So if you’re a bit squeamish, feel free to skip this one and go read my Petsmart blog again. If you aren’t the inquisitive type and just want knowledge puked into your head the way a mommy bird feeds her young, go back to reading your copy of Highlights in the dentist office…
Last week at Welcome to the Majors I used a “circle pit” as an analogy for engagement. Engagement, you see, is something that takes active participation. To engage you must act; and you must act sincerely with purpose, energy, and passion. When done correctly, the result of engagement is the creation of a professional network. To help kick start your engagement in the College of Business, I shared my secret of networking with the assembled students. Networking, you see, is not about shaking hands and kissing babies, or collecting the most cards, or slapping backs. Networking is about needs. Identifying needs. Understanding needs. Communicating needs. And ultimately satisfying needs. You start by understanding your own needs, then identifying and understanding the needs of others, and then finally helping address the needs of others. If you do this enough, over and over, it eventually comes back to you. Positive karma. Someone is helping address YOUR needs. Without you asking for help!
Same thing in the pit. I’ve been a fan of loud, aggressive music longer than most of our students have been alive. Disjointed jumping and shoving by raucous fans close to the stage eventually became organized shoving (slam dancing) and slowly morphed into what we now call a mosh pit. A mosh pit that moves in a counter clockwise direction is a circle pit. Lots of people running in a loosely organized circle. Quite often they run into one another. A lot. With purpose, energy, and passion! But it’s intentional. You know it’s going to happen. You choose to participate. You feed off others in the pit. But, when you fall or get hurt something amazing happens. A half dozen sets of hands will grab you and get you to your feet. Bodies will block the crush of runners, people on the fringe act as bumpers, a few really big (and usually bald) guys will act as self-appointed hall monitors, kicking out people who get out of hand. It’s awesome and scary all at the same time.
What I didn’t talk about was, “that guy.” This is the person in the pit who’s just there to hit someone. It’s not about a good time. It’s not about energy. It’s not about engagement. It’s not sincere. It’s just about being an ass. Why? Who knows, ask your friend who’s majoring in Psychology.
So this weekend I went to a show with my son and one of his friends. A local band opened. The doors had just opened, the band was on their first song, and one guy was already storming around. Shoving, pushing, spilling beer. Way too early. People were just wandering in. Anyway, eventually this guy shoved into two couples. You could tell by the way they were dressed they weren’t there mosh. One guy, the big one, chose to confront the jerk. He was big, maybe 4 inches taller and much sturdier. He shoved the jerk back and stuck a finger in his face. POW! The big guy fell. One punch. Band stopped. Lights came on. EMTs arrived. The jerk who started it had already been thrown out by security.
Here’s why I tell this story… Networking, as I said before, is about the satisfaction of mutual needs. So one of the traits that I didn’t mention at Welcome to the Majors, but is apparent and opposite of “that guy,” is a sense of selflessness. People who get things done through networking ARE ultimately trying to satisfy their own needs, this isn’t a strictly altruistic endeavor. The same way no one gets in the pit to pick people up. They are there to release energy and have fun. They acknowledge their needs. They are aware of them. But their continued success relies on action, the things they DO within their network, which satisfies other’s needs. No one wants to network with the selfish jerk who’s only out for himself. No one wants to mosh with the ass who sucker punches or kicks people when they’re down.
Ask yourself, what were the “needs” that others at Welcome to the Majors talked about? Did you meet someone who needs an introduction, a reference, a business lead, help with a project? Do you know how to help them? Look at your own needs. Are they similar to the needs you discussed with others? If so, can you work together to solve them? Either way, reach out and reconnect with the people you met.
Let’s say you don’t remember anything about the needs you discussed. Maybe all the people around you thought the exercise was foolish, or they were too cool to participate. Maybe they were all introverts and not comfortable initiating conversation. Maybe they couldn’t hear me or didn’t understand the exercise. Whatever, next time you’re in class waiting for the Instructor to arrive, look to your side and strike up a conversation. Introduce yourself and talk. Engage. Be sincere. Be selfless. Networking has to start somewhere and that place is usually a handshake.
You don’t just have to just do this in class. Take a look at the Activity List I made up for your Career To-Do List. There’s lots of meetings this week and next. Student organizations are actively recruiting right now. There are job fairs and other professional meetings coming up. Start doing this at work. Whether you manage a team or you’re part of a team, you can be selfless. If you’re sincere and active people will want to network with you. Think about it, if we did this at every Welcome to the Majors and you took it upon yourself to continue to selflessly network rather than forget about it, The College of Business would quickly become the most engaging small town in America.
The Dean talked about what you can do to be “the one.” Maybe you don’t have what it takes to get there. Maybe you have other things keeping you from that level of engagement. The one thing you can be without much effort is selfless. The least you can do is make an effort not to be “that guy.”