Networking - Not as Big and Scary as You Think

Networking — not as big and scary as you think

There are lots of things that you tell yourself you don’t like. For me, at work, networking is at the top of that list. I’ve always felt like it is a skill that I don’t have whilst everyone else is just out there, meeting new and fresh contacts daily whilst busily following up with everyone they met last week and doing amazing ‘networking’ business I can never hope to access at glamorous networking events.

Now that I’ve decided to go freelance I’ve had to sit myself down and give myself a good talking to. How am I possibly going to grow my client list, business, skill set or future success if I don’t get on with networking? Then what do you need to do, I ask myself? Network! Go out and do the one thing you don’t like doing and get on with it for the good of what you want to achieve. In short: suck it up, Laura.

On the flip side of this I also thought about what I am good at. One of my strengths has always been research; getting out there and finding out what is going on and how this can inform the project that I am working on. Who is saying what? How can companies that I work for be part of that conversation? I’m also good at connecting the dots. Want to work with that person or company over there? Well, great news because they work with this person, who knows them, who is new to that and it turns out they are looking for someone just like you.

By now I think you might see where this short post is going. Turns out that not only do I network all the time I actually know how to do it a lot better than I thought. When I knew that I wanted to work for myself I reached out to friends of mine that I knew well and worked in areas that I was interested in and approached them. It felt like a nice gentle way to start, ask some advice, have a chat, pick someone’s brains over a coffee and a catch up. Everyone had a different perspective and recommended a couple of companies, networks or people for me to look out for. A few even put me forward for work they had come across which was an amazing start.

Now that I’m set up and ready to go I’ve got straight on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and am in the process of setting up my own website and blog. I’ve sought out all those friends and the people they put me in touch with. Through them I’ve found new people and organisations and interests and followed those too. I’ve done my research and connected the dots and it has given me a great start and lots of avenues to explore. And it starts to look a lot like networking to me or at least it has started to look like my version of networking: seeking out people I want to connect with and seeing how I can work with them to benefit us both.

I’m unsure if there are different ‘types’ of networking or whether the agressive go-getting idea of networking I had is just wrong but I think it can also be our natural instinct to have our heads turned by the loudest, biggest, brightest thing within our sights. It can seem like whoever is shouting is getting the most attention but new movements like Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution are starting to focus on the benefits of a quieter approach. On a related tangent, Paul Johnston, was musing about how he choses which conferences to attend in his thoughts about innovation: 2 Degrees of Innovation.

My approach has always been to seek out the smaller conferences, where you are guaranteed a level of intimacy with the speakers, and the other attendees. The speakers could often be described as Edgers. The smaller conference fosters more conversation and also often allows for harder questions to be asked in any Q&A. It also generates a community around the ideas.

I think that is more what I’m looking for from networking, the feeling that I’m making more of a connection with others who I’m interested in working with, a better understanding of what they are hoping to achieve and how I might be a part of that now or in the future.

Best of all it has made me get out there and just start talking to people. I’m a lot less worried about the conversations that end badly and a lot more interested in where the great conversations could lead. And it turns out I’m not quite as bad at networking as I thought.

My Reading List

My Reading List Highlights And My Quest For Quality Content

I’ve decided to start a regular(ish) round up of what I’m currently reading.

Yes, there are so many similar lists out there. As content creators and marketers we all know the magic of the list post. Easy and quick to write, looks good with images and numbered bullets (translation: very scannable content) and quick to share.

However, I’ve started to find it harder and harder to discover quality content. When you start looking for content in any given subject you cast the net wide. I find now that over time I’ve stopped reading from one source, stop checking another, a newsletter changes focus and I’ve unsubscribed. I’m left with fewer and fewer ‘go to’ sources.

Now I find that when I’ve set aside time to see what is out there, I’m never quite sure where to look or what to read.

So I’ve taken the time to actively seek out and curate better sources of content. Some relate to what I do: social media and content. Some are just great sources of information for life in general. And if, like me, you are always looking for something new and interesting to read then I hope you find some recommendations in this or future posts like it.

Please make sure to add yours in the comments — I’d love to check them out.

Convince and Convert

I wonder if part of the reason I’m in this situation is that it is very difficult to be invited into my inbox. I am the person that constantly clicks ‘no thank you’ on your well-crafted opt-in box. Sorry about that.

This is a great example of what it takes to actually get into my inbox.

Last year I read Youtility by Jay Baer and loved it. At the time I was just starting out freelancing it really spoke to me about how I thought content should be. Quality, useful content for your audience.

This year I read Hug Your Haters as part of the Buffer Community Book Club. Again, it was a great hit with me. I loved the case studies as well as the values that the book sets out for any business.

So I’ve been in the same space as Jay Baer and the company he founded,Convince and Convert, all this time. I know they are out there. I follow them on twitter. I read the occasional article on their blog. It’s been almost two years like this.

What made me subscribe finally? I was reading a killer article on their blog and had just tweeted about it. I finally thought, I should get these sent straight to me. There and then I found an opt-in box on the website and signed up.

So, now I’m in, what have I found? What I really like about Convince and Convert is the voice they use in their writing. It speaks in a way that instantly gives thanks for your attention and shows why their content is worthy of attention.

Each newsletter includes sponsors under the headline: ‘We love our sponsors. You’ll love them too.’ This little headline says it all — we’ve handpicked these people because we love them. Who usually says that about their sponsors?

Their round-up email comes as ‘Your 5 Favourite Posts This Week.’Everything is centred around you as a reader and why you will get value from the content they are sharing.

Their articles continue to deliver as well. Insightful, relevant and useful information about content marketing. They have quickly become a must-read for me.

I like the articles that I’ve tried from the blog so much I’ve added it to one of my feedly collections so I don’t miss out on any. I’ve put a few quick feedly tips at the bottom of this article if you are thinking about how best to curate your account.

Fortune CEO Daily

Another way to get into my inbox? Come recommended by someone I already like and hear from.

Fortune CEO Daily was recommended to me through Laura Vanderkam’s blog where she did a round up of what she’s been up to, what she’s writing and what she’s reading. I love Laura’s writing and her wonderful approach to time management — I’m a big fan.

And so, through her, the Fortune CEO Daily came into my inbox. I thought it would be good to get some business-focused news every day to keep myself in the loop.

What I wasn’t expecting was the wonderful way in which this newsletter is written. With a long-form intro and few graphics, it doesn’t conform to the usual clickbait templates you see in some newsletters. There are no attention-grabbing headlines or slick graphics here. Long paragraphs full of well-written opinion and analysis await you and they are so worth it.

I’ve been reading about business with real interest, not that I wasn’t interested before, but now I find that it is presented in a way that gives it real relevance.

On Sundays they send out a round up of great articles from the week. These are from a range of publications and each article comes with an intro/commentary on why it makes an interesting read. Again the long-form intelligent writing really gives the articles context. A recommended business read.

Top Tip — Curate Your Content Sources Regularly

Now I’ve identified that I want to work on having great sources of content at my fingertips I’ve also started to think about how I can make that happen.

One thing this had lead me to do is to start using my feedly account more.

When I set it up I just searched for broad topics and followed those. Which is great to start off with but I’ve found that over time I’ve checked it less and less.

Now I’ve realised that actively curating my content sources is a quick and easy way to make sure I can discover as much quality content as possible.

I started with a good clean up of the topics I was following. Some I just took out all together. Others I went through and had a look at each source within the topic. Had I read anything from this publication or blog in the last few months? Did anything on the list from them look relevant? I took out ones that I realised I was constantly skipping over anyway.

I took the super simple step of rearranging my follow list to reflect how I want to browse content when I have a moment to read. I’ve put a collection of my current favourite blogs at the top, followed by news sources and then areas like social media and content marketing.

And finally I’ve developed a new habit. Every time I read a blog article that I like I hop over to feedly and add the blog into my account. This has been great for discovering new content from people whose writing I really enjoy.

Please let me know your tips for discovering new content and what blogs/newsletters and other content sources you can’t live without.