“His contact info is on the sheet I gave you,” said Susie Q., a flighty woman who sat across from me in a meeting yesterday. She previously chaired a major event in our community, a STEM celebration for children and their families. STEM for those untouched by the K-12 education arena stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It’s all the rage. This year I hold the lofty honor of event chair. “Give him a call,” she intoned.
This simple exchange reminded me of one of the most critical tools in transition ….introductions. High quality. Personal. Aligned.
In the past when I’ve been on the receiving end of a statement like the one above I’ve always assumed that the speaker had overstepped. Or perhaps better said….the person had exaggerated their level of familiarity with the potential contact. But yesterday it hit me. She didn’t really know how.
How would you rate your ability to connect people? Have you been on the receiving end of really great introductions? Are you able to reciprocate?
Last evening I attended a networking dinner hosted by two forward thinking attorneys. They assembled twelve folks of varying backgrounds for an informal dinner. Talk about wonderful introductions! At one point one of our hosts described some of their legal work as old-fashioned. He was merely referencing a construct from a decade or two ago so not sure the use was valid. Nonetheless it hung with me.
Over the past two years my transition has benefited enormously from introductions that folks have made on my behalf. (I hope I’ve reciprocated half as much……) Here is what I’ve learned along the way.
- Intros have 3 parts…don’t skimp: When you make an introduction on behalf of someone else make sure that you (a) personally make the connection; (b) provide context about both individuals; and (c) offer the proof as to why the two people would find it valuable to connect. Here is an excerpted introduction that I made recently, sans real names. Dear Fran and Sue…I wanted to take a moment to introduce the two of you. Fran is a XXX. Sue is a YYYY. Fran is interested in exploring financing sources from research grants. Sue, given your recent experience in this arena I thought it would make sense to connect the two of you. My guess is that you’ll both really enjoy meeting each other.
- Be clear on what you seek: People love to help but struggle if you are vague regarding your target person or category. Don’t fret. You needn’t use this as a reason to stall…the end point or perfect contact isn’t all that critical. You simply need to be clear about what would help you get to the next step.
- Be ready with phrases…to help those who might be less ready to go the extra mile: Some folks may be lazy or not interested in taking the time to make a great intro for you. If so be ready with phrases that are both comfortable for you and can also improve the quality of the intro. “Would you be comfortable introducing me by email t0 ___?” “Is that someone whom you think would respond better to a personal introduction?” “Can I give you a few sentences to help you craft the introduction?”
I’ve met many who believe that social media has replaced the personal connections required in transition. Have introductions changed radically? Not from my perch. While the conversation may take place via Skype the core of it still remains…..old fashioned.
In Novofemina’s first Voices of Transition column An Ode to Networking, Karen a food industry executive shared the following: “I couldn’t believe it. No one had ever done that for me before. I was having a conversation with a venture capitalist who said ‘you have to meet so-and-so’. He immediately turned and picked up the phone to call the person while I was sitting in his office,” said Karen. “I didn’t really know this guy. His wife and I connected one day during pick-up at our children’s school. She said ‘you have to talk to my husband’ once she understood my status.”
I hope that people make introductions on your behalf that look more like Karen’s venture capitalist’s than that of my flighty former event chair. For those who’ve benefited from truly great introductions….how often are you reciprocating that wonderful gift?
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