Build Your Professional Network While You Sleep
How does one do this? By writing a blog, course! Today regular contributor Dave Baldwin shares his thoughts on how writing a blog can build your network while you sleep so that when you do connect with colleagues face-to-face the hard introduction part is already done. Enjoy!
Last week, someone made a comment to me that underscored one of the most important reasons for writing. I didn’t write down the exact words, but here is my best recollection of them: “I feel like I’ve gotten to know you better than you know me, because I have been reading your blog.” That’s it, in a nutshell. That’s one of the reasons why I write every day. I’m striving to help as many people as possible get to know me before I’ve even met them. It just makes a lot of sense.
If you have ever thought about writing a book, but you are unsure whether it’s worth the effort or not, ask yourself the following question. Would it be beneficial to you if people had a chance to read your story and get to know you, without you personally having to explain yourself every single time? To give a great example of what this looks like, I’d like to use the example of The Networking Diary by Raleigh-based author Nancy Nguyen. Her book is a great example of using writing as a vehicle to build a relationship with your audience.
What really stood out for me about this particular book is that the author does an uncommonly good job building a sense of relatedness. She postures herself not as the high-and-holy thou-shalt-do-what-I-say expert. Instead, she postures herself more like a professional peer. Her writing voice comes across in such a way that makes her sound approachable and willing to help. She also makes it clear that she can smell sales BS a mile away, and that she has no interest in people reaching out for the sole purpose of exploiting her contact list. This book is the perfect networking tool: it helps to give you a sense of what kind of person the author really is.
Nguyen establishes credibility by transparently sharing humbling experiences that, in my opinion, most people would be too embarrassed or proud to talk about. For example, she mentions a time when a professional contact connected her to a writer and actor who expressed a willingness to help her with her book. She openly admits to having shown up for the meeting unprepared. She went home in tears after he gave her a dressing down in front of several people. I have observed that sometimes the most valuable experiences that we can relate to are the ones we’re the least proud of. I always recommend that writers step outside their comfort zone in terms of what they’re willing to put on public display. Nguyen did this skillfully—especially because she also clearly showed that she learned from the experience.
One nice touch that I appreciated: the author made references to specific places in Raleigh. For example, she shares about a time when she scheduled a meeting at the Courtney’s restaurant on Six Forks Road. I have eaten at that Courtney’s before. That helped to reinforce the sense of connection that she had already created.
If you realize the value of networking for your business, I would strongly encourage you to consider writing a book. You don’t have to write at length about what you do. Nguyen doesn’t really say a whole lot about what she currently does in her business, and it doesn’t matter. Writing isn’t about selling—unless of course you’re writing the copy for an advertisement. Writing is about relationship-building. A book is potentially a powerful accelerator for the trust-building process. If you tell your story authentically and show your character, people will begin to know, like and trust you before they have even met you. In addition, your friends and professional contacts will be able to recommend your book to their peers.
Side note: if you know any college students who are worried about how they will find a job after graduation, point them in the direction of The Networking Diary. Nguyen’s strategies and tactics are the kinds of concepts that schools don’t teach, but should. It’s commonly said that getting a job is largely a function of networking. The job market is getting more and more competitive, showing no signs of slowing down. College students who haven’t learned the fundamental skill of building and nurturing connections are going to have a hard time getting employed. A freshman student who embraces Nguyen’s approach, on the other hand, could be possibly be employed by his or her sophomore year.
Writing a book doesn’t require superhuman abilities—and it can increase the results that you get from your networking activity. If you are intrigued by the idea of using a book as a networking tool, pick up a copy of The Networking Diary. It may change your outlook on networking and writing. Even if you have no desire to write a book, read it anyway!
How has your blog helped you build your platform? How do you position yourself on your blog: expert, professional peer like Nancy or something else?