Whether you have a business card collection that fills a bookshelf or
you’re trying to become comfortable with meeting new people, one way
to get much more value and happiness out of networking is to
proactively make things happen instead of waiting for them to occur.
Make things happen. Find out what people around you want or need, and
look for ways you can help them grow. Life is a lot more fun that way!
For backstory, check out The power of proactively networking
I’ve reached another turning point in my life, another coming of age.
I’ve realized the power of proactive networking, and I have a feeling
that it’s going to change my life.
You see, I used to shy away from networking because I couldn’t think
of how I could add value to the conversation or what I could take
away. I went to a few networking events before I got tired of being
given the once-over by schmoozers who moved on when they realized that
I couldn’t give them any deals or opportunities. As a student, what
could I offer? And what could I ask them for? I didn’t want to waste
their time, didn’t want to prevent them from meeting other people they
could deal with.
I was insecure. That was exactly how I felt when I moved to Canada
from the Philippines, torn away from *my* network and suddenly back at
the bottom of the totem pole. I didn’t believe I could offer any
value, and so I couldn’t.
Over the past year and after so many conversations and books, though,
I think I’ve finally found myself—and I can’t believe that I hadn’t
realized this earlier.
How did I go about it? I credit two books with sparking a particularly
large number of aha! moments: Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” and
Tim Sanders’ “Love is the Killer App.” Both books taught me that my
love of reading and learning could be valuable to other people, so I
had something to start with. My interest in other people helps them
discover more about life and themselves—another reason why people
enjoy sharing their insights with me. I give people an opportunity to
help, and in so doing, they grow as well. All I need to do is ask.
As I practiced the suggestions in these books, I found it easier and
easier – and more and more fun. I discovered that by consciously
reaching out, I could enrich my life and the lives of people around
I don’t think of it as my “network”, not in the cold and calculating
sense of just wanting to add more nodes to a graph. No, these are
people whom I want to help grow and who care about my growth.
And last night, I realized something amazing: the power of
proactivity, of making things happen instead of waiting for things to
After a wonderful conversation about all sorts of topics including the
meaning of life, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the joy of
networking, I asked my seven guests point-blank what they wanted and
how I could help them succeed. They told me—and my mind kicked into
high gear, thinking of whom I could introduce to them and what I could
help them with.
*This* is one of the things I’m not only good at, but I love doing.
Perhaps this is one of the things that I am meant to do. I’ve jokingly
described how I enjoy stuffing large amounts of information into my
brain in order to bring out one or two relevant items when people need
them. I’ve applied it in geeky contexts before: familiarizing myself with a list of open source
packages (all of Debian, at one point) helped me recommend just the right package for Jijo Sevilla when he was working on a point-of-sale system, while my background in computer science helped me tell Simon exactly which keywords he should use to find a good algorithm for a feature he wants to include in his product.
I want to do it with people, too. I want to keep people’s wants and
haves in mind. I *love* making those connections.
This was one of Sam Watkins‘ brilliant ideas,
some years ago: write down your wants and haves on your card, and
exchange this with others. OpenBC is a social networking site that’s playing around with the idea, too, which is why I like OpenBC a lot. The key point is: proactively find out what people want / have, and make those connections happen!
One of the difficulties I had was figuring out how to keep in touch
with people, how to do followup. Followup is incredibly important.
Proactively choosing to make things happen makes it really easy to
follow up and exercise those networking muscles. Every person I meet
and every conversation I have has the potential to reactivate old
connections, and I want to review old connections to find out what I
can help them with now. If they’re in my network, it’s because I think
they’re cool and I want them to succeed – and we’ll keep growing
That gives me even more confidence when it comes to meeting other
people. I now bring *lots* of value to the conversation. Sure, I’m not
a CEO or even someone with decision-making power. Even as a student,
though, I can help people succeed. I’ve been told I have interesting
ideas and that I’m a good listener. I love asking questions and having
conversations. And I know lots of really cool people. I want to know
more peopl because the more people I know, the more interconnections I
can make and the more stories I can tell.
“Your network is your net worth,” said Tim Sanders – and mine is growing. I care about the people in it. I want them to succeed. I want to learn from all these interesting people – strangers, acquaintances, friends. That gives me the chutzpah I need to walk up to someone I’ve never met – the power of proactive networking.
Tim Sanders has an insightful post on thinking of tasks as either glass, metal, or rubber. From his blog post:
- If I drop an action item made of glass, something gets broken. It has a guaranteed negative outcome not to do it.
- If I drop and action item made of metal, nothing gets broken — but there will be plenty of noise and maybe even a dent claimed.
- If I drop an action item made of rubber, it will will probably bounce either back to the tasker or to the right person. This is probabaly an action item that is either silly or not my role.
Mondays are the best days to deal with “glass” things, he says, and people should minimize the number of glass things they’re juggling at a time.
Come to think of it, my life is like that. It’s not just a matter of
keeping all of the balls in the air, satisfying all the
responsibilities – there’s never going to be enough time for that! I
have to think about which responsibilities I don’t really need to take
on, things that can bounce to someone else…
A chance encounter with Daniel Chmielewski at BarCampEarthToronto led to a conversation about the Philippines and an introduction to Kevin Beckford, one of Dan’s friends who is in the Philippines right now. I asked him how he ended up in Cebu, and he said:
I came here from Hong Kong, I was doing a contract there. While there, I
could not help but notice the filipinas in causeway bay. Upon talking to
them, I noticed that they all seemed to really love the philippines. I said:
“What the hell am I doing in Hong Kong, which I am not fond of, when
everyone I meet from this country loves it?” So i came here to cebu and just
lived here… did some offshore contracts for cash and now i’m (weeps)
getting ready to leave. I do work with php/perl/java/groovy ( php as little
as possible ) and some admin things. I am currently hacking drupal code
right now YES NOW because I’m trying to get something working according to
I’ll really miss this place though. If I had known it was this good, i
would have targeted here instead of just dropping in for the year. Ah well.
Who knows what the future holds ?
These are stories that need to be told.
E-Mail from Kevin
On Technorati: philippines
I might even consider paying for the service, which again is quite a
vote considering my grad-student budget. =) It’s not that expensive,
though. I just have to figure out how to create enough value.
Sign up and connect. OpenBC has free basic memberships, and you have a
month of premium membership to try it out. I like it a lot. You should
definitely try OpenBC, particularly if you’re a Connector in the
Tipping Point sense of the word.
There is a reason for all things, and there turned out to be a very
good reason why I found myself asleep this morning. I had been
planning to wake up early and do some work at the lab, but I realized
that I left my phone charger somewhere, so I decided to leave my phone
off—so, no alarm clock.
Instead, I woke up this morning to the unmistakeable sound of
thickly-accented frustration. I stepped out of my room—sans glasses,
in my hurry—and found one of the maintenance staff wondering out loud
what on earth she was going to do with all the dishes in the sink, as
they needed to do their pre-move-in cleaning. I nodded and agreed that
they were under a lot of pressure, and added that maybe last night
wasn’t the best night to have a party. Then I rolled up my pajama
sleeves and worked along with them.
I was glad to help, especially as just a little effort on my part
could relieve the two maintenance people a great deal of stress. They
needed to be able to clean the surfaces, but maintenance had gotten so
much flak from residents about stuff being moved or moldy food being
thrown away that it was really good to have a resident around.
It was easy work: washing the dishes, moving food off the bottom shelf
and out of the crispers in the fridge so that they could clean them,
taking everything out of the bathroom and off the fridge. As we
cleaned, we chatted—and it was wonderful being able to connect with
Michael and Lily.
They told stories about fridges that were moldy and bathrooms that
were almost black, and shared speculations about certain racial
combinations and how that affected cleanliness. <laugh> For the
occasional guilt I feel about how I keep the suite, it turns out that
it’s still pretty decent. No, I don’t want to think about how messy
everything else must be.
Aside from the gossip, though, we also talked about so many other
things. Lily commutes from Richmond Hill, so I could sympathize with
her about the expense of YRT and TTC. She loves the place, though.
Michael lives in the middle of Chinatown, which is very convenient but
also very busy – he’s looking forward to escaping to his family’s
cottage this Labour Day weekend.
Lily mentioned her love of salsa. I remembered Alejandro, the
gentleman who struck up a conversation with me when I was studying in
the common room. He even demonstrated salsa moves; he loved salsa so
much! He also worked in the building, and I was sure they’d have run
into each other. “I know Alejandro! He’s my husband! He’s been telling
me so much about you!” That turned into a discussion of how
Alejandro’s such a charmer and how women line up to dance with him,
but Lily’s not jealous at all because she knows him. She told me of
her children from a previous marriage, too. Among them: a lawyer in
Chile, a psychologist, a forestry engineering student in France.
Lily’s vocation is working with seniors at a nursing home. That’s what
she loves doing. She occasionally helps out with Graduate House when
she could use the money, but her passion is taking care of seniors.
Oh, you should’ve seen her light up when she was talking about taking
care of them. She’s a very strong woman – “Half-German!” She reminded
me of my mom when she said, “I’m my children’s friend, but I’m their
mother first.” She’s tough, but it’s the kind of tough that everyone
needs, and I can totally see her in that kind of environment. She used
to be a physical therapist, too, which certainly helps.
Upon learning that I’m from the Philippines, Michael said a few
Tagalog phrases he knew. (Why is it that everyone here knows a few
Tagalog phrases? I’ve got to learn a little about other people’s
cultures…) He joked about wanting an Asian girlfriend because of our
culture. I laughed and said I’d keep an eye out. It turned out that
he’s just a bit younger than I am – he turned 23 on Aug 23. He’s
looking forward to winter because he loves playing hockey, although he
likes all the other seasons as well.
I shared with them the last bar of Godiva chocolate (thanks, Gabriel Mansour!), a bar of Cadbury (Michael’s favorite, apparently), and the mint chocolate that Shane D’Costa gave me. Everyone likes chocolate. =)
I’d like to think that I made their day unexpectedly better, and that
whenever someone gives them a hard time, they’ll remember that people
aren’t all like that. =) It was awesome connecting with them and
listening to their stories and treating them as *human*, y’know?
That was good. That was the best thing I could’ve done that morning.
And we got everything cleaned within their two-hour time limit! =)
People who have never been to a BarCamp
probably have no idea what to expect from this un-conference. In fact,
I get the feeling that the BarCamp *I* go to is very different
from the BarCamp that everyone else goes to, even if we’re all going to BarCampEarthToronto.
I think my way is cool, and I think you should try it out. =) Here’s
what I get out of BarCamp and why I think it’s tons of fun.
For me, BarCamp is all about conversation. I start with the
assumption that as a whole, everyone else knows more than I do about
anything I want to talk about. My sessions are not presentations, but
roundtable discussions. I’ll structure them a little bit to give
people something to work with, like the way I talked a little bit
about Enterprise 2.0 or shared some of my networking tips. The value
of the session doesn’t come from me, though, but from the
My job is not to tell people answers, but to share a few stories and
ask lots of questions. I turn Q & A onto its head by saving more time
for questions than for speaking, and asking more questions than I
This also allows me to adapt to people’s interests on the fly. In the
middle of hallway conversation, I’ve said, “Hey, I’d love to have a
larger conversation about this,” run off to find a marker, and then
added the session to the grid. I think it’s okay not to be an expert
on something just yet, to not have a slick well-rehearsed
I think this is so much more fun than treating BarCamp as a
self-organizing series of traditional presentations. I’d rather say,
“I feel like talking about ____” and see who else wants to.
Conversation. For me, BarCamp is all about starting
conversations. It’s fun following up with people, too. Just finished a
BBQ with a few people I met at BarCampEarthToronto – that was
I’ll blog about this more when I’m more coherent, but yeah. Conversation.
The end of summer so let’s have a been (or two) and hook up with some
friends and make some new ones…
August 31st, 6:00 PM tillÃ…Â .
We had a great turn out the previous times this was held. Lots of great
conversations and business connections, and all around good times were had!
So let’s do it one more time!!
I’ve gone back to the management at Shoeless Joe’s and they’re going to give
us a deal on beer ($3.50) and throw in some food.
A great environment to talk about what’s going on in the technology,
marketing & PR and all things that impact it, or just kick back and have a
drink and talk what ever on your mind they even throw some finger food.
Where / When:
- Shoeless Joe’s – 401 King Street W (King St. & Spadina Ave) (Map)
- August 31st
What to bring:
- Lots of business cards
- Loonies – we’ve got $3.25 beer & wine (not including tax & tip)
- Lots of great ideas and things to talk about
Who will be there:
This is open to anyone to anyone who’s looking to network, socialize,
schmooze and connect with other business minded people from any sectors; but
chances are you fit into technology, marketing, public relations in some way
shape or form.
Would love to know if you can make it Ã‚Â hit me up on email or leave a
comment on the blog or reply to the email if you can make it.
Profectio – Bringing together Canada’s connected community –
Personal Blog – www.profectio.com/forde
E-Mail from DAVE FORDE