Change the Game

There is an old fable that gets shared about a girl who was undertaking a journey across the desert to another town, the journey itself is next to impossible – she is faced with extreme weather conditions, dangerous natural threats in the form of deadly animals, and to add to it a hostile environment often traversed and monitored by bandits.

The story goes that she set out on a week long journey with nothing more than a day’s meal, a cloak, and a staff.

Throughout her journey she came across reptiles, a group of travelling bandits and a large wall that barricaded the bandits’ territory

A week later, she walked into the other town – unscathed.  Upon finding out where she’d come from, people wanted to know how this girl made it across the deadly terrain?

Her response was a lesson in resilience

They asked: Why did you only pack a day’s meal?

She said: To hunt for my next meal – knowing that I will encounter predators along the way I wanted to see them as my prey

They asked: How did you elude bandits?

She said: I didn’t – I wore a cloak of sand and walked across the desert.  I traveled in patterns towards the sunlight – from behind I can hear them but they cannot see me, from far ahead I could see them before they could see me.

They asked: How did you survive the night?

She said: I tented my cloak on my staff tightly enough to barricade myself from predators

They asked: how did you get above the wall?

She said: I used the sand to create a mount which I dug my staff into and I leaned it on the wall using it as a branch to climb just high enough to reach the edge and pull myself over.

Lastly they asked: Why did you succeed (with far less) when many before you have failed (with far more)?

She said: I did not attempt to avoid the challenges facing me, for my survival I made them a necessity.

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What Networking and Your College Room mate have in Common

Allow me to start by asking you whether you’ve been approached before for some “change” by someone at random. Maybe they needed it to call someone, or buy a meal or perhaps gather enough for a bus or train ticket.

Has that ever happened to you?

Here is where it gets interesting, can you remember the thought(s) that was/were running through your head at the time? Do you recall how you felt when you were asked? And if this happened to you more than once, how many times did you actually have change in your pocket?

Its important to preface this next bit with the disclaimer that everyone is different and these scenarios often times bring out the best or worst in people, our goal is to simply focus on the emotional psychology that most people go through before they even make the decision to offer or withhold change.

I went to school in downtown Toronto and this scenario has often occurred several times in a single day for me – my initial reaction was fear, I wasn’t sure if the man was asking or demanding but as time went on and I began to experience it more often – I honestly can’t say that I have become “use to it”.

It’s deeply troubling when you see a person that is in apparent need, so it wasn’t “easy” to just walk by even if they didn’t really “need it”.

But consistently and in every case, I felt uncomfortable.

I worked evenings and weekends to finance my education, and when I didn’t I was studying as hard as I could to excel in it. It wasn’t easy – it was brutal! It was hard, and it hurt like hell. I knew that the road will be tough, I knew it would be hard but I was brave enough accept the challenge.

So every time I passed by a person asking for “spare change” I felt like they wanted the end result of my sacrifices. I was also very distressed and bothered by the fact that they really didn’t care who I was, they just wanted the spare change. They didn’t really care if they got it from me, an 80-year old lady on disability or an 8 year old girl who just dropped her allowance money – they just wanted the end result – the change.

At no point did we mention that this “person in need” is of a specific type in society, this could be the man on the corner of Yonge & Dundas or your college roommate who is asking for money. I did this for a reason – the person asking for change is of little relevance, what’s important is how the person being asked feels when this is happening.

…Why?

Because if we understand how asking people for something, without knowing them, working with them and establishing a relationship with them, can make them feel then, perhaps we can be better at …Networking.

I hope I haven’t lost you.

Networking in a professional setting is where a bunch of people, diverse in professional and cultural backgrounds get together for the goal of building and expanding their network of professional relationships.

People who do not know one another, have not worked with each other, and do not have any existing relationships or ties.

Networking events were always a hotbed for professionals seeking opportunities. Even in corporations today, internal networking events or sessions are often (but not always) frequented by those who “want-something-from-somebody” and see it as an opportunity to “get close” and “go in for the kill”.

Now whether you are new grad attending a networking session in hopes of pitching yourself as a strong candidate for a new role or an existing employee hoping get face time with a senior executive to market a question or an idea or even a concern. I want you to think about the feelings that are generated when complete strangers ask you for something. First impressions are extremely valuable, because they will be the ones that determine whether you will be remembered after you turn around and walk away.

My personal success at networking has always come from my desire to know more about the person I’m networking with, to understand them a little better and to perhaps get a view into what drives them, what keeps them moving. I don’t do this as part of an illicit scheme or strategy, I do this because I genuinely care about understanding the person I’m networking with and more importantly taking an interest in them.

When you take an interest in people, something strange happens – they start to take an interest in you. It’s in this special phase of the networking relationship that people start to help each other – it’s because they begin to care. You no longer become someone seeking a service, or a favour. You no longer become a person seeking to cash in on their years of service that have gotten them to where they are today, and perhaps more importantly, you become the type of person that cared enough to seek a connection when you didn’t necessarily require or need anything. That my friend is rare! It is sadly rare.

So my advice is to keep networking, keep smiling, keep building connections and keep taking an interest in others and learn to enjoy this process even if you don’t tangibly benefit because by doing so you are establishing yourself as a very rare commodity in today’s world of business – and rare commodities tend to have very high value.