Home > What's in my head now? > “I’m Always Willing to Have a Conversation”

“I’m Always Willing to Have a Conversation”


Have you ever turned your nose up at an opportunity? I bet you have. And I bet there are some people who, as they’re reading this, are thinking, “no, I haven’t”; my comment to you is that you probably weren’t aware enough to realize that someone was offering you an opportunity.

In February 2011, I achieved a goal. In February 2010 I started my own business with 3 goals in mind before going back to the “working world”: 1) I wanted to work 40 hours / week or less 2) I wanted to prove to myself I could run my own business 3) I wanted to bring in “X” dollars in revenue. It took me exactly one year and I achieved all three. So now what?

Now I go back to the world I love so much; the world of working with others. Being an extravert, the past year has been incredibly difficult for me; consulting and being “with myself” from 9 AM – 6 PM everyday. But I did it. And I’m better for it. So, how does one get back into the work world? Most people are probably thinking, “duh – apply for jobs”. But no – that’s not my schtick. I know the stats. I know that 92% of jobs are found via connections, not uploading a resume. So, I embraced the stats and started calling around, making conversations.

And it’s been fun – it really has. I realized not only how many connections I had made – but more importantly, the depth of those connections; I didn’t network – I was a relationship builder. And the response was overwhelming. That said, there were certain opportunities that were thrown my way that I impulsively chose not to look at. I didn’t have any reason except that I “thought the job sounded too junior” or I “didn’t think I believed in what the company did”. Stupid.

So I’m on the phone yesterday with Linda – this rockstar Marketer that I “connected with” to work for over the year; while working together, I was impressed…and I’m rarely impressed – so I basically bothered her into a relationship. So we’re discussing jobs on the phone and I mentioned a couple of companies that had reached out to me and asked her opinion on if I should speak with them…I had already made up my mind NOT to speak with them, but I thought – eh, let me see what she would do. And her response, the same response I’ve heard multiple times from her was,

It’s always worth having a conversation.

So I started thinking back to other conversations we’d had and one thing that stuck out whenever I asked if she wanted to be connected with someone – she said, “I’m always willing to have a conversation”.

So I spent the rest of the day thinking about all of the conversations I had turned down and what a bad decision that had been. And I don’t mean just “career” opportunity conversations, but conversations with people in general. How many ideas, thoughts, and great people had I missed out on because I was NOT “willing to have a conversation”? My list was not too long, but it wasn’t too short either.

And then I went back to my first three jobs as well as all of my consulting work; I had never applied for anything – they had all been started with random conversations. My first job, at Kaplan, I was referred there by a high school friend I saw out at a bar. Within Kaplan, I went over to Education Connection based on a conversation about television commercials, and my last role, at HEH, I had been having a conversation with a friend who was in TX and bam – jobs for me and my husband. I could have easily ignored the friend from high school or walked away from the other conversations – but I didn’t.

So, while many things are left to chance – and I firmly believe that everything is purposeful – when you get asked to speak with someone; or maybe not even asked, but the opportunity presents itself – always be willing to have a conversation. Don’t snub your nose at something. You never know where it will lead.

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  1. March 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Fair, mostly. But I do somewhat take issue with your black/white approach in regards to not having (or in your case STARTING) a conversation. To not have the conversation is not automatically a result of snubbing one’s nose at something. That would imply, at least based on my usage of the term, feeling that one is too good for something.

    Take me, for instance. It would be extraordinarily rare for me to encounter someone and not converse with them because I felt myself better than they. Racists. Child abusers. That type of person is in most ways not as good as me, I suppose, but all and all, I don’t “snub” people.

    Yet I don’t have that many conversations. I don’t meet people. I haven’t been as lucky as you and many others in regards to encountering people of influence and opportunity. That is not to say I have never blown a chance, but by and large I consider my lack of conversations, (in the context of your post) to be due to lack of circumstances in about half the cases.

    Another large portion of the lack of conversations is the total lack of interest on the part of other people. I am very sensitive to how I am being received by others, and if they are not interested or intrigued by me and what I am, I quickly move on. I am not about to convince somebody who otherwise finds no reason to engage me that they are incorrect. In that scenario, the lack of useful conversation with an influential person is not a result of me snubbing someone, but of me being the one that is snubbed.

    And finally I think without some sort of emulsifier,(Thank you, Food Network), I am just never likely to mix with someone else, because a lot of the sort of relationship building of which you speak probably depends on non-specific quasi small talk that I loath, and therefore do not engage in. Is not shooting off “how are you doing today” emails to people I don’t know well a form of snubbing? I do not know, but I do not think so. I just think it means I like to have purpose to my conversations with people if they are not my friends, and chatting someone up for the sake of building a relationship has never motivated me into going against my nature and talking to people I don’t know.

    So my overall point is, while I agree that we should be careful about snubbing other people, (and the potential opportunities they bring to the table), there are any number of other reasons why conversations may not take place aside from snubbing.

    • March 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      You’re absolutely right – there are thousands of reasons for not engaging in conversations. For me – it really is usually a matter of having enough hours in the day to get everyone in I want to speak with ( ; That said, you did get my point. My point is that “snubbing” or “thinking one is too good” to have a conversation about something they know little about – probably not the best idea.

      In terms of being lucky about having conversations – you know my response here; I am a firm believer in “create your own luck”; hence the reason the same people are good networkers, the same people are successful repeatedly starting businesses, etc. I think that great networking is a skill set. For example, if there is a company I like – I don’t think twice about either picking up the phone or sending an email and calling the CEO of the company directly. I have no problem spending the 10 minutes researching a private number, another 25 minutes on hold, etc. and when I get someone on the phone, I do believe I have the “skill set” of building rapport in 20 seconds and keeping someone engaged. However – I do believe it takes a certain skill set / training to do so. I think that you reaching out to someone on the phone would be analagous to me attempting to write a book. I could try it – and maybe I could try it continuously – but without some training, learning, etc. I would not be good at it.

      Also – you talk about conversations with “influential” people. My conversations referenced in the post are not with infuential people – they have actually all been ‘random’ conversations that led ultimately to an opportunity I would have otherwise missed. Great example – my second job was gotten after 1) A random person asking me my opinion about TV commercials 2) When I gave my opinion and asked “why”, they told me about a project. 3) I emailed the founder of the project (and was ignored), so I continued to email and call until he noticed me. I then worked for free for 6 months until he hired me….so it definitely takes “work” and “time” to get to that infliential person.

    • March 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      how do you meet new people if you never go out of your way to meet someone without a purpose? Calling* up random people or being called up by random people and having breakfast/lunch for no reason and being awkward because there is no point to the meeting is…kind of fun. 99% of the time it never leads anywhere, but some times it does.

      In either case, I think “networking” should precede “need”.

      Building relationships is the most important thing we do in our lives. It’s not about encountering people of influence and opportunity. That’s like putting the cart before the horse.

      There’s probably a limit to the number of people who can do something for, but there’s no limit to the number of people you can care about and be genuine towards.

      • March 13, 2011 at 1:05 am

        Great quote – “Networking should precede need”. And your point is perfect; you’re basically talking about just being interested for the sake of being interested – no selfishness involved. Rare – but there are people (like you) that truly just enjoy people – and that is rare.

  2. March 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Ty is right. There are plenty of reasons not to have conservations, let alone initiate them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t just as many if not more reasons to engage. It’s easy to look at someone and assume since you apparently don’t have something in common with them, a conversation is a waste of time – resulting in only small talk (which I also dread). But it doesn’t have to be that way

    Conversation can go virtually any where you want it to go. It doesn’t have to result in a career opportunity. Conversation, especially conversation outside your comfort zone builds synaptic connections. It readies your mind for problem solving in general. It broadens your perspective, no matter what the subject material. And it strengthens your empathy muscle, which we could all use to strengthen.

    I’ve had conversations with complete strangers, people now where near my normal peer group – socially, economically and geographically. Many of these conversations have resulted in some of my best writing. I’ve talked to homeless people about the recession and their take on it. I’ve traveled on Greyhound buses just because I love the different perspectives I get that are far from mine.

    Now I don’t condone talking to everyone you walk by on the street, but what’s so bad about doing it once in while. You never know what the conversation will be about or what will result from it, if anything.

    But if you don’t, you do know what will result … nothing.

  3. March 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Question……

    As a life-long entrepreneur, if you have achieved all three of your goals, and were able to do it in only one year, then why would you want to return to a “real job”?

    I really love to read your posts, but this one seems to be missing something important……

    Put it this way, if I could figure out a way to work a 40 hour week, running my own business and it earned me the amount of money I targeted, then what sane person would want to go back to the backstabbing politically charged world of a “real job” where your primary objective in life is to make your boss, instead of yourself, look good?

    Help me out here…..

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia
    http://www.build-project-management-competency.com

  4. March 13, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Well first – I’m definitely not “sane” ( ; never claimed to be that! And I also don’t know if I’m a life long entrepreneur. I love to build new things, I love to build businesses and to quote PHISH, “Thoughts follow my vision and dance in the sun”…all that said – different things motivate different people. For me, this past year was great…and miserable all at the same time. I MISS being in an office. I MISS the “buzz” of the sales center…I MISS being able to go schmooze over lunch or get a hug from an employee that just closed a big deal. Those are all the reasons I go to work. I’m addicted to people.

    In terms of having a “boss” – I’ve never had a traditional “boss”. I’ve been lucky enough to work with people / for people who are more concerned about learning, building, and growing than their egos. So that’s what I’m looking for again – it has nothing to do with making “the boss look good”, and everything to do with finding a product or service I believe in, tying the mission to that product, and achieving that mission…and doing so with other people.

    Perhaps we also differ here because it’s a matter of “age” ( ; No offense!!! For me, I’m only 30 years old and I have a ton of time to get sick of working for other people. My “goal” of this next role is to work somewhere for about 5 years – and work until I’m confident that I can run a multi billion dollar business. Right now, I can’t do that; I can run a small business – but not a major one – and that’s something I’d like to learn to do.

    Also – when I say, “real job” – I should probably also clarify that for me – I don’t plan on working 9-5 in the corporate world ( ; To me, what I meant – a “real job” just means I’m working FT on someone’s payroll.

    Does any of that make sense?

  5. March 14, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Conversations means networking and networking means possibilities, which may imply opportunity. Possibilities which can include finding a new, fulfilling career opportunities to finding a new client. Possibilities can arise anywhere and at anytime. Consider the “Bar Example.” Without being receptive to possibilities, I don’t believe we can realize their potential.

    Another example might be a job hunter. This person may have conversations about jobs at certain companies, skills and qualification in a given field, the future of the position, a specific job, and so on. The conversation topic is potentially endless. The job hunter does this with the intent of creating possibilities. One possibility might include a recruiter offering to accept the job hunter’s resume for a position that will soon be vacant and is not yet advertised.

    Conversations=possibilities.

  6. March 14, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Solid quote – stealing it and tweeting ( ; Way to shorten my post – hahahah!

  7. March 14, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Feel free to use it. I thought it captured the essence of your post.

  1. March 28, 2012 at 9:04 am

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