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  • Diana Schneidman

Taking the yuck out of networking

If you’ve been reading my newsletters and blog, you may know that I endorse telephone prospects for freelance and consulting work. (Others call it cold calling.)

You may think that anyone as crass as me will do anything to get paying assignments. But surprisingly, I have my limits. I won’t do indiscriminate networking.

I don’t accost strangers, or even friends and relatives, with my pitch unless I have sufficient reason to believe they or someone they know could benefit from my services.

How about the guy in line behind me at the grocery at 10 pm who is buying a case of Bud? Nah.

Or Aunt Edna, who lives in a trailer park 60 miles outside Charleston, West Virginia? Nope.

Or the teenager sitting beside me on the plane, flying to her parents’ home in Scarsdale for the holidays? Again, no.

Well, actually this third person is slightly more likely than average to know someone, but I let it go anyway.

The avid networkers out there think there is something wrong with me for phoning strangers willingly.

But I think there is something even more bizarre about people who see every human being who crosses their path as a connection . . . or what we would see, from a glass-half-empty perspective, as a degree of separation from someone we want to grab hold of.

Have I missed out on opportunities? Perhaps. There’s no way of ever knowing. But I’m OK with that. I’d rather lose out on a connection than live my life in perpetual barracuda mode.

What if I find myself in conversation with someone actually likely to hire me?

My freelance niche is rather narrow (writing for insurance and asset management companies), but if it happens, I’m prepared.

So as soon as I recognize someone as a relevant contact, I bubble up with, “Gee you’re a marketing director at Prudential Insurance. That is so cool because I’m a freelance writer and CLU [an insurance designation] who writes copy for companies such as yours. Do you ever use freelancers?”

The answer may be no or it may be maybe or it may even be yes! In which case I can ask for her card and propose following up with her when she’s back in the office.

Then we can return to casual conversation. I don’t have to worry about how to enter my services into the conversational flow or pray she’ll ask me the right lead-in question.

Life is delightful when you don’t live it as a 24-hour cog in the marketing machine.

Originally posted 3-15-09

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