On March 1 I received a message via LinkedIn from a woman who had read one of my blog posts and was touched by it enough that she reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to meet with her face-to-face to hear first-hand about my career path. On her own career journey, she respectfully asked for 20 minutes of my time over a coffee, and even then said if not, she’d understand and wished me well in my passionate endeavors.
First thing I did was look up her profile on LinkedIn and read up on who this person was and what she’d done to date. We exchanged a couple of messages and the short of it is that we agreed to meet last evening in a public café. I mean here was someone doing exactly what I and many others so often suggest doing; reach out and network, ask for 20 minutes and see what you can learn. I was impressed.
So last evening we met at our agreed time and after introducing ourselves, Tracey made good on her offer of buying me a tea. In exchange for that small investment and the cost of the gas to get to and from the meeting, what she got was more than 20 minutes. We sat there and had a great conversation for…are you ready?…..3 hours. Yep, 3 hours.
When did you last meet someone for the first time and not only found yourself happily immersed in talking but found this interest reciprocated for so long? This was special. The conversation had a nice flow back and forth, both of us sharing experiences, and how those experiences have us where we are in the present. There was something in that post of mine that prompted Tracey to feel she could benefit from meeting; perhaps gaining some insight into what she herself might do with her own career moving forward.
So I shared my working philosophy, the significant characteristics I believe are essential in this line of work, the benefits I derive, what I actually do and what I learn in return. As I spoke I observed Tracey and noted many positive qualities which we’d all do well to replicate in similar situations should we initiate such meetings ourselves.
She listened attentively, made excellent eye contact, smiled, commented on what she heard, added her own experiences to the conversation so it was a two-way exchange. She was well dressed, came prepared with some written questions and had a pen and paper at hand. Now ironically, the questions she’d prepared didn’t play much of a part in the meeting, as our conversation went back and forth at a comfortable pace and apparently satisfied her questions.
I was interested to hear that in addition to myself, she was meeting with others too; people she had been referred to by others. She said it this meeting was the first time she’d reached out on her own to someone she didn’t know, and we laughed a bit at that. It’s prudent to be cautious when doing so of course, but we were meeting in a public space and sometimes that courage provides new perspectives; hearing from others actually doing the kind of work you might be considering yourself.
I found it interesting that she’d spent 4 years teaching abroad, has recently invested in upgrading her education in Social Sciences and has experience working as a Researcher. More significant to me was hearing her speak about her own love for helping others, having a need for innovation and creativity and how much she enjoys interacting one-to-one. Like attracts like, and so being innovative myself, connecting with others one-on-one, loving helping others and being creative I envisioned her as a professional colleague in the same line of work. Having just met, I don’t know her inside and out, but still, I started to read her and see if she had what it would take to be in this field and succeed. No question about it.
What struck me was her dilemma. What to do? Look for work in the field she just upgraded her education in or possibly pursue a career in something else. Now as I said to her, if her heart was in the work she’d just went to school for, she likely wouldn’t be sitting in a café having a conversation like the one we were having; she’d be enthusiastically out there applying for jobs. Yet here she was. That is a most telling reality; seems to me she’s looking for some work to do with passion herself; helping others in some capacity and looking to feel fulfilled. That apparently hasn’t manifested itself where she is right now.
In the end, it will be Tracey who makes up her mind as to where she goes from here and what she does next in her career journey. She’s an intelligent woman gathering information and others perspectives, and I’m very interested myself to stay in touch and hear what transpires. I’ve made myself available in any way that she might find helpful too, be it further conversations in-person or otherwise.
Now as for you and me, this is yet another example where connecting via social media is a good start, but leveraging these connections into actual conversations and truly networking is what we could do more of. 3 hours you might not get I acknowledge, but asking for 20 minutes…priceless. Happy networking!