“it takes a village…” Proverb
As a child, you probably remember your parents telling you not to talk to strangers. This is an excellent rule to follow as a child but as an adult, you must constantly interact with people you don’t know in order to function.
If you have been applying the information from earlier posts, you have already decided on a goal, written it down, and begun the journey towards accomplishing it. You may notice there are certain tasks along the way that require knowledge and experience you don’t have; tasks that require assistance from an expert. Perhaps someone within your circle of family, friends or acquaintances has the knowledge you need, but most likely you will need to seek out a subject matter expert to get to the next step. This will ultimately require you to talk to strangers to accomplish your goal.
Ask people you know if they know anyone with the particular skills set you are looking for. This will often lead to an introduction with the knowledgable individual, bypassing much unfamiliar and awkward conversation.
If you have already identified your expert without help, use resources such as LinkedIn to determine if you have any connections with this person you could utilize. If you don’t have any connections at all, do not fear; you can and should still approach this person.
Once you have located your expert, the thought of approaching someone you do not know for information can cause anxiety. Rather than an issue of introverts vs extrovert, this uncertainty stems from our conditioning to avoid strangers.
Approaching your expert might be terrifying but the truth is, most people are thrilled to share their knowledge with someone interested in learning it. It is exciting to meet someone who shares your passion and even more so when they are seeking your expertise. However, this does not mean they are not busy and even if they do very much want to speak with you, their time is extremely valuable. Be respectful of their time by researching their achievements, carefully preparing well-thought out questions, and avoiding small talk for the sake of small talk.
To break the ice, make an honest and sincere compliment on something they have achieved and express your admiration for their work. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Be polite and listen more than you talk. Do not talk about yourself unless asked. Ask the questions you have prepared to guide the conversation and take notes. They will appreciate that you are using their time well.
Most people will be more than happy to assist with your goals, but you must be cognizant of their time. It is important to ensure you are using their time effectively and to express gratitude. Pay for any food or coffee that is ordered during your conversation; they are investing their time and insight to see your goal come to life.
Networking is possibly the single best way to achieve your goals. Having relationships with a broad number of professionals in your field will drastically improve your chances of getting hired, making an impact, and gaining success.
Rogelio H. Charles