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Friday, 16 March 2012

Networking - a dog's life?

Even on a beautiful, sunny day walking Jemma, the faithful hound, on the village green, my fellow walkers refused to make eye-contact with me. When one chap’s glance flitted into the path of mine I smiled the ‘nice day, isn’t it’ smile, hoping for nothing but a flicker at the edge of his mouth in response. He not only looked away but stuffed his hands in his pockets and quickened his pace so that we might be out of range faster. It’s a curious thing, having a friendly greeting rejected outright by a complete stranger. As my four legged friend was ensconced in a bush, and I was a little puzzled, this old dog decided to take a load off his feet and sit down on the strategically placed bench donated by the last person who died in the village!

Ten minutes later I had been sniffed, snuffled and investigated by almost a dozen dogs of all shapes and sizes. It was like a reverse Crufts – I felt I should have been poised on a felt covered podium, such was the rigor of these inspections. Most of the curious hounds trotted off as quickly as they arrived, clearly called to an important meeting between nose and unidentified smell; evidently, I wasn’t that important to them. Some lingered for a while, checking me, my surroundings and my bag for undiscovered nasal delights; alas, I had nothing they seemed to want. Apparently, I was wholly unappealing to humans and dogs alike.

Then, just when I was about to lope off home, a perky little Dachshund, previously unsighted to me behind a hulking mastiff and an attention-seeking Spaniel, decided to stop and stay. What did he want that the others didn’t? What did he like that had caused the others, quite literally, to turn tail and flee? After the brusque treatment of the other brutally judgemental pooches, I was a little nervous at the attention. Maybe he was a biter? Maybe this was his bench and I was about to marked as part of his territory in the only way a dog knows how? Or maybe, just maybe, it was a case of the right place and the right time equalling a good match?

Striking out on your own, whether you’re going for a walk, looking for a job or setting up a business, can be an extremely stressful experience. The speed with which prospective employers, clients and networking opportunities seem to pass you off can set you in a complete spin and leave you feeling like it will never happen. But I learnt a few things from my jaunt in the park...

Old dogs can teach you new tricks: While I was being inspected, Jemma – fearless, even in her wobbly, later years – was actively inspecting other dogs. She had no compunction getting out there, seeing and being seen. Brush offs didn’t faze her – she just kept at it, unperturbed. An attitude to be admired, I think.

Anytime, Anyplace: Having a fixed idea of where, how and when you’ll make  connections in life and business is an easy way to be disappointed – keep your eyes and ears  (and even your nostrils) open all the times.

Don’t discount the Dachshund: The best connection might not with the big-hitting, hulking great mastiff of a company – the small, tenacious, can-do organisations of this world have a lot to offer too.

Sniff around, and prepare to be sniffed: The most important thing is to put yourself out there, however scary it might seem. Networking isn’t easy and it can feel like a war of attrition – but, if you keep at it, it pays off. 

Networking is a lot like a dog’s life but, take it from me, that’s no bad thing.

Be confident: Second guessing yourself, or shying away from something because you think it’s too good to be true, or over your head will find you sitting on that bench alone. 

Know what you have to offer, believe in it, and yourself and you'll find that persistent "sniffing" and checking up on people and indeed just talking to people will work.  People buy from people they like - so just be friendly!  Be prepared for some people to not like your smell but hey who cares - your smell will work for others and there's plenty out there.

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