Weâ€™ve developed a powerful philosophy, deï¬ned a memorable position, created a compelling image, and have built a stunning portfolio of work. But just like a tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it, none of this will make much of a difference if youâ€™re the only one who knows about it. Itâ€™s time to put together the ï¬nal piece of the Bright Red Package; your Personal Rolodex.
The Personal Rolodex â€“ Networking on Steroids
The Personal Rolodex hinges on a skill that most people have not developed, at least not to their full potential. Simply stated, in order to develop an extensive Personal Rolodex, you have to learn to network.
Despite its many forms, networking at its core is simple: itâ€™s the process of noticing, listening, connecting and becoming friendly with people. While most â€œnetworking gurusâ€ will assert that the ultimate goal of the process is to get people to do things for you, I can guarantee you that this mindset will end up short-circuiting your efforts. The ultimate purpose of developing your Personal Rolodex should be to create lasting relationships with as many interesting people as possible, whether or not you get anything out of them.
Networking: A Dirty Word?
Networking has received a bad reputation over the last few years, mainly because most people do it wrong. To many, the word conjures up images of slimy politicians or real estate agents. In the college scene, it might remind you of that kid who sits through classes with guest speakers or goes to luncheons with the sole purpose of grabbing as many business cards as possible and begging for a job.
While in a sense this is networking, it can and should be much more. These individuals are missing out on the main purpose or networking: to build a relationship.
If selling your soul for a business card or a vote is the one-night stand of networking, than developing your Personal Rolodex is â€œgoing steady.â€ Networking is more fun, more effective, and much more rewarding when considered in this context. The most important thing to remember is that you are hoping to develop a long term relationship with these people.
Trying to network solely to land a job will inevitably be disappointing. Your job search will be much more difï¬cult, and the majority of people you meet arenâ€™t going to want to keep in touch with you.
Imagine that youâ€™re a busy executive, and you have a full day ahead of you. In the middle of writing a proposal thatâ€™s due by the end of the day, youâ€™re interrupted by a phone call. The person on the other line doesnâ€™t sound familiar. They mention that they enjoyed a presentation you gave on their campus. You donâ€™t remember them, but you appreciate their compliment; it was a speech you were a bit nervous about.
You wonder what theyâ€™re calling for. Perhaps theyâ€™d like to buy you a cup of coffee and learn more about you business. Perhaps they wanted to talk and get to know you a little better. Maybe they just called to thank you for coming in to talk.
Nope. They want a job. They sound desperate. They sound like theyâ€™ve called ï¬fteen other people before you. Theyâ€™re a little pushy, asking you who would be in a position to hire them. They arenâ€™t really interested in you at all, and they likely were asleep during most of your presentation. Now you remember them; the drooler!
What do you think your response to their request would be? Would you take the time to talk with your boss about this kid who you know nothing about? Or would you send them to the HR voicemail system from hell and get back to your proposal?
Needless to say, youâ€™d be annoyed. Now imagine receiving this call at least once a week, from different people, all asking for a job. It would be enough to make you want to shell out the money for an assistant to screen your calls, which is what many people end up doing.
Networking in the traditional sense is a very awkward, uncomfortable process that no one particularly enjoys. And the dismal results speak for themselves.
Why the Personal Rolodex is Different
While classic networking is frustrating for all parties involved, the development of your Personal Rolodex is actually enjoyable. It believes in cultivating relationships for their own sake. It believes in respecting other peopleâ€™s time and feelings. It believes in listening more than talking, giving rather than receiving. It believes in making people want to talk to you.
A Personal Rolodex, if built correctly, will lead to a great job, as long as you donâ€™t use it for that purpose. At its simplest, building a Personal Rolodex is nothing more than turning as many strangers as possible into friends. Everyone you know was very likely a stranger at some point, but they somehow became your friend, despite your body odor problem.
Why not make more friends? Anyone who says that they have enough friends are either jerks or music stars who have lots of people hanging out with them in hopes of getting money or their own record deal. Iâ€™m going to trust that you arenâ€™t a jerk, and can guarantee youâ€™re not reading this if youâ€™re a music star. Youâ€™d be busy buying cocaine.
The Essential Skills of the Personal Rolodex
While building your Personal Rolodex is certainly more natural than traditional networking, it still requires a few skills that donâ€™t come naturally to everyone. The good news is that all of these can be developed if youâ€™re willing to work. If youâ€™re a natural introvert, donâ€™t worry. With a little work weâ€™ll turn you into the outgoing person youâ€™ve always wanted to be.
When I was in college, I was assigned the task of coming up with a viable business model. I decided to write a book about meeting women and tried to sell it for $50 on the internet. I managed to sell nine copies, and only paid out $50 in marketing costs. I got an A, made a bit of money, and nine poor guys got a book that most likely couldnâ€™t help them. After all, chicks donâ€™t dig Dungeons & Dragons no matter how you try to package it.
Anyway, after interviewing about a hundred guys and a hundred girls, I discovered one major theme that was necessary to have success with women: conï¬dence. Every woman I talked to wanted a guy who was conï¬dent with himself. Similarly, every guy who was having problems with women also had a big problem with their self-esteem.
Unfortunately, the problem with conï¬dence isnâ€™t limited to the realm of dating, or to the gender of men. Most peopleâ€™s lack of conï¬dence comes from their fear of rejection. No one likes to be turned down by anyone. In America, failure is seen as a sign of weakness.
This line of thinking is tremendously ï¬‚awed. The people regarded as most successful in life arenâ€™t more talented than anyone else. They may work hard, but so do most people. The difference is the way they think; they never doubt their abilities for a second. They believe so strongly that what they are doing will lead to success that they shrug off failure like Bill Clinton shrugs of impeachment proceedings.
How can you develop your conï¬dence in talking to people? The ï¬rst step is to get the bad stuff out of your head.Your brain processes new experiences by referring to previous ones. For many of us, our memories include our parents telling us itâ€™s better to be seen and not heard, or the kids in junior high making fun of us for saying something stupid in class.
As a result of these negative memories, your brain anticipates this outcome before it even happens. Long before you try to strike up a conversation with someone, your brain is telling you theyâ€™re going to think poorly of you. After all, youâ€™re just a kid. Why would some executive want to give you the time of day?
These thoughts arenâ€™t just untrue; they are hampering your personal and professional happiness. So we need to short circuit these inputs, and replace them with more positive statements.
The next time you see someone youâ€™d like to talk to, tell yourself â€œIâ€™m going to be calm, collected and charming. Iâ€™m going to actively listen to this person, and see if thereâ€™s any way I can make their life better. And Iâ€™m going to have fun!â€
Seriously, this stuff works. It might be unnatural or uncomfortable, but it can help you out tremendously. When salespeople are on the phone, they train themselves to smile while talking. As a result of smiling their mood improves, and they come across better to their prospect! Itâ€™s nutty, I know. But itâ€™s also ï¬rmly grounded in our psychology and physiology. We may not yet understand why women are compelled to go to the bathroom in groups or why men have a tendency to take credit for â€œtheir teamâ€ making the playoffs, but we do know that the â€œpower of positive thinkingâ€ is very real.
A few more tips. Put a rubber band on your wrist. Whenever you hear yourself saying or thinking something negative about yourself, snap yourself with the rubber band. This will leave a big welt on your arm, but it will also make your subconscious associate pain with those negative thoughts. Over time, your brain will automatically censor itself, allowing more positive thoughts through.
If you canâ€™t manage to reprogram yourself to have more conï¬dence, try acting. The next time youâ€™re sitting there at an event and you see someone youâ€™d like to talk to but canâ€™t get up the nerve, simply ask yourself what youâ€™d do if you werenâ€™t nervous or afraid. Then do that. Again this sounds very simple, and perhaps a bit silly, but acting â€œas ifâ€ can reap dividends.
Perhaps your problem is that you canâ€™t talk to executives or business owners because of their position, power, or massive amounts of money. Just remember that they are also people, and they put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do. Just the same, it might be helpful to take baby steps. Start by striking up a conversation with the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. Hone your skills and get more comfortable with talking to people in the grocery store. Donâ€™t worry about getting a job out of it; remember, that mode of thinking will hurt you in the long run. Just get good at building rapport and making connections with people.
Once youâ€™re comfortable talking to strangers, gradually move up. Start talking with small business owners, with bankers, with your professors. Once youâ€™re comfortable with the next group, expand your comfort zone again. In a relatively short period of time your conï¬dence will skyrocket.
Iâ€™ll admit it; Iâ€™ve had problems with this my whole life. Someone tells me their name at a party, and itâ€™s instantly out of my head, as if my brain doesnâ€™t think itâ€™s important. Naturally, when the time comes to recall their name, my brain returns an error message and I end up making a fool of myself.
Perhaps youâ€™ve had similar problems. If so, you are well aware of how it makes you look. Who cares whether or not you got up the nerve to talk with someone? Everything they said just went in one ear and out the other. And in most cases, people can tell when youâ€™re not listening.
The good news is that you arenâ€™t alone. The vast majority of people have poor listening skills. Particularly in the world of traditional networking, youâ€™ll ï¬nd that most people will enter into a conversation with no intention of processing or remembering what the other person said. Their formula is to ï¬nd out if the person is important and has the power to help them, and then hand them their card. The more advanced ones might even have an â€œelevator speechâ€ prepared. While this isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing (we did a similar exercise when building our Personal Positioning statements,) when itâ€™s recited thirty times at every social event, people will recognize that itâ€™s canned.
Like everything else we do, we want to stand out and make a favorable impression. Once youâ€™ve built up the conï¬dence to enter the game in the ï¬rst place, listening skills will be your most important ally in building your Personal Rolodex. Donâ€™t take this lightly; it is going to be key as we continue.
What can you do to improve your listening skills? The ï¬rst thing is to try and genuinely concentrate. When youâ€™re talking with someone, force yourself to be there, to be present. Donâ€™t be thinking about how you left the iron on, or about how the lady across the hall looks gorgeous. Focus on the person youâ€™re talking to.
Some people ï¬nd it useful to rephrase what people have said in order to aid retention. This can work, but you need to be subtle; no one wants to have a conversation with a parrot. The best time to use a trick like this is when you hear their name. Ask them how they spell it, or if itâ€™s interesting ask them what country their name originated from. Then be sure to use it at least once in conversation. For most individuals, their name is the sweetest word in the English language. Spending a little extra time focusing on their name will help you remember, and will also make them feel that you care.
Okay, so youâ€™ve got their name down. Thatâ€™s just the start. To build a powerful Personal Rolodex, you also need to remember details about their lives, as well as details about the conversation. A little bit later weâ€™re going to talk about using personal details as a major tool. For now, just understand that anything your potential contact says could end up being useful.
Some things in particular to listen for: alma maters, their birthday, their spouseâ€™s name and birthday, their kidsâ€™ names, ages and birthdays, any anniversaries, recent promotions or awards, their current position, who they are friends with, what their hobbies are, or anything wacky about them that you wouldnâ€™t hear in most conversations.
This is going to take some deï¬nite practice, but eventually you will begin to pick up these details. Attention to details will naturally force you to focus on whatâ€™s being said, which obviously makes you a better listener.
Donâ€™t jot down notes like a reporter, and donâ€™t play twenty questions with them like an interrogator. A good idea would be to take 3×5 note cards with you and as soon as youâ€™ve ï¬nished talking with someone youâ€™d like to keep in touch with, escape to the bathroom for a few minutes to jot down those notes while they are still fresh in your head. You could also write on the back of their business card if they give you one.
Those who are the best at building a PersonalÂ¬Rolodex will take it one step further; they actually make an effort to get to know the people they are interested in before meeting them. Rather than approaching someone cold, doing some preliminary research can often break down walls and make them more inclined to talk with you. After all, youâ€™ve made it obvious that you are truly interested in what they have to say.
As a college student, you are at a particular advantage. Every week, your campus is likely host to seminars or round table discussions featuring relatively prominent executives. Information about these individuals can easily be found by taking a stroll on the information superhighway.
If you donâ€™t mind being a little more old-fashioned, you might want to head down to the local library and picking up the â€œWhoâ€™s Who Directory.â€ This tool will provide you with a very useful write-up on thousands of executives and other important individuals, and many of the tidbits youâ€™ll be putÂ¬ting into your Personal Rolodex can be found very quickly.
Even if the person youâ€™d like to meet isnâ€™t published in this directory or on one of the more popular online resources, you still have options. The companyâ€™s website will often have bios on their staff members and executives, and the writing style can sometimes give you a glimpse into their personality. Many sites also have a â€œnewsâ€ section, which will provide recent press releases issued by the company about their awards, promotions, hires or new business. These nuggets of knowledge can be very useful (imagine an executiveâ€™s surprise when you congratulate them on their recent volunteerism award.)
No website? Call their company! Speak with someone in the ï¬rm and ask them about the person youâ€™d like to get to know. Ask them about their background, their personality, anything else you can think of (this doesnâ€™t include bank account numbers.) Youâ€™ll often ï¬nd people are impressed by your efforts and will be happy to help. The receptionist is often a terriï¬c person to lob questions at. Itâ€™s rare that people take the time to ask the receptionistâ€™s opinion, and make them feel like a valuable resource rather than a middleman. They will appreciate you valuing their opinions.
A little bit of research will pay for itself many times over, simply because no one else will take the time to do it. When youâ€™re at your next luncheon, youâ€™ll be armed with knowledge the rest of your peers donâ€™t have.
While the analogy of dating applies to many parts of the Personal Rolodex, there is one major difference. The purpose of dating, ultimately, is to ï¬nd one person who you want to marry, or at least spend a lot of time with. As a result, most people tend to be selective with whom they date. If there isnâ€™t a â€œmatchâ€ according to whatever set of criteria we have, the likelihood of a second date is pretty slim.
In building your Personal Rolodex, you must avoid this selectivity. Just because someone has a laugh that annoys you, or isnâ€™t a splitting image of Jennifer Garner or Brad Pitt, doesnâ€™t mean that they wouldnâ€™t be a valuable addition to your contact list.
Too often, people pass up terriï¬c opportunities to get to know others because they wouldnâ€™t want to be their best friend. Thinking like this automatically prunes your Personal Rolodex by 50% or more. The smart Bright Red Package doesnâ€™t do this.
You donâ€™t want to be too picky, but if someone wonâ€™t lead to a worthwhile relationship professionally or personally, you likely shouldnâ€™t waste your time.
Okay, so youâ€™ve decided to broaden your horizons and cultivate relationships with people you normally wouldnâ€™t. What if they donâ€™t share the same accepting attitude that you do? Most people wonâ€™t be as adept as you at building their PersonalRolodex, and as a result might not want to pursue a relationship with you.
We can learn something very powerful from the world of sales. No one would want to spend their time hearing a sales pitch if they had their way. In spite of this, salespeople are regularly the highest paid individuals in their companies beÂ¬cause they perform so well. How are they able to consistently call people who have no interest in who they are and what they are offering, and convince them to make an enormous purchase minutes later?
Their secret is that they are masters at building rapport. Just like you, they arenâ€™t concerned with being best friends with everyone they talk to. They might not even like the person that much. But they know that itâ€™s not whether or not you like the person; itâ€™s whether or not they like you.
Luckily for you, a number of the necessary skills for building rapport are already in your possession. Youâ€™ve learned the value of listening skills and can digest everything your contact says. Youâ€™ve done your research and know how to use it to make a positive connection. Youâ€™re dressed to kill using the elements of your Personal Image. Your posture, smile and handshake scream conï¬dence. Youâ€™re off to a great start.
All thatâ€™s left is to ï¬nd similar interests with the person in question. Thereâ€™s a reason why people join fraternities, professional organizations or bowling leagues. As humans, we are naturally very social creatures, and want to be surrounded by others who share our interests.
In cases where you naturally share the same hobbies or passions, the process is easy. Youâ€™ll ï¬nd yourself immersed in a conversation with that individual before you know it, and youâ€™ll likely be pretty fond of each other at the end of the interaction.
But what about instances where there is nothing on the surface that you two share? This is where your efforts at turning your mind into a Personal Library can help you out tremendously. If youâ€™ve done it properly, youâ€™ve spent the past few months reading books and magazines about a variety of topics. At this point, youâ€™ll know at least a little bit about a lot of things.
Armed with this knowledge, your goal in every conversation should be to listen for topics that youâ€™ve read about. If they bring up something youâ€™ve learned, incorporate it into the conversation! Donâ€™t try to lie about your level of expertise; you donâ€™t have to. If they are an expert on the subject and you try to sound like one too, odds are youâ€™ll make a fool of yourself.
Instead, just mention that youâ€™ve been interested in that topic lately, tell them you read an article about it, or share a fact youâ€™ve picked up. Demonstrate your interest in the topic, and then ask them questions. 99% of people love to talk about themselves and the things they are interested in. Whatâ€™s more, after engaging in a conversation spent listening to the other person talk, they have a tendency to think youâ€™re smarter!
Sharing similar passions, or at least being interested in the hobbies of others, is a terriï¬c way to build rapport.
Generosity: Your Most Powerful Ally
Of all the tools in your Personal Rolodex arsenal, this will be your secret weapon. As weâ€™ve mentioned previously, the vast majority of people engaging in the traditional networking process do so with a â€œwhatâ€™s in it for meâ€ mentality. Doing the opposite will help you build your Personal Rolodex faster than you can imagine.
When you do something nice for people, they are naturally inclined to respond in kind. Perhaps they have a subconscious sense of obligation, perhaps they just want to return the favor. Whatever the reason, looking to help others out will lead to a large â€œfavor bank.â€
This isnâ€™t meant to suggest that you should help people out because you want to beneï¬t from it in the long run. It also doesnâ€™t mean you should keep track of who youâ€™ve done what for, periodically sending them an invoice for favors owed. In many cases, there might never be an opportunity for them to return the generosity you showed them. Besides, the major payoff from regularly trying to help others out is that youâ€™ll make their lives better, and that should be enough of a reward.
So how can you demonstrate your generosity to others? Your only limit is your imagination. But to give you a head start, Iâ€™ve compiled a list of some of my favorites. The folÂ¬lowing are things that other Bright Red Packages have done to help others.
This is such a simple one, yet most people donâ€™t utilize it to its fullest extent. The thank you card is fairly commonplace as a follow-up tool after job interviews, but is seldom used elsewhere. There are countless ways that others help you. Sending a quick note lets them know that the gesture did not go unnoticed.
Cards can also be used after meeting someone for the ï¬rst time, to let them know you enjoyed speaking with them. It can be used after a meeting, to tell someone you appreciated their contribution and ideas. You can send one to people you havenâ€™t talked to in a while, just to let them know you were thinking about them.
A natural time to send cards is around Christmas time. But you donâ€™t want to be that boring do you? The average person is sent hordes of Christmas cards every year, and the odds that theyâ€™ll remember yours are pretty small. Why not send a Thanksgiving card? Yours will very likely be the ï¬rst one of the holiday season. What about cards for St. Patrickâ€™s Day, or Groundhog Day, or Halloween? A well-respected executive recruiter I know has made it a habit of sending Forth of July cards to everyone in his Personal Rolodex. Without fail, he gets dozens of calls from people who appreciated the gesture. I can guarantee that heâ€™s one of the only executive recruiters sending his contacts cards just to keep in touch. I can also guarantee that his contacts remember it.
Donâ€™t buy the plain white cards that everyone else sends. Sure, theyâ€™re cheap. But donâ€™t you think the other person knows that? You have a couple of options that are both much more effective.
The ï¬rst would be to design your own cards, or have some printed for you. Make sure you get it printed on heavy paper; 100 pound, glossy stock would be ideal (donâ€™t worry about the jargon; your printer will know what that means.) Go full-color as well. Such a solution is pricey up front, but the majority of that cost is in the setup. If you choose to go with this option, itâ€™s best to go all the way and buy volume, since the difference between 1000 and 2000 will be pretty small. Donâ€™t do this unless youâ€™re going to be willing to actually send the cards. Otherwise, youâ€™re just wasting money.
A different option, and in my opinion a better one, is to purchase high quality cards that reï¬‚ect your personality. Iâ€™ve made it a habit of sending â€œBlue Dogâ€ cards, featuring the art of George Rodrigue. Itâ€™s personal, the paintings are pretty cool, and people appreciate that you took the time to send something different than what they usually get. You can pick up cards like this at bookstores or gift shops. Just make sure that by â€œreï¬‚ecting your personalityâ€ you arenâ€™t offending anyone. Avoid political or religious cards, as well as anything with crude humor on them.
This is one of my favorites. If you get in a conversation with someone whom youâ€™ve met for the ï¬rst time, try to use your Personal Library to ï¬nd similarities. Mention a great book you read about the topic in question, and ask if theyâ€™ve read the book before. If the answer is no, get on the Internet and buy them a copy at Amazon or Half.com. In most cases, you can grab a copy for just a couple bucks, and theyâ€™ll ship it directly to your new friend.
This is a more expensive idea, but the result is incredible. Whether or not they read the book, they will be absolutely blown away by the gesture. I sent a book to a commercial broker I met a few months ago. He thanked me over email, snail mail, and even came into my ofï¬ce to thank me in person! Iâ€™ve become closer to him since then, and I know without a doubt that Iâ€™ll be able call him if I ever need the services of a commercial broker, or even a buddy to help me move. Not bad for $15.
To add an even more personalized touch, write a quick note on the inside of the book, or put a bookmark in a page mentioning something you talked about in your discussion. Sending a book, coupled with a high quality note, is my 1-2 punch for making a terriï¬c impression on people.
Hosting a party or get-together is a great way to do something nice for others. The event doesnâ€™t have to be elaborate to let people know you care. Whatâ€™s better, it doesnâ€™t even matter if the people you invite choose to come. The fact that you thought enough of them to invite them in the ï¬rst place is going to make them feel good.
If you do choose to create a more elaborate gathering, you might want to follow the lead of one of my marketing clients, a small business consultant. His favorite Personal Rolodex-building activity is to host a Christmas party at his house every other year. He invites anyone whoâ€™s ever done business with him, who heâ€™d like to do business with, and any friends or family in the area; in total, about 200 people.
Starting in September, his wife begins to plan how the house will look, what decorations to include, etc. A talented cook, she also begins to cook decadent cheesecakes (over 15 varieties) and freezes them until the night of the event. She also makes over 80 other desserts and appetizers (the woman makes her own crackers from scratch) and lays them out all over the house. She hires the neighborâ€™s children to take coats and wash dishes (she even sews them Christmas aprons.) Every detail is meticulously planned.
Such a process is no doubt stressful and painstaking. But Iâ€™ve seen the results. One of his former clients who he hadnâ€™t seen in over a year ran into us at the local coffee shop during one of our meetings. The ï¬rst thing he brought up was the amazing Christmas party, and the delicious cheesecake! The second thing he brought up was a business problem he was having, and asked if my client could help him out.
Itâ€™s important that everyone feel important at the party, and that requires you to be an excellent host. Just like the consultantâ€™s wife, ï¬nd someone else to handle the dishes, or any other details that take you away from being out in front of people mingling.
Your most important task at a party is to make introductions and help others begin conversing with each other. Youâ€™ll be the ideal person to do this for multiple reasons. First, youâ€™re likely the only one who knows everyone at the party. Secondly, youâ€™ve been diligent at developing your Personal Rolodex and know the everyoneâ€™s interests and backgrounds. You can easily identify shared interests between people, and can get them off on the right foot with each other.
A note of caution: particularly in college, parties intended to create goodwill can quickly backï¬re, especially once the inï¬‚uence of alcohol is introduced. Nothing can kill the positive feelings associated with a party faster than a ï¬ght or other form of assault. Youâ€™re most likely well aware of these dangers, but just make sure you prepare accordingly if youâ€™re hosting a party full of drunk college guys and girls. We tend to not be on our best behavior in such situations.
Hosting a memorable party will help out multiple parts of your Bright Red Package. It will enhance your Personal Image as being a personable, outgoing person who can throw a great shindig. It will be another addition to your Personal Portfolio, a memorable project people will talk about. It will immeasurably enhance your Personal Rolodex, being generous to many people at once, helping them get to know others and build their own contact lists, and making them feel good.
There will inevitably be a time when you are in a tough situation and need some help. Wouldnâ€™t it be nice if you had a group of people you could call on to help you out of the situation, or at least make it easier to handle?
The best way to do this is to help others ï¬rst. Cards are great, but are somewhat superï¬cial. People will deï¬nitely remember the time you helped them out with a problem at work. Thereâ€™s a reason why the maï¬a doesnâ€™t send books; they make problems â€œgo away,â€ so they can call on you if they need to. Trust me on this; Iâ€™ve seen a lot of movies.
Your youth can be a great tool here, because you donâ€™t mind doing grunt work (right?) If someone you meet is behind on their work because they have piles of papers that need ï¬ling, offer to spend a weekend at the ofï¬ce to help them get caught up. Iâ€™m willing to bet that will be the ï¬rst time theyâ€™ve received an offer like that before. Again, even if they turn you down, theyâ€™ll remember the gesture.
One of my favorite things to do when I was in college was to capitalize on my skills as a moderately talented designer. I regularly offered to help executives design websites, brochures or reports for free. The idea was rejected more often than not, but I did enough pro bono work for executives to build a nice Personal Rolodex of folks who wanted to help me out. Some of these free jobs led to paid gigs, others led to internships, and others led to new business from their own contacts.
You donâ€™t only have to help out business people. Help out your classmates with their projects! I was relatively well-known in the business school for making funny PowerPoint presentations, and was more than willing to help other students with theirs. Since youâ€™ve learned how to manage your calendar and now can work more efï¬ciently than other people, you should be able to ï¬nd the time to help out.
Some people might wonder why helping out classmates would be smart. The beneï¬ts are multifold. One, youâ€™ve got a person who thinks youâ€™re terriï¬c and will remember the gestures once youâ€™ve graduated (you are planning on keeping in touch, arenâ€™t you?) Particularly if you have a personal style thatâ€™s distinguishable, or are simply known for helping others out, your professors will think pretty highly of you. And, if nothing else, itâ€™s a great way to land dates.
Giving your services away might seem like foolishness, but the opposite is actually true. As a young person, your biggest disadvantage is your lack of experience. Executives and other businesspeople arenâ€™t going to pay good money for someone whoâ€™s young and unproven. If youâ€™re looking to start a small business freelancing during school, you need to have a body of work that shows people youâ€™re seriously talented. Offering your services for free is a great way for people to try it out risk free.
Offering your services expecting nothing in return is also a good way to build your Personal Rolodex while indirectly positioning yourself for work or internships. Begging for an internship sounds desperate; simply offering your services to help out sounds like you are giving, and have enough going on that you donâ€™t need the money (hint: these are both very impressive qualities in a college student.)
Finally, youâ€™re laying the groundwork for the future. Asking for money now may be gratifying in the short term, but it doesnâ€™t build a long-term relationship the same way that generosity can. Extending your hand in support often leads to business later.
Donate your time or your money to another personâ€™s cause. Offer to help them plan their own party. Offer to join them at the local soup kitchen or shelter. Paint their house. Any time you have an opportunity to help out, take advantage of it.
Assisting with non-proï¬ts can build your Personal Image quite nicely. It shows that you are caring, and that you believe in causes greater than yourself. They can put you in touch with other talented Bright Red Packages, most of which have realized the power of donating and are helping out at the organizations youâ€™re thinking about going to. Most importantly, youâ€™re making your community a better place, however small your contribution may be.
As I said previously, your ability to be generous is only limited by your imagination. Opportunities are constantly around you. Shovel someoneâ€™s walk. Rake their leaves. Let them borrow your book or movie. Buy them lunch, or dinner, or a drink. Walk their llama. Once your brain is tuned in to identifying opportunities to help others, your hand will cramp up from writing them all down. And by that point, youâ€™ll have a doctor who will be happy to look at it; after all, you invited them to your last party!
Know where someone went to school? If you take a trip to the area, stop by their alma mater and send them a postcard, or a stuffed mascot. Sending them a birthday present is great, but what about sending their kid one? Got some free time during a commute, plane ï¬‚ight, or while watching South Park? Take some of the magazines youâ€™ve been reading for your Personal Library and clip articles you think someone might like (or send them the email version.) Send them tickets to a concert for one of their favorite artists.
Again, these will seem shallow if you follow up in a week with a request. These gestures are done because you genuinely want the other person to be happy. Itâ€™s a long-term investment in your professional and personal future.
Technology is Your Friend
The difference between successful Bright Red Packages and the rest of us is that they are very deliberate in what they do. The management of their contacts is no exception. Even if you put in hours of work hobnobbing with people, and even if you diligently adhere to the principles weâ€™ve just ï¬nished discussing, your efforts will still be unsuccessful if you donâ€™t take the time to manage your Personal Rolodex.
If youâ€™re doing it right, youâ€™re rapidly collecting a list of contacts, as well as lots of information about them. But if these notes are scribbled on scraps of paper and are thrown around your ï¬‚oor, theyâ€™ll be of little use to you. You need a system.
How you do this is up to you. Some people carry around a notebook and dedicate a page to each person, with the goal of ï¬lling each page up with as much information as possible. Others have a card ï¬le for all those 3×5 cards theyâ€™ve been taking with them to parties. If one of these systems works for you, then go for it.
I believe in using the power of technology as much as possible. Microsoft Outlook is a powerful contact management tool that comes with their ofï¬ce suite. It allows you to input details about individuals such as their contact info and their position in their company. But it also allows you to keep track of the details that Bright Red Packages use to their advantage on a regular basis. Birthdays, spouses, anniversaries, education background, and kids are all ï¬elds that can be used. You can also create custom ï¬elds to add any other information that you want. But my favorite part is the â€œnotesâ€ page for each contact. This allows you to add whatever information you wish quickly and easily.
Once your contacts are in Outlook, you can send emails, keep track of meetings youâ€™ve had or cards youâ€™ve sent, even schedule times to give them a call and see how they are doing. It also can â€œsyncâ€ with a Palm Pilot, so you can take all this information with you wherever you go. People who are willing to use it can make their lives much easier.
If you want to get more advanced, there are a number of other solutions out there. A program called Goldmine is unique in that you can set up a series of events on a timeline. For example, after entering a contact, you can tell the proÂ¬gram to send an email after 30 days, a letter after 60, and a phone call after 90. For people who have contact lists in the thousands, this might be an attractive option. My personal knowledge of these programs is limited; Iâ€™ve found Outlook has been more than sufï¬cient for my needs. However, you might want to take a look at them.
Again, having powerful software and other gizmos is useless unless you actually plan on using them. It might be a good idea to take the time to learn the software, and to transÂ¬fer the data from your cards or dirty napkins into the program.
Time to Start Building
At this point you should have a good grasp on what the Personal Rolodex is about. The tools are now in your hands, and youâ€™re itching to use them. But where do you start? Whom do you target as additions to your Personal Rolodex?
I have great news for you; you already have a Personal Rolodex, right underneath your nose. As a college student, you have a ridiculous amount of people eager to help you succeed, and itâ€™s time you took advantage of it.
Outside of your own sphere of inï¬‚uence, there are also tremendous opportunities to get to know people. The following pages will outline some of the best opportunities to build your Personal Rolodex. Use all of them, use some of them, itâ€™s up to you. Just remember, thereâ€™s no such thing as â€œtoo many friends.â€
As you go through the different people in your Personal Network, remember the principle of â€œsix degrees of separation.â€ Just because your friend is a garbage man doesnâ€™t mean he doesnâ€™t have a powerful Personal Rolodex at his disposal. Always be thinking about who your contacts know, and who they know. Odds are thereâ€™s someone a few degrees away that can be very helpful. At the very least, you can probably ï¬nd someone who knows someone who knows someone whoâ€™s been in a movie with Kevin Bacon.
For many of us, college was the opportunity to ï¬nally get out from our parentâ€™s shadow and stake our own claim in the world. For this reason, some young people cringe at the thought of â€œrunning back to mommy and daddyâ€ for help.
I was the same way. I was bent on making a name for myself, and wanted to do so on my own terms. My failed painting business and my short stint in stand-up comedy were both efforts to do what I wanted to do with my life rather than what my parents thought was best for me.
Even when I changed my major to marketing and began looking for internships or freelance work, I stubbornly ignored the fact that my dad was a successful consultant and was on a number of important non-proï¬t boards. In fact, he was a prototypical Bright Red Package. He was well-known for what he did, backed his image up with great work, and seemed to know everyone in town.
When I ï¬nally decided to ask him for advice he put me in touch with a local ad agency. The agency president and I hit it off, and my Bright Red Package began to slowly form. I ended up having ï¬ve internships in college and did freelance work for a number of other clients, and nearly all of those relationships stemmed from my initial work with the ad agency. None of that would have happened if I had remained too proud to use my family in my Personal Rolodex.
Simply put, youâ€™re insane if you arenâ€™t using your family on a regular basis. They already think youâ€™re wonderful, theyâ€™re willing to make the calls no one else will make on your behalf, and more often than not they have more inï¬‚uence in their respective circles than you ever thought.
Donâ€™t just think about your parents here. Think about your uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and in-laws. Anyone can potentially help your career or personal life, if youâ€™re willing to pay attention.
A word of caution: donâ€™t be a sleaze. Everyone knows about the family member who calls everyone asking for money. No one likes these people. The law of generosity is even more important with your family. For every favor or kind gesture someone in your family does for you, try to do three back. Also respect their time and their feelings. If one of your family members says they canâ€™t help you, donâ€™t take it personally and write them off your Thanksgiving Card list. Remember that youâ€™ve only got one family.
Your friendship with your buddies might be conÂ¬ï¬ned to getting plastered on the weekends, going shopping for purses, or getting together for a game of poker. As college students, our buddies are rarely focused as much on building their Bright Red Packages as they are on getting as many phone numbers as possible.
That said, there are some important things to remember. Just because they arenâ€™t in a position to help you doesnâ€™t mean that their parents arenâ€™t. I was shocked to learn how many of my friends were coming to school from out of state. But I also knew that their parents were likely forking over $30,000 a year for their kids to attend, which also suggested that they might be in a position of relative inï¬‚uence. Or they sold drugs.
Your friendâ€™s parents will often be willing to help out a young ambitious kid. And since youâ€™re their kidâ€™s friend and you are obviously so responsible, they might feel like their own child has similar drive. Itâ€™s a win-win!
Cultivating relationships with your friendâ€™s Personal Rolodex is an effective way to get to know people all over the country. See if you can go back to their house over a break sometime. Get to know their parents, and their parentâ€™s friends.
In most cases, there is a good reason why your professors are being paid so much. Many of your professors have likely been successful in their ï¬eld before dedicating their lives to teaching the future of tomorrow.
During school orientation, you probably sat and listened (or at least sat) in a lecture about what you needed to do to succeed in college classes. Most likely, one of the big rules was to get to know your professors; to go up to them after class and ask questions, to get help during ofï¬ce hours, to shower them with gifts, etc.
If you were anything like me, you didnâ€™t want to subject yourself to such groveling in pursuit of a grade. In my ï¬rst two years, I didnâ€™t have a one-on-one conversation with any of my professors. They were the enemy.
That changed junior year, when I realized something very important. When my professors werenâ€™t busy ï¬elding questions about push or pull marketing, they were keeping themselves busy offering their services to large corporations for thousands of dollars. They were easily going to be the most knowledgeable collection of individuals Iâ€™d ever encounter in a single place, and I was blowing a great opportunity.
My ï¬rst attempts involved little more that coming to them with made-up questions I already knew the answer to. Iâ€™d sit diligently in ofï¬ce hours with problems that my friends had but didnâ€™t want to take the time to ask. I even went so far as to include a card inside one of my exams, telling my professor how much I enjoyed the class and respected them as a person. It worked; I got an A in the course. But I realized that these things werenâ€™t helping me get to know these individuals personally, and wouldnâ€™t help me build a strong long-term relationship with them.
I forgot that these folks were just people. They like stupid jokes just like we do, and they watched last weekendâ€™s game just like we did. The tactics typically used in building a Personal Rolodex apply to professors just like they apply to anyone else. Once I realized this, my efforts became much more effective. I offered to buy them coffee just to learn about their background, and the research they were working on at the time. I offered to help them with busy work they didnâ€™t want to do. I let them borrow books Iâ€™d read that were interesting.
The best way to add your professors to your Personal Rolodex is to try to get to know them as a person. Thereâ€™s a thin line that you walk on here; some professors might just think youâ€™re going for a good grade. It might be a good idea to wait until after class is over and try to get to know them the following semester.
There are so many ways you can be generous to professors, itâ€™s ridiculous not to try. You already know about topics theyâ€™re interested in, and the research theyâ€™re working on. Send them relevant articles you read, or things you think would interest them.
Professors will write you a sterling letter of recommendation when you graduate, but thatâ€™s only the beginning. You might be able to help them conduct one of their research projects to build your Personal Portfolio, and theyâ€™ll have Personal Rolodexes that will blow your mind. Your professors represent an amazing opportunity â€“ donâ€™t ignore them.
How many people have passed through the doors of your university with a diploma? Thousands? What do you think the odds are that one or more of these individuals works in your chosen ï¬eld, or could put you in touch with someone who is?
Neglecting the alumni network is one of the biggest mistakes young Bright Red Packages could make. Students often think that businesspeople wonâ€™t care that you went to the same school as them, but youâ€™d be amazed at how powerful a connection like this is.
People are drawn to people whoâ€™ve shared similar experiences with them. Itâ€™s a big reason why fraternity brothers feel so bonded after the brutal rush process, and why the cast members from old sitcoms always come back for those damn reunion shows.
Striking up conversations with alumni is ridiculously easy. Talk about the dorms you stayed in, the hot bars on weekÂ¬ends, the football team, or the old crusty professor who gives a ï¬nal the day before Spring Break. The opportunity for making a solid connection is readily available.
Getting in touch with alumni is really quite simple. The alumni association will host events on a fairly regular basis, and these can be quite popular. These folks are also trying to build their own Personal Rolodexes, and they know the power of the alma mater connection. Show up at these events, strike up conversation, and ask them questions about their lives and their career paths. Theyâ€™ll appreciate a young person taking the time to get to know them.
Even if there isnâ€™t an event coming up, the alumni association will almost always have a directory with thousands of former students listed. Some universities, like mine, will have this information posted on the internet in a searchable database. The university usually goes to great lengths to keep this information updated and current; many of these individuals will lead to revenue for the university in the form of hefty donations. Sometimes the information will include where they are currently working, their position, their email address, and their family information. It can be a very useful tool; ï¬nd out if your university has such a resource and use it!
Professional Student Organizations:
The kids in high school who were the most popular were also usually the most involved. They joined student groups and got to know lots of different kids. It was their secret weapon in the never-ending quest for popularity.
College is much different. Popularity contests, for the most part, no longer exist. But that doesnâ€™t mean that student organizations are no longer useful, and that getting involved doesnâ€™t lead to rewards. In fact, the payoff can be tremendous.
Student organizations were my favorite way to jump in and build a strong Personal Rolodex. In addition to the beneï¬ts on my Personal Portfolio discussed previously, it also put me in direct contact with dozens of kids equally passionate about their ï¬eld of study with similar goals for the future. Now that Iâ€™m out of school, I ï¬nd myself talking to these folks much more than the guys Iâ€™d go drink with on weekends.
Student organizations, particularly in business, also allow you to meet multiple businesspeople from the area. The staple of the CU American Marketing Association was our speaker meetings; about six or seven a semester. These people were more than willing to ï¬eld questions, offer advice, and hand out cards. Most of the students either threw the cards away or added them to their â€œshopping mallâ€ list. But those of us who were smart made sure to stay in touch with these individuals. We met folks from Starbucks, Qwest, Proctor & Gamble, and multiple advertising and public relations agencies. And we got free pizza.
Student groups often have national conferences. We used the opportunity to meet executives from hundreds of well-known businesses. Sure, they were being swarmed by students looking for cards and a foot in the door, but we knew that we had an advantage; we were interested in being generous, not begging for a job.
Since we had spent the whole year creating memorable Personal Portfolios, and since a lot of our coolest work was done as a part of student groups, weâ€™d impress potential contacts at the conferences with the awards weâ€™d take home. Being selected as the best out of hundreds of schools is a terriï¬c way to get some third-party validation that you are the real deal.
Finally, professional student organizations can serve as the perfect bridge between student and professional life. They have professional chapters full of executives who were once college members. These people get together to network, and most groups will allow members of student chapters attend for signiï¬cantly discounted fees.
In addition to professional chapters, the national headquarters for many of these organizations will publish a directory of professional members all over the country, complete with contact information. This is an invaluable resource; one of my student clients landed a terriï¬c internship doing marketing for a casino in Las Vegas because we contacted a lady in this book who happened to be in charge of the Las Vegas tourism board!
As weâ€™ve mentioned earlier, the process of building a Personal Rolodex is about building successful long-term relationships. Including your classmates requires that you look really long-term.
While your peers arenâ€™t likely to be in a position to enhance your future professional life, there will undoubtedly come a point when some of these folks will exercise a great deal of inï¬‚uence. It might take ten or ï¬fteen years for such an investment to be realized, but thatâ€™s okay.
A major beneï¬t of building relationships with classmates is that youâ€™ll have a support group of peers who will be going through similar experiences early in their careers. Theyâ€™ll be able to help you through tough situations and cheer for you when you succeed. And of course youâ€™ll be doing the same. Having a network of people rooting for you to succeed can provide a boost when everything isnâ€™t going right.
Many of the strategies for cultivating relationships that have been discussed previously could get very expensive relative to their future return if you arenâ€™t careful. In the rest of the business world, you have a reasonably good guess as to what you could potentially gain from a particular relationship. Established business people have experience, contacts, and reputations.
Predicting which students will be successful in the future is a difï¬cult task. There are simply too many variables to factor in. So how do you decide who to include in your Personal Rolodex?
The best answer Iâ€™ve come up with is to think like a major league baseball team. With a little bit of observation, you can identify and surface those students who have the potential to be superstars. Those who ask questions, who put in the extra effort on group projects, who are genuinely interested in learning more about their chosen profession would be ideal candidates for your minor league team.
So, how do you bring those potential superstars into your Personal Rolodex? Just like in any other situation, generosity will work every time. Invite some folks over to your house for a study session (donâ€™t forget the snacks,) congratulate them on a great presentation and offer to buy them a drink, get them a book you think theyâ€™d like, help them with their projects, even set them up with the girl or guy theyâ€™ve been looking at for weeks. Being generous is always the most effective way to cultivate a relationship.
I met an IT student named Alex about two years ago that had an enormous Personal Rolodex, considering his age. He knew the power of generosity and used it extensively. If you ever needed to talk to him, you knew where to ï¬nd him; sitting in the student lounge, working furiously on his laptop. In addition to his own work, the guy regularly helped at least three other students with their projects. Over his ï¬ve years in school he probably helped hundreds of students. He never charged for his services; he just liked helping. As a result, he was probably the most liked kid at his school. And he had a PersonalPortfolio that was unequaled.
Again, donâ€™t be a jerk. If thereâ€™s a kid who (in your opinion) wonâ€™t be able to help you later on, donâ€™t blow them off. Iâ€™ve always believed that weâ€™re each blessed with certain gifts and talents, and with blessings come a responsibility to help each other out. If a fellow classmate is able to get a better grade or land an internship as a result of your help, then you have made their little world a better place. With that said, make sure that helping doesnâ€™t interfere with your own studies, or with your pursuit of becoming a Bright Red Package. If you spend all your time doing projects for your classmates, you will become the hardest-working dropout in history. Remember; donâ€™t let your desire to be generous sidetrack you from your goals.
The results of your hard work and generosity might come ten years later, and they might never come. If this thought bothers you, then go back and reread the beginning of this section. Building a Personal Rolodex is not only about whatâ€™s in it for you. Itâ€™s about enriching the lives of others through generosity, and enriching your own life through strong long-term relationships.
A mentor, or a series of mentors, can be immensely powerful. Finding an inï¬‚uential, successful person who has their own Personal Rolodex and knows how to use it can be an asset that pays for itself again and again. And as a student, thereâ€™s no better time in your life to ï¬nd one.
Successful people were once in the exact same spot you are in now. They were bright-eyed, eager to make a difference, and were just looking for a foot in the door. These folks remember the people who were kind enough to give them a leg up and are more than willing to extend the same favor to a talented kid like yourself.
Mentors can arise as the result of an internship, but they donâ€™t have to. They can simply be an individual who agrees to meet with you once a month, or once a quarter, to talk with you about their lives, and your goals. The structure of these relationships depends largely on the schedules of the mentor and the student.
With a mentor, once must exercise a great deal of restraint. Itâ€™s not about begging for a job; itâ€™s about gaining wisdom from someone whoâ€™s been around the block.
One of the bigger projects I started in college was a mentorship program. After collecting surveys from students on what industries theyâ€™d like to work in, we hit the phones. After hours contacting executives asking if theyâ€™d like to join the program and â€œadoptâ€ a student, we managed to place over 25 students with professionals all over the country.
Some of these mentor relationships lasted, a few eventually led to internships, and one even led to a job. However, many of the students ended the relationship prematurely when they promptly asked for a job within ï¬ve minutes of meeting the individual. Despite our multiple reminders that this was to provide them with guidance and not a job, many of our students looked for the short-term payoff. Donâ€™t make the same mistake.
You donâ€™t need to have a structured program to ï¬nd a mentor. The easiest way to do this is to ask! The worst thing that can happen is the individual will say no, but youâ€™ll ï¬nd most folks are open to listening to what you have to say. If you use the tactics youâ€™ve learned already, youâ€™ll ï¬nd your mentor quickly.
If you want to go a step further, you might want to ï¬nd multiple mentors. When I was a senior in college, I had four mentors in what I called my Personal Board. I thought of these folks as the board of directors for my Personal Position, and met with each of them multiple times a year. Having multiple sources of guidance can be invaluable as you continue building your Bright Red Package.
A mentor is providing you with their wisdom, and they unquestionably deserve something in return. Since youâ€™ll only have a couple mentors, you can afford to be a little more frivolous when thanking them. Send ï¬‚owers, coffee table books, or tickets to a play. Invite them to shoot a round of golf, or ask them to join you at the football game. Buy them a gift certiï¬cate for a massage. Their advice will likely pay for itself hundreds of times over during the course of your career; dropping a little money to say thank you shouldnâ€™t make you cringe.
A mentor can serve as a door to the professional world, a sounding board for your ideas, and a whole new wing for your Personal Library. Finding one can enhance your life in a way almost nothing else can.
Tapping into Your Friendâ€™s Personal Rolodex
By the time youâ€™ve incorporated everyone you know into your Personal Rolodex, youâ€™ll be surprised. You know a lot of people! You might be inclined to breathe a huge sigh of relief and consider the process ï¬nished.
Hold your horses. Youâ€™ve just completed your ï¬rst phase of Personal Rolodex building. Weâ€™re not done yet. While you could be successful using your current contact list, you can grow this list exponentially by taking the next step and looking for opportunities to incorporate your friendâ€™s contacts into your own Personal Rolodex.
This might be new, uncomfortable ground for you. Most of the people on your list right now are folks who are already comfortable with you, like you, and are more than happy to help out. Just because these new people like your friend doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™ll like you, right?
These feelings are natural, but need to be overcome. If you have trouble, consider going back and reading the ï¬rst part of this section. The strategies we discussed in the beginning begin to become more important with this second group of contacts.
Getting to know your second-tier contacts isnâ€™t too difï¬cult. The ï¬rst step is again to do your research. Let your Personal Rolodex know your situation (looking for a job, a date, an all-expenses paid vacation to Bermuda, etc.) Whenever you make contact with them, mention that youâ€™re looking to break into a particular industry. Take a deeper interest in their lives, and constantly be on the lookout for any mention of interesting people. If nothing else works, simply ask them about who they know in the ï¬eld youâ€™re interested in.
If youâ€™ve designed your record-keeping system effectively, you probably have kept track of important details on your contacts. Do the same thing with these people youâ€™d like to meet. You should be able to ï¬nd out what organizations they belong to, what their interests are, etc. Knowing a little bit about someone in advance is ï¬‚attering, and can serve to make an instant connection.
Where do you meet these people? While Iâ€™m not expecting you to instantly become a socialite, try and get out with people a bit more often. The next time your buddy invites you to that party youâ€™d ordinarily pass on, take him or her up on it. Set a little goal for yourself to make conversation with ï¬ve of your buddyâ€™s friends. Allow him or her to introduce you, and use your charm and your networking skills weâ€™ve discussed to make a favorable impression.
Someone in particular youâ€™d like to speak with? Mention it beforehand; Iâ€™m sure your friend would be more than happy to introduce you.
What do you say to these people when you talk to them? A big thing that youâ€™ll have going for you is the connection. Being a friend of a friend is an advantageous position. If youâ€™re friends with their buddy, you probably arenâ€™t a creep or a serial killer. The mutual contact will be your tool to get in the door.
If youâ€™re introducing yourself via email, a simple â€œBob Bobson suggested I contact youâ€ is all the leverage you need in most cases. I landed two of my internships in college with this simple introduction (that, and a book I sent to them. Generosity always works.)
If your friend has been willing to share their Personal Rolodex with you, be sure to return the favor. One of the best ways to be generous to your pals and enhance your Bright Red Package is to act as a middleman or matchmaker. One of your buddies mentions their interest in landing an internship with a sports marketing ï¬rm, and you just happen to know a partner at one? Make the introduction for your friend; theyâ€™ll remember the gesture, and most likely do the same for you should the need arise.
Second tier connections are just one conversation away from becoming strong pieces of your Personal Rolodex. Again, remember to follow up with them, and to help them out as much as possible.
What about people you donâ€™t know at all? That guy standing in line in front of you at the grocery store, or the woman sitting next to you in the airplane. In these cases, the major strike against you is the lack of a connection. While you might both currently be sharing the experience of waiting at the DMV, a connection forged on such grounds can only go so far. How do you bring these people into your PersonalÂ¬Rolodex?
For years I avoided this component of my Personal Rolodex. I was used to being approached by the numerous crazy people who wander the streets of Boulder and yell at buildings. I couldnâ€™t ride on the bus for ten minutes without getting into a conversation with someone about why mice rule the world. Not even headphones deterred some of them; theyâ€™d just keep on chatting like they didnâ€™t notice.
This isnâ€™t to say that I didnâ€™t feel bad for these folks; I did, and Iâ€™d often ï¬nd myself helping them out with a couple of bucks. But these experiences made me very self-conscious about approaching people in public and striking up conversation. Even though I was going to engage them on their interests, as opposed to giving them 438 reasons why I like Astroturf, I was concerned Iâ€™d be perceived the same way those folks on the bus were.
I eventually realized two things; ï¬rst, there are only twelve reasons why I love Astroturf. Second, my apprehension in approaching people was absolutely ridiculous. Sure, there were times when Iâ€™d be blown off, as I would soon discover. But human beings are social to their core. They love to interact and talk with others.
Conversations with strangers can seem awkward or forced at ï¬rst. Itâ€™s natural. Just remember that people who are now your best friends were at some point strangers as well. The awkwardness will quickly go away, especially if you are relaxed and natural. Just act as if this is something you do every day.
Starting a conversation with people can be as difï¬cult or as easy as youâ€™d like; I prefer easy. A simple â€œHi, Iâ€™m Humphrey,â€ is just as effective as any clever opening line, and takes a great deal of pressure off of you. Donâ€™t worry about having an arsenal of clever icebreakers; sounding pleasant and conï¬dent is all you need.
Nine times out of ten, this will be enough to at least elicit some sort of response. Now you can begin employing the strategies in your networking toolbox. Remember active listening, taking a genuine interest in the other person, smiling and making eye contact.
Again, donâ€™t get into conversations for the purpose of ï¬nding a job. Particularly in cases like this, youâ€™ll want to go very light on the â€œknow anyone who can hire me?â€ talk. Iâ€™d leave it out all together. If you want to build a relationship with someone youâ€™ve never met before, the ï¬rst interaction is deï¬nitely not the time for a sales pitch. Thatâ€™s why the multi-level marketing guys arenâ€™t as successful as they could be; they ignore the rules of Personal Rolodex building. The guy on the bus is better.
If, during the conversation, you feel like there is the potential for a mutually beneï¬cial relationship, try to set up another meeting. The likelihood that youâ€™re going to be sitting next to this person on the airplane again is pretty slim, and you donâ€™t want the opportunity to pass you by. Ask for their card or at the very least their e-mail address, and mention a time in the near future when youâ€™d like to get together.
As always, the follow-up is just as important as the initial conversation. A quick note or email tells them that you were interested in them and werenâ€™t simply killing time. Avoid hyperbole; a simple â€œIt was nice meeting youâ€ will sufï¬ce. And if you set up a time to see them again, the follow-up will serve as a reminder. Let them know that you value them as a person, and that youâ€™d like to see the relationship begin to grow.
According to Roper ASW the decisions about what to buy, who to vote for, where to eat, etc. are being determined by 1 in 10 Americans. These folks are not necessarily the richest or most powerful individuals in the world, but they do carry enormous amounts of inï¬‚uence within their given spheres of life. These are the people others look to for guidance, opinions, and recommendations. When they talk, everyone else listens.
Your Personal Rolodex can be enhanced tremendously by seeking out Inï¬‚uentials. These people have the same hopes, fears and dreams that you have. In fact, they are (in most cases) perfect examples of Bright Red Packages in action; theyâ€™ve become known for some expertise, have backed it up with great work and are very well-connected.
Identifying Inï¬‚uentials is as easy as reading your industry or trade publications. In any given industry there will be a few hundred or so people who continually come up in articles and other press mentions. Another option is to hit the bookstore and look for books by people in your given ï¬eld. These people have positioned themselves as experts (which would be extremely valuable information for you as you continue building your own Personal Position.) They are the â€œthought leadersâ€ in your ï¬eld.
Another valuable resource is the media. When I started my business the ï¬rst relationships I cultivated were in the media. These folks have their ï¬ngers on the pulse of your industry. They will be valuable additions to your Personal Rolodex, both now and in the future.
One word of caution: people in the media are constantly working on deadlines, and are always under extreme pressure to perform. Remember to be extremely brief and to the point (but still respectful!) when communicating with these people, especially at ï¬rst. Ask them if theyâ€™d have time to meet or talk for 10 minutes â€“ and stick to those 10 minutes! By demonstrating an unusual amount of respect and professionalism for someone your age, youâ€™ll be more likely to form the foundations of a beneï¬cial relationship down the road.
The process of building a Personal Rolodex can and should be an exciting one. Youâ€™ll be getting to know a ton of people, and by properly cultivating and maintaining these relationships youâ€™ll put yourself in an excellent position when the time comes to look for a job.
If youâ€™ve done everything weâ€™ve talked about so far, you deserve a hearty congratulations. You are now an ofï¬cial Bright Red Package. Any employer would be lucky to have you.
Now letâ€™s ï¬nd you a job.