Helen Nicholson: The Art & Science of Networking

“The longer you take to discover your career sweet spot, the more difficult it is to cultivate a meaningful network.”

– Helen Nicholson

In this episode of the On Work and Revolution podcast, we tackle the crucial topic of networking and its profound impact on career development. And if mention of this topic sends a chill up your spine and makes you want to commit yourself to a hermit lifestyle full-time – this episode is ESPECIALLY for you.

Our guest, Helen Nicholson, CEO and Founder of The Networking Company, is an expert in the field, especially in the realm of networking for introverts. Her forthcoming book promises to revolutionize our understanding of introverts’ capabilities in networking. Hot take – did you know that our understanding that introverts are at a disadvantage when it comes to networking is wrong?

If you, your friend or colleague is actively in the market for new job opportunities, make sure to share this episode because networking is an absolute priority when it comes to securing a successful career path, both now and in the future.

Debbie & Helen dig into:

✓ how to make the shift from traditional networking to more intentional and meaningful connections.
✓ The role of personal branding when it comes to identifying your career sweet spot
✓ Practical strategies for individuals looking to leverage their networks, especially through digital platforms like LinkedIn.

About our guest, Helen Nicholson:

Helen Nicholson has been called the “Networking queen” by many of her clients. She began her career as an accountant and has evolved into the Chief Excitement Officer and founder of The Networking Company, where they help people reach their full potential through leadership training programmes, Immersions and gamification.

Helen has published three best-selling books and has spoken in 43 countries around the world. She is a board member for the global Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Helen has international corporate experience and lived in the Middle East for 5 years where she developed and sold her own successful business in Dubai. On her return to South Africa she became involved in leadership development work through Wits Business School, and was interviewed by GIBS Business School as one of South Africa’s leading female entrepreneurs.

Helen ran the New York marathon in 2011 and raised identical twin daughters who are now 26, as a single mom. She is a passionate connector and walks her networking talk.

Helpful Links:

Follow Helen on LinkedIn

Open for Full Episode Transcript

Open for Full Episode Transcript

Debbie Goodman  00:07

Hi everyone, and Happy New Year. This is the very first podcast of the year that I’m recording. I’m still feeling the glow of the holidays a little bit. So before we get cracking with my absolutely wonderful guest today, Helen Nicholson, the guru of networking, I wanted to quickly chat about something that’s been coming up a lot lately and that is how to get the ball rolling. If you are looking for a job, either because you’ve been laid off, there’s a lot of that happening in the US in some sectors right now, or because you just want to find something new. Okay, so last year, just before we broke up for the holidays, I feel like I had the same conversation about 50 times. So there’s clearly a need for this particular little bit of information that if you’re listening, and you know of someone, a friend or family member, or even someone in your team who’s actively in the market, please just go ahead and share this podcast episode with them. 

 

All right, I’m going to share some quick basic tips on what you absolutely need to do if you are in the market looking for a new role right now. 

 

So firstly, you need to know that the markets now are different from how they were two years ago, or even a year ago, when if you’ve been laid off, you could literally take one breath, put something on LinkedIn, and boom, you’d have a bunch of interviews lined up. Not so much right now. So you are going to need to be more active, more focused, more structured in your approach. In fact, if you’ve been laid off, your full time job now is looking for a job. So you’re going to need to invest proper time and focus to this. That’s the first thing. 

 

Secondly, it may seem that the mass apply function online or any kind of AI enabled auto apply tools that allow you to send your resume to a bunch of roles, literally on mass without having to fill out each application one by one may seem like that’s a fabulous idea and a great time saver. It’s one of those things that may seem awesome. Yes, it’s very tedious to have to do those damn job applications one by one. But what’s happening is that everyone is using these. And so recruiter and hiring manager inboxes are absolutely flooded, totally congested. So it’s becoming less and less likely that you’ll be able to get through the first round of applications through applying online these days. Okay, so what to do about this? Five things. 

Number one, get your LinkedIn profile in good shape, Helen and I will talk a little bit more about this in a bit. I’m not going to go into detail now about what a good LinkedIn profile looks like, go online, find the tips for this as at 2024. These keep changing, I can’t tell you how many people I encounter who have not got this. And LinkedIn is the first place that hiring manager will go in order to check you out. 

 

Number two, make sure your CV or resume is in good shape. These days, two to three pages max even if you’ve got like 35 or gazillion years experience, you’re going to need to condense this into a couple of pages. But what’s really important is that you do include relevant keywords in your resume. I know I just spoke about applying online being a bit of a waste of time, but you’re going to need to submit your resume at some point or another to make sure it’s in good shape. There’s some excellent resources online, companies that actually provide resume services, go check them out. 

 

Alright, number three, keep a spreadsheet of all your activity. Within a couple of weeks of doing this work, you should have lots of irons in the fire, leads, conversations going. It’s gonna get messy, you are going to ask people for referrals and then forget who introduced you, who was going to refer you, whether you send your resume or just a LinkedIn message, keep a detailed spreadsheet. Also, I recommend this because if this job search thing ends up taking a long time, you want to be able to check your data. I’ve certainly seen situations where people say to me, oh my God, I’ve spent days and hours and weeks and I’ve been just doing this so many CVs and nobody’s interested in interviewing me. And then I ask them Okay, so what are your numbers? Yeah, well I only sent five CVS. So keep a spreadsheet, look at the data if this starts taking a bit of time and start figuring things out. 

 

Number four, get your mindset right. Guys, this can take longer than you expect. Of course, it’s going to cause some anxiety and frustration. You’re going to have to stay positive or at least neutral. Just don’t take it personally when you get declined. Just can’t get your knickers in a knot when you have to resend your CV five times or go back for 12 interviews. I should probably do a whole session on mindset but not right now. Keep your shit together, Okay. 

 

Number five, networking. Data is showing us that particularly at senior levels around 75% of the time people get their next job through networking. So I’m pretty sure that this is going to be relevant for you too. And you’re in luck because my next guest is an expert and will be sharing some proper pearls of wisdom on the topic. Okay so here we go the formal more formal introduction to On Work and Revolution.

 

Debbie Goodman  00:01

Welcome to On Work and Revolution, where we talk about what’s shaking up in the world of work. I’m your host, Debbie Goodman, and I’m the CEO of Jack Hammer Global, which is a global group of executive search and leadership coaching companies. I’m also an adviser to venture backed edtech companies. And for those of you in the edtech world, we have a newish offering for fractional leaders. So I’ll put notes in the show notes, you can check it out. My main mission with all of my work is to create amazing workplaces where people and ideas can flourish. And today we have the very fabulous Helen Nicholson as our guest. For as long as I’ve known Helen, I’ve known her as the networking Guru, the networking queen. She’s the founder of The Networking Company, which helps people reach their full potential through a range of different types of leadership and training programs. With a focus on networking, Helen has published three best selling books, I thought there were only two, you managed to slip in a third along the way, Helen. She has spoken in 43 countries around the world. She’s a board member for EO, Johannesburg, South Africa. And she’s just an all round extraordinary human. So welcome, Helen. 

 

Helen Nicholson  01:21

Hi, Debbie so good to be here.

 

Debbie Goodman

I can’t believe it’s taken this long for us to actually do this kind of podcast little get together. 

 

Helen Nicholson  01:29

I know but here we are, and isn’t it wonderful?

 

Debbie Goodman

Here we are, early January and let’s get cracking. So okay, there’s just so much that I want to talk about. Let’s start with firstly, why most people except if you’re an absolute out and out extrovert, why most people they’re just either somewhat reticent or totally avoidant around the idea of networking. Why?

 

Helen Nicholson 01:54

Well, I think the word networking gets a bad rap. There are very few people even kind of raving extroverts who would say, Wow, networking, I prefer the word connecting. Because networking, when it really works is about authentic, meaningful connections, which in fact, is a lot about operating with an open palm. So giving generously to other people. And I find that when people get their head wrapped around that definition, then they often feel a lot more comfortable about it. So if for anyone is listening to this, and is feeling kind of traumatized at the thought of, you know, networking, because there’s a there’s a connotation that it’s schmoozing that you it’s all about what can I get? And, you know, we teach and train people that it’s actually about what can you give, and it is a long-term career strategy. It’s definitely about digging a well before it’s empty. It becomes the way in which you roll. And the people who do that best, do it consistently and well, so that they don’t become SOS networkers you know, so people don’t only hear from them when they’re in a trouble or in a bind.

 

Debbie Goodman  03:05

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s probably the issue is that it’s usually this like, urgent, panicked response to a life event that now you need to reach out for help. And it feels a little..

 

Helen Nicholson  03:18

You know there is that, and I mean, there’s no doubt that that is when a network must serve you. But the quality of your network that will serve you in those SOS moments, is largely going to be determined you know, months and years beforehand.

 

Debbie Goodman  03:34

Yeah, I love that term. You’ve got to fill the well. And I think it’s something that doesn’t get included in career strategies is a focus on this long-term build that is going to serve you along the way. Okay, you shared some data from Harvard Business Review, that noted that people’s acquaintance network dropped by 16% during COVID, which kind of makes sense. But the fact is, it hasn’t improved and why and what is the impact of that?

 

Helen Nicholson  04:03

I think there are a couple of things. So when people were in offices five days a week prior to COVID, and remote work wasn’t as big of a thing as it is now. They say that you will averagely bump into eight between eight and 11 people when you’re walking down the corridor, when you’re standing in a coffee queue, around the watercooler, so you would have 8 to 11 opportunities to have acquaintance bump into sessions that that enrich your network because your acquaintance network is actually really important in a network. People underestimate that. So during COVID and during hard lock downs that was taken away for a period of time, however long you know, that happened within your country or your company. But I find that with remote working now, obviously, that 8 to 11, if you think cumulatively, that is a large number of people that were taken out of people’s networks, so people now need to network a lot more intentionally to almost make up for the lost time. And what I found is that there’s been a huge growth in introversion since COVID and since hard lockdowns, and that hasn’t really improved, because I think a lot of people got comfortable with not doing it, you know, and not contributing or being intentional about the network. And in some ways, it’s understandable, because I think we’ve all been in survival mode, and networking and your personal brand, are things that are luxuries in some ways in your career. You know, if you’re coasting along, they only become real survival skills when you’ve got to look for a new position, or you’ve got to look for a new role. And I think that very much like going to the gym, I think we’re out of practice. And unless you had a career crisis or a career kind of issue, whether you were retrenched or you were looking for a new role, then you didn’t actually pay much attention to this. So I think in essence, I think we became lazy around us.

 

Debbie Goodman  05:57

I would tend to agree with that. And I’ll just speak from personal experience, I would not have imagined that I’m quite as much of an introvert actually, as I, in my true nature left to my own devices working remotely because now I work remotely. I mean, I relocated from South Africa to the US five years ago. And I, I work fully remotely and now the effort of having to get out is something that’s got to be super intentional, I no longer have those incidental engagements I mean, the people I see are like going to the coffee shop, because that’s the one thing I do every day I force myself to go and get a decent coffee. So I see the people at the coffee shop. And then and then that’s it unless I make a plan. And I can imagine that for all those people who are doing either the fully remote or hybrid situation that has become a comfort zone. The effort now it feels like an effort the things that we used to do automatically the things that we didn’t even think about of course you get up in the morning you put your clothes on you get in your car, you drive to work and then you’re gonna see what 8 to 11 people by automatic. Now you’ve got to be deliberate and intentional about that that’s frickin hard work on top of everything else

 

Helen Nicholson  07:30

Yes it is. And I think that a lot of people just haven’t had the bandwidth to do it.

 

Debbie Goodman  07:33

Right Okay, so let’s get into something else which you mentioned in our earlier call. And that I found fascinating although absolutely once again Yeah, it makes sense is that women network differently from men? Not surprising, but unpack that a little bit?

 

Helen Nicholson  07:55

So, I run a leadership training business, and one of our clients who’s a big bank did some research on the difference between men and women’s networks a couple of years ago. And they looked at women and men who both got to kind of senior level in the organization. And they all had the same education, same background, same experience. But at that exco level, the men seemed to transition to the next level more than woman. And they found that it was a difference in the size of their business networks. So women have good networks, but it’s often in our personal capacity. So we’ll share black book information with each other about where the best doctors are, where the best schools are, where, you know, in other words, we’ve got, we share that information incredibly generously with each other. But I find that because women haven’t been doing this, as long as a lot of men have been doing it. I think we just haven’t realized how powerful those networks can be at work, that old boys club week, a lot of guys went to school together, and they actively help each other during the course of their careers. And they reach out and ask for help. And that’s so one is I don’t think women have had the epiphany moment about are powerful. And the trick is, or it isn’t when you don’t have it. And secondly, I find that a lot of successful women don’t like asking for help with you know, if, if I meet you at a conference, Debbie, and then four months go by, and I think Debbie Goodman, she’d be able to help me with that. I often would be reluctant to pick up the phone or drop you an email, because I would be thinking that you’d be thinking, Hmm, Helen Nicholson, I haven’t heard from her for four months. And now suddenly out of the blue, she just calls me only when she needs something. And women get very put off by that and they don’t want to be that person. Whereas men can have 10 or 20 year gaps where they don’t speak to each other or hear from each other. And then they’ll reach out and say, you remember me, I need your help. And so men are a lot more transactional around their relationships or their networks and I think as women, we’ve got to realize the power of that acquaintance network. Because you’ll find that as we get older, our friendships generally diminish, because our focus is going on children and work. So if you’re relying on a friendship circle for your network, it’s not a great career strategy. And that’s why your acquaintance network really becomes almost the vital petrol of a successful connecting authentic network.

 

Debbie Goodman  10:27

Oh my goodness that is just so that’s a real AHA that bit around well we wouldn’t reach out if we haven’t spoken to you in four months or six months or a year or two years because of what would they think of me –  the men just like don’t really care that much.

 

Helen Nicholson  10:45

You see, women often operate on emotional deposits or withdrawals. So I feel because you and I haven’t had a coffee we haven’t, there’s been no emotional deposit, I don’t feel that I can withdraw from that relationship. But and men don’t have those issues. And I think we can learn a lot from them in that regard. Just one more thing. What is interesting, though, about the difference between women and men is it did shift and change slightly over COVID. And men actually suffered more with from a networking perspective during late especially hard lockdown COVID Because men generally conduct a lot of the friendships and a lot of business, kind of side by side to each other. So they’ll play golf, they’ll go for a drink. Very seldom will men pick up the phone and say how are you to their guy friends, they just don’t do that. Whereas women we’re a lot more women would reach out because they knew that people were taking strain, so women were reaching out and were getting their kind of emotional relationships filled up whereas men were actually, got really lonely and quite depressed because a lot of this applied more to their friendship networks, less professionally, but I think it also had an impact.

 

Debbie Goodman  11:57

Hmm That is very fascinating. I was not aware of that data, but let’s continue with this train of thought on the acquaintance network. Is this what you mean when you speak about weak ties as being extremely powerful? 

 

Helen Nicholson

Yes

 

Okay, so let’s just talk a little bit about that because I think that’s also something that people do not give enough cognizance to or place enough emphasis on. They think that their network is their close people their 10 or 15 or I don’t know how your close network actually looks in terms of numbers, but it’s no more than the handful of people in your circumference that you’re in regular contact with. Talk more about these weak ties and the power of the acquaintance network.

 

Helen Nicholson  12:41

Yeah so you know, your weak ties are your people who are not, they’re not your friends, you don’t necessarily work with them. But they’re often a friend of a friend or an acquaintance of an acquaintance. And especially when, you know, we’re talking here talking about, you know, career goals and finding jobs and, you know, finding kind of career sweet spots. And you’ll find if you if the people are listening, if you think back on different roles or jobs that you’ve had, and Debbie, you play a huge role in this because in many ways you are a connector, you’re connecting the dots between an organization who needs someone and fulfilling that role. If people had better networks, then, you know, that role would be redundant and clearly it isn’t. And in fact, it’s growing as people’s weak tie networks also diminish. You know, old fashioned matchmakers used to play that role for people, you know, that, you know, especially in India and those countries where that person was the ultimate connector, they would connect the dots. And as I say, as we become a lot more Westernised and urbanized and living away from families, society has evolved. That skill, I think, is undervalued and we now have to rely on those weak tie networks. But I’m here to say that they’re really important. And that’s why tools like LinkedIn, for example, are so vital, because immediately that gives you an opportunity to connect with your weak ties network that you don’t see very often.

 

Debbie Goodman  14:21

I wanted to touch on a few other points but let’s continue with this because I think for listeners who are going okay, yes, I get it. I got this quite vast, then network of acquaintances, you know, on LinkedIn or the social media. But now how? So what is a good strategy for somebody who’s saying, Okay, what’s done is done. I let my acquaintance network die during the last couple of years. I haven’t been very active. I haven’t been putting any deposits in, my well is just dry, but now let me start. What would be a good way to start leveraging that acquaintance network that almost everybody in the professional world has, certainly on LinkedIn. Let’s just talk about that for a minute.

 

Helen Nicholson  15:06

So I think there are two instant ways. The one is identify who the connectors are in your network. So connectors are fascinating people and I kind of almost play a game with myself when I’ve met people for the first time, and you can actually see someone’s profile online as well. But they are people who know tons of people. And they also if they are a true connector, and a way you could, you know, see if someone is a connector is often if you think back on previous relationships, often they have been the one that have connected the dots. They have been the one that said, Oh, Helen, you need to speak to this person.

 

Debbie Goodman  15:39

100%. Well you and I in fact have got a couple of mutual connectors which is how we know each other right? There are like those one or two people, right. So there are people who just do this naturally.

 

Helen Nicholson  15:49

Yes. And so, you know, there was a wonderful guy that I met at a conference in Canada, probably about two, three years ago. And he told me a story, which I think illustrates this point really well. He said that he had suddenly been told, He was in a job at about the age of 30. And he had been last in and the company had financial difficulties. So he got told he was about to be retrenched. And he said to me, you know, the fear that went through his body, because his wife had just had their second baby, they had just moved house, he taken on huge financial, you know, kind of burdens. And he said that he just, you know, was in a complete state because he realized this was a skill he had neglected. So what he did is, a day later, he went to a conference, and he bumped into one of his old bosses. And he told her, you know, what had happened. She, because of her experience with him, recommended him to her boss, he got a telephonic interview, and he managed just to get a new role within three days of being told, he was getting retrenched in three days or five days. So and he said that what he did after that, he thought he was so terrified by that experience that he said, he became a lot more intentional and conscious, and he started connecting with his connectors once a week. So, he has a 15 minute coffee with someone who is in his connected network, often on LinkedIn, often people who he doesn’t know sometimes if it’s a virtual, sometimes he actually picks up the phone and chats to people. But he says 15 minutes once a week, he said that was he almost future proofed his career in that way. And when you do that with your connectors, because what I found connectors are very interesting people, they’re out of sight, out of mind, people. So you may have a lot of connectors in your network. But if you haven’t been in contact with them recently, they actually forget about you. So that brings me to the second strategy. One is identifying who the connectors are. And then the second one is giving in some way. So offering value in some way. And I’ll never forget, Debbie you did this to me, by sending me a copy of your mindfulness book, and with your strategies, you know, on how to instill mindfulness in a team. And I just thought that was, that was beautiful. So when I brought out my mindfulness book, I wanted to send it to you. So you know, there is a strong sense around you know, reciprocity, but in other words, you gave generously to me and that’s offering value to people. And so whether it’s just sharing something interesting, sharing a quote, sharing and that’s why you’ve got to be posting regularly. And the way in which you post and cultivate this connector network is always thinking, what can I give, not what can I get?

 

Debbie Goodman  18:52

Right okay let’s just say that again. What can I give, not what can I get.

 

Helen Nicholson  19:17

You’ve got to operate with an open palm, you know, you’ve got to realize that, and I find that the one group of people that struggle with this, are people who operate from a scarcity mindset. They’re the people who don’t believe the world is big enough for all of us, they don’t believe so when some person gets an opportunity they believe that there’s less for everyone else. But if you can really try and cultivate that abundance mentality, and it’s hard, especially when I think you’re going through hard times, you know, if you’ve been retrenched and suddenly the world seems like a very scarce place. But the advice that I’ve given to people in that situation is, you’ve almost got to act as if the world was abundant and just give generously and I promise you stuff starts to happen.

 

Debbie Goodman  19:47

Okay I want to actually dig a little deeper and double down on digital networking and cultivating the connections in this way, because I think for some people that idea of 15 minute coffee catch up is overwhelming, even if it’s once a week or once a month, but there’s kind of like a low lift that I’ve seen people deploy online, particularly on LinkedIn, I start to notice that people get very active in terms of commenting on posts. So I will if I, if I post pretty regularly, and I will take a look and see if anybody who engages with my post, I will respond to and I do this all personally. I mean, I put out a ton of content all the time, but I actually I mean, I’m still, you know, responding to my own posts and the comments that I get and if I noticed somebody is posting and engaging regularly, I’ll actually take a look at their profile. And so you kind of, for somebody who’s out there who’s going, where do I start, even just doing that, you can still do it from the comfort of your home, you don’t have to put on any smart clothes, you don’t have to go and be out there in a conference with your business cards, you can literally just raise your visibility, through engaging with people that you want to connect with, and cultivate that connection through authentic engagement. Right. So once again, focusing on the authenticity of it. But I will just say to anybody who’s listening that certainly I will start taking notice of people who are regularly engaging in a way that’s not schmoozy or cringy so you don’t have to do something that feels too far outside of one’s comfort zone. But you do need to get active in some way.

 

Helen Nicholson  20:41

No and you know offering value and thinking about what your strategy is. I often think, you know with LinkedIn, people have got to think well what is my brand? Because personal branding is the why, and networking is the how. And I find that, you know if people go directly from needing a job or needing a new role to networking, then they’ve missed that crucial middle piece which is around what is the secret sauce of you? Who are you? And because when you really do some self work and you know, whether it’s you know, there’s so many different strengths profiles and Enneagrams and you know all of that stuff, but that gives you insight, and what are your hobbies? What are your interests and really drill down. I heard a wonderful analogy once where the woman said that your personal brand is like a pearl in an oyster. And a pearl in an oyster takes a long time to form. It’s not something I often see with people who want to go out on their own as entrepreneurs, you know, they want to get really excited about the website and you know, the business cards and the ID and you know all of that stuff. But unless you’ve got a sense of who you are, then networking becomes a lot harder.

 

Debbie Goodman  23:03

Okay, so let’s just talk about that the personal branding piece. How can somebody I mean, somebody’s listening to this, because but what do you mean, what does that look like? Is it like my LinkedIn profile? Is it a piece of introspection that I do? Do I read a book? How do I do this?

 

Helen Nicholson  23:38

So your LinkedIn profile is almost like the shopfront of your personal brand of brand You PTY limited. And performance theory says that 45% of what you do, other people can do the same as you, another 45% of what you do, other people can do better than you. And so where you are unique is in that top 10% space. And I originally studied to be an accountant, believe it or not, I used to audit. That was what I did. And really it was because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. And it’s been a big good background for me as an entrepreneur. But that was never me in my top 10% career sweet spot zone. And as soon as and in fact, if you and I encourage people who are listening to this to almost be like Hansel and Gretel, follow the trail of breadcrumbs back through your career and your childhood, because it turned out I was Alice in Alice in Wonderland in the school plays. I was debating captain, I was always reading at church. I always had history of like standing up and speaking to people and I’m a daughter of a teacher. So when you actually retrace the breadcrumbs, you realize that there was definitely the part of my top 10% zone was clearly training, speaking and teaching people things, but that only came later. And I find that people often take, the longer you take to discover your career sweet spot, the more difficult it is to cultivate a network, because when you get that laser sharpness and often, so if I had to give advice to people, it would be go and ask your colleagues, go and ask people, you know, what do they believe, because often other people see it before you do, because it’s so part of you that you actually don’t even acknowledge it as your sweet spot. And then secondly, I’d almost do an energy audit. So, I know that because of my accounting background, I used to have to do like the VAT return for our business, and I would procrastinate about it, I would put it off, I would feel exhausted afterwards. I can do it, but I didn’t like doing it. And I realized that my energy then would be very low. So, look at if you, you know, do an energy audit over maybe two weeks and rate every task that you do out of 10. And that will give you a really good barometer as to where your energy, because your energy is giving you messages every day about where your personal brand and your career sweet spots sits. And it’s not to say that we don’t have to do some stuff that we don’t like doing, because we all have to do some of that, but I find that when people are doing 20 to 40% of the tasks every day that are not in their career sweet spot zone then it has an impact.

 

Debbie Goodman  26:13

Right, okay, we are so running out of time. I want to talk about networking for introverts. Because if you’re let’s say you’re in the job market, for whatever reason, and now you’re hearing that the message is well, one really good way to get your next thing to find your next gig is through networking that may be absolutely terrifying, horrifying, traumatizing. And so I know we’ve spoken about a few good strategies, particularly digital strategies, but is there anything else you can recommend for people who are really, the horror that just washes through their body at the thought of having to network is tremendous, what would you recommend?

 

Helen Nicholson  27:17

So two things. One is first of all to recognize and acknowledge that introverts are in fact very good networkers. I am busy in the final stage of research for my book, which is Networking for Introverts, and what has emerged is introverts prefer to build their networks, one on one. And there’s a connotation that exists within the working career framework that you know, networking always involves lots of people and conferences and shaking hands. And that’s the kind of networking that introverts generally feel very uncomfortable with. And that’s okay.

 

Debbie Goodman  27:34

Oh God, tell me about it. That is me.

 

Helen Nicholson  

So, but I’m sure you get energized then by going for one on one coffees or having a one on one zoom call like this.

 

Debbie Goodman  27:46

Absolutely, and the thing is, I’ll go to a conference, but then I’ll find one person, and then I will chat to that person. And then I will eventually the natural sort of course of that conversation will come to an end. And then I will have to go okay, just three more people. And then I’ll have to go and deliberately go and find the next person and then I’ll be so relieved when that conversation is over. And then Okay, three more people or whatever it is, like give myself a target. Because it’s such hard work. And some people just seem to do it so naturally. Okay, sorry. I’ve derailed you. We were talking about okay so the conference thing is not it for introverts, but the one on one.

 

Helen Nicholson  28:34

And the reason why, where introverts are in their kind of real sweet spot superpower, is they’re very good at following up. I bet you that if you go to a conference, and you’ve set yourself a target, and I’m very happy with two people, actually, for the introverts that are listening to this, if you meet two meaningful connections at an event, and you follow up because that’s where the extroverts are at a complete disadvantage. The extroverts get energized by the interaction, then they lose the contact details and they don’t follow up. So the introverts are already 200% better at that. So that’s the first thing one is they’re really good at it and they know how to follow up and they know how to listen. But the other thing that’s come, my big epiphany with the research for this book, is that introverts become very good at connecting with people when they become better storytellers. So if there’s one skill that I would encourage anyone who’s listening to this to work on is your ability to capture people’s attention and tell a good story, pausing appropriately, you know, and use their whole lot of resources, you know, the hero’s journey, but just start, because if you can do that, you captivate people just one person at a time. It doesn’t have to be you know 500 at a time.

 

Debbie Goodman  29:48

Goodness, so many pearls of wisdom as I’d known, would arise during this very short conversation, too short. Helen, we’re going to have to have you back when your book is out so that we can talk about networking for introverts, because I think that is, I mean, just an incredible topic of conversation. I certainly will be wanting a copy of that book. And thank you for this, too, you know, to just kick off 2024. There are a lot of people who are either wanting to make a change proactively from a career point of view or thinking about it at some point in the near future or are in that freaked out stage of oh my god, I gotta get a new job right now. And the thing about networking is that it is actually a long-term life strategy. And it’s never too late to start if you haven’t done anything about it. If your well is dry, start watering, doing the groundwork. There are many ways to do it. And this has just been a fantastic opportunity, lots of encouragement and great advice.

 

Helen Nicholson  31:17

Thank you

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