Sunday, October 25, 2009

Confidential to "I'm Not Shy"

The other night I received an email from a reader who had this to say:

"What if I'm not shy? What if I'm just not good at the art of shameless self-promotion and have difficulty identifying my value proposition? Then what?"

Hmmmm. Hate networking as shameless self-promotion? AND you're having trouble identifying your value proposition? If you had one of those two problems, I'd take you at face value. But put the two of them together, and I'm hearing code for "shy." But, whatever, call it what you want.

I think you might have missed one of the core points of my earlier post on networking shyness. To wit: Even though you're networking to find and land a good job, if you hate networking, don't make it about yourself. Make it about discovering how you can contribute your gifts, skills and energy out there in the big wide world.

You can set the tone of how your networking activities come off. Networking is not about shameless self-promotion (unless you're a shameless self-promoting kinda guy, which evidently you're not). If you want a real, authentic, interaction with a full calendar of people who you hope will ultimately lead you to your next job, have a real, authentic interaction. You're out there trying to figure out how and where you fit in. If anyone criticizes you for that, well, that's their problem. Move along to the next appointment on your calendar.

Moving to your next issue about not knowing what your value proposition is, that's not an issue to take lightly. It goes straight to one of the main pieces of your place in the world. And with the marketplace changing as rapidly as it is, it's practically impossible to keep up with how your place in the world changes in relation to the world itself. I think three generations of working adults are going through a mid-life crisis at the same time, right now.

The good news here, for you especially, is that if you're struggling with "who am I" questions, you're going to come off authentically humble in networking meetings. So instead of worrying about "shamelessly" promoting a self when you don't even know who that self is (at least vis a vis your working life), approach your networking from the point of view of gathering data about how you might fit into the changed world now.

Use your early networking meetings to ask questions. And be sincerely interested in the answers. Then ask more questions. And be sincerely interested in those answers. (Remember, we're talking questions about work, not "how're the kids?") Eventually you'll start seeing how you fit into the world as you're coming to understand it because of those questions. And your value proposition will make itself known to you.

It's about questioning, not crowing.

(There are a lot of books out there that help you discover what your value proposition is. If you'd like to read a collection of inspiring stories of people on that journey, email me and I'll send you a free copy of my book Find Your Calling, Love Your Life.)

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