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Biscuits and Networking

By: Bonnie Coffey

 

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My mother made melt-in-your mouth biscuits. Every Sunday for dinner, she would throw some flour in a bowl, add salt and baking powder and use a pastry cutter to blend in a combination of Crisco and butter to produce the evening meal’s bread. Throughout the week, my sister and I got to split the leftover biscuits in half, spread them with butter and toast them under the broiler—an experience that was almost as good as the originals!

 
Being my Mother’s daughter, I wanted to make biscuits just like her—but had not a clue on how to begin. My breakfast culinary repertoire was limited to cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. I started out by scouring Mom’s cookbooks for all the biscuit recipes I could find, started with a few and gradually tweaked the required ingredients until I was pretty happy with the results.
 
Face-to-Face (F2F) networking is similar to finding the perfect recipe for biscuits—it’s a process of trial and error, of using one’s taste buds to ascertain the right amounts of ingredients and baking temperature. And, by the way, there is no “Biscuit Prep School” for this skill. If you want to perfect your biscuit-making abilities, you have to read, practice and tweak based on the results you receive.
 
There are an abundance of articles and studies that support the claims that F2F networking is an important and vital skill for personal and professional success. What interests me is that if this is such a critical knowledge base, why isn’t it taught more formally? F2F networking isn’t covered in high school, community colleges or universities—you’re on your own here. Combine the current proclivity of online relationship connections (Facebook, Linkedin, etc.), there are increasingly larger numbers of people who are uncomfortable with one-on-one encounters and who would rather have a root canal than attend a networking event because they don’t know what to do.
 
I’m part of the “How to” Team of F2F networking skills, so let me give you some thoughts and reasons to actively increase your ability to connect with people.
 
  • Get serious about F2F networking. Don’t think of this as something you can just wing you way through—read books, try out skills and strategies, and be willing to put in a little work and practice. If this is a critical skill, then treat it as such.
  • Understand that not every contact is going to offer you the job of your dreams, but every contact you make has the potential of yielding an important resource in the future. By not recognizing that you are constantly growing a network, you’ll miss out on some really influential—and interesting—contacts.
  • Make sure that diversity—in all its forms—is apparent in your network growth. Diversity includes men, women, other ethnicities/races, ages (frequently omitted in most networks) and geography. Having a network that is rich in variety will provide you with many more possibilities.
  • Getting good at networking isn’t rocket science. There isn’t a group of “Networking Police” that will hand you a ticket if you’re a little wobbly the first several networking events you attend, nor will people gasp in horror if you feel like you’re not doing a very good job. It does take knowledge and practice; you have to be willing to put forth some effort to get results.
 
Remember, increasing your networking skills is like finding the perfect biscuit recipe—you have to try out new things and practice, practice, practice!
 
Published: February 14, 2014
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Bonnie Coffey

Bonnie Coffey is a business and community leader and, as a Certified Trainer and Associate with Contacts Count, LLC, she teaches the skills and strategies of face-to-face (F2F) networking for professional and personal success. Her far-reaching career has impacted business, political, financial, and leadership organizations throughout the country. Her client list includes AARP® Foundation, Heinz Family Philanthropies, U.S. Department of Labor–Women’s Bureau, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, American Chemical Society, Decorating Den, American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), McCombs School of Business/University of Texas at Austin, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Union Pacific. She’s been featured in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, Creative Training Techniques, Women in Business and has been a columnist with the Lincoln Journal Star since 2001.  Her book, “Dreams for Our Daughters,” embodies her belief in the future of our next generation of women leaders.

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