Yes, you may crash and burn: Engage anyways.

 Today, we have a guest post from recruiter, author and blogger Drew Tewell. He helps people navigate the world of work and is nearly mid-way through a year-long quest to land a guest spot on career and development blogs every week in 2013. We admired his spirit and are happy to introduce Drew here.

 

Years ago, while hanging out with a couple of friends, I decided to go talk to a girl. I tucked in my shirt, walked up to her and gave her my very best “I’ve noticed you around lately.”

She didn’t say a word. She didn't need to. The cross between annoyance and pity that spread across her face was all I needed as feedback. Without saying another word, I turned around and walked away.

Crash and burn. 


But I didn't let it get me down, and this is key.

Whether personally or professionally, meeting new people is not easy, even for the most extroverted among us. Yet as professionals, most of us realize how vital it is to connect with people and build vibrant and supportive professional networks.

So the question is, how do you pull it off without looking like some dork with a hyper tucked-in shirt, throwing out a cliched one-liner that will, invariably, lead to quizzical, annoyed or pity-filled responses?

My top four thoughts on building professional relationships:

  1. Be courageous. The definition of courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. Approaching strangers? Definitely intimidating. But it's through these very moments of boldness that we can build some of our most beneficial, satisfying relationships.
     
  2. Lead strong. As in, not with the workplace version of "I've noticed you around lately." People appreciate genuinity, thoughtfulness, humor, humility and flattery. Build some of these into your lead on every occasion.
     
  3. Acknowledge the risk. Go for it anyways.  Of course there's risk when connecting with new people. Even if you consider yourself a world-class reader of people, you still never know with certainty how they are going to respond. Proceed anyways. 
     
  4. The rewards far outweigh the risks. In our new economy, having influential and supportive people in your corner isn't just a nicety, it's vital to your success. These are the very people who are going to point you to new opportunities, support your learning and growth and stand by your side when you're navigating rough terrain.

    Certainly, you're going to approach a dud or two (or even four or five) as you build or strengthen your professional relationships. Who cares? It's better to get the door closed in your face a few times than never go ring the stinking doorbell in the first place. No one ever died (that I know of) from someone turning down their request to connect on LinkedIn. 

The bottom line is that we all need each other. We are literally all in this together.  

So go engage with people, for crying out loud. 

Introduce yourself, with an outstretched hand or an email. Send them a message on LinkedIn or tweet something out to them. Pick up the phone and invite them to lunch. 

Don’t overcomplicate this; just do it. 

And if you crash and burn in grand style, much like I did?

Fuhgettaboutit.

You'll get 'em next time.

In addition to his work as a recruiter and blogger, Drew is the author of the book, The Dream Job Program. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter.