Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Networking -- a gratifying surprise

I was absolutely floored yesterday by a networking contact.

Slowly, I've been making contact with people I've worked with in the past -- consultants and freelancers, mostly -- to see if they're willing to share some of their experiences with me. Because I'm not entirely sure yet which direction I'll be taking, I'm mostly reforging the bond on a new level and asking their perspectives on what they like and don't like about being sole practitioners or running small businesses. I've been fortunate to work with some very talented and very nice people, and this is also giving me a chance to catch up with them and find out what they've been up to.

It's easier to reach out to some people more than others, given the relationships we've built over time. Some are all business, while others are a bit more conversational and personal. Not surprisingly, it's easier to reach out to the latter ones: it's a pretty natural progression to give them a call or send a note saying I've left my job, and why, and what I'm up to. The more formal, business contacts are a bit tougher, so they haven't come as naturally, maybe because my 'story' still feels a bit unformed.

On Monday, I got a LinkedIn message from one of those more business-y contacts. He'd tried calling me at my old work number and got my outgoing message saying I've left the company. In his note, he offered to be a reference for me and help in any way that he can, and he implored me to drop him a line with my phone number so we could catch up. I did that, and he called me yesterday morning, barely taking a breath between all of the nuggets of information and food for thought he shared with me. I think at one point, he was talking for three minutes straight. A few hours later, he followed up with a couple of e-mails with more information on some of what he'd shared.

For someone who doesn't expect a lot of help from anyone, the e-mails and call were gratifying, and a little overwhelming. The contact has always been a class act to work with, and he clearly values his business relationships, so it's not surprising he would be willing to help. I guess I just wasn't prepared for the volumes he offered up, unsolicited. When I recounted the experience to someone else, that person noted that most people, when given the chance, will step forward to help, and some will even approach you before you reach out to them. I know I've done it for folks in the past, so I shouldn't be as surprised as I was. It did make it a lot easier to send out a note to one of the other 'business-y' contacts yesterday afternoon.

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