But what's the ABC you should be thinking of? If you've lurked around sales long enough, you will associate it with Glengarry Glen Ross' infamous Always Be Closing speech . Young Alec Baldwin=swoon. But I digress.
For professional women, I would posit the ABC you should be thinking about is actually Always Be Connecting. And, by connecting, I don't mean in a “Hi, I would like to add you to my LinkedIn network kind of way.” I mean connecting with other professionals in a genuine, agenda-free, connected way.
A great first step in expanding your network is to make connections between others. Have a friend who is really keen on a company where you know someone? Try to get them in the door by making a thoughtful introduction. A colleague wants to explore an industry switch? Get them in front of the folks you know in that space.
The catch is that *connecting* isn't a formula. It's a deliberate and thoughtful exercise. Several times a week I get an email from someone saying something along the lines of ‘My friend Mindy is interested in marketing. You're in marketing. Y'all should connect. I've copied you both.’
Guess what? That's not connecting. That's crossing off your to do list. And I guarantee that the recipient of that email dies a little inside when they open it up. Or at least I know I do.
So, how do you adopt an "always be connecting" mindset without being a pill?
Here are three easy ways to think about the ABC:
A -- Ask.
Ask before making the introduction. A simple "Would it be ok if I introduced you to my sister/neighbor/colleague?" is a much more thoughtful way to approach it. And it gives the recipient the opportunity to say, "Thanks, but it's really not a good time for me right now." Or "Thanks but I think it would be better to pair your sister/neighbor/colleague up with my sister/neighbor/colleague. I'll pass along their info.” Whatever the outcome, it's just simple courtesy to ask permission first.
B -- Benefit.
Make sure there is a benefit to both parties. Why are you making the introduction? What do the two parties have in common? How will they both benefit from knowing one another? Besides, how many people want to follow through on something if they, themselves, don’t see the benefit?
C -- Context.
Context people. So much more powerful if the introduction has context. I often get emails with no greater context than "you're both smart women. You should know each other." I love smart women. But, guess what, I already know a lot of them and wish I had more time to spend with my existing smart women friends, colleagues and family members.
If you want to connect smart women, you’ve gotta give a little more to go on like,
"Mindy is a marketing director at Company X. She has been there for the past several years and is interested in making the switch from consumer to a tech company. I know you did that several years ago, Mindy would find it really helpful to be able to discuss with you how to most effectively transition into tech. More specifically, she wants to understand what organizations she should join, how to raise her profile locally and whether or not her volunteer work with Girls Who Code is something she should be highlighting. I understand you might be building out your marketing team and I think Mindy's a great potential referral source for candidates. Also you both love reading. Perhaps you might learn about some great new books from one another." Boom, see what she did there? She gave tons of context. I now have a clear idea of why she's connected the two of us. And I'm excited about it.
Connecting smart women is a great way to build a powerhouse professional community. Just put care into it and the good karma will flow all over!