Friday, January 08, 2016 Gabby Bill 0 Comments

This morning a friend of mine posted a graphic with this quote on Facebook, and I immediately fell in love with it. It probably won't surprise you when I say I'm a firm believer in taking risks and pushing yourself to do things that scare you. Now, it's never fun in the immediate term, but when I look back on my life, the things that have had the greatest impact were moments where I pushed myself to be brave and take a chance. When I liked / commented on / shared this Facebook post this morning, I had no idea that only a few hours later a friend of mine would have an encounter that would bring this very quote into sharp relief.

I've talked about my friend Tausha before (in this post on rolling with the punches and not "planning" your career), and frankly I'll probably talk about her a lot more in the future, a) because she's one of my best friends and b) because she's just freaking amazing and I admire her a lot. The low-down with Tausha is that she's an internal communications professional by day and an avid traveler and travel blogger by night/weekend/holiday. She's visited more than 30 countries, and yes I am jealous.

On this very night, Tausha found herself at the New York Times Travel Show in NYC. As she was wandering the show floor with a friend, she spotted her childhood travel idol, Samantha Brown, and immediately started fangirling. 

Naturally, when you spot a famous person or someone you've idolized for a while, the tendency is to get a bit nervous and clam up. I know when I admire someone or have built them up in my mind, I lose my ability to engage in conversation, and clear thinking immediately goes out the window. With this in mind, I wasn't surprised to hear that, while Tausha was brave enough to approach Samantha and say hello, her adrenaline-infused encounter caused her to get in and get out without maximizing the opportunity.

This is when Tausha texted me and here's how our conversation went:

Tausha: I just met Samantha Brown!

Gabby: OMG, isn't she the best? (Editor's note: I had met her a few times while working at Disney)

Tausha: I kind of didn't have much to say because I'm lame. I introduced myself and said how much I loved watching her growing up. Then I mentioned her new show and that was it.

Gabby: Brave girl! Good for you!

Tausha: Well I kind of hung around like a stalker until she had to acknowledge me, but then I had nothing to say. 

Gabby: Ahh, you should get business cards for your blog so in situations like this you could have handed her one and been like, check out my blog lady!

Tausha: The things is I do. I just blanked. I have business cards in my purse. But if I see her again...

Gabby: I was just typing that! I mean, maybe she'll check it out and tweet about it and BAM! Globe Getter TV show. 

Tausha: I wanted to say hi, but I didn't want to appear like I was after something. Boo I messed up.

Before we continue, let's dissect this situation just a bit more. First of all, despite feeling like she "messed up," Tausha already did what many people in her situation would not. She worked up the courage to place herself in the path of a person she wanted to talk to -- and someone she actively looked up to, at that -- and made a point of introducing herself and showcasing that she was familiar with things happening in that person's life. 

The missing puzzle piece here is that Tausha left the conversation before allowing it to develop into a "so what?" By that I mean, particularly at a networking event, people expect you to come up and talk to them. And taking that a step further, they also expect that you'll be coming up to talk to them for a specific reason

I think a lot of us feel uncomfortable with networking, because we view it as a supposedly one-sided interaction, i.e. I want to meet you / talk to you / get to know you, because you have something of value to give me. But the truth is that all relationships are two-sided, and if we can actively remember all of the things WE have to offer in return, all of a sudden it becomes an interaction based on mutual gain. This notion gives us way more confidence in approaching someone we'd like to get to know, and this is when the real magic of networking happens.

In this case, Tausha and I continued our text conversation, and after some prompting, she realized that she had two paths forward for the remainder of the night. Path #1 would be leaving the travel show and looking back on the opportunity, wishing she had handled it differently (this was the easier choice, by the way). Path #2 involved actively looking to re-write her story and leave the event feeling proud of herself and the outcome she created.

I bet you can guess which path Tausha chose.

Over the next half hour, Tausha was strategic and resourceful in her approach, unlike her first emotion-fueled attempt. Thinking Sam might be hanging out in the speakers lounge, she found a way to position herself nearby, and when she saw Samantha leave the room and start packing her purse, she swooped in. 

"When I saw her, I started to get nervous and I started sweating, and I thought, I can't go up to her while I'm all sweaty," Tausha says. "But then I thought I could walk away, or I could just get this done. And I got it done."

Tausha gently re-approached Samantha, reintroduced herself and with her nervousness in check, gave the speech she wished she'd given the first time. She told Sam all about how she inspired her to start a travel blog, that the premise was around keeping your full-time job and still being able to travel the world, and that she had really hoped to give Samantha her business card.

This simple gesture turned into a 5-minute conversation that Samantha instigated about the Philippines - a destination Tausha had just returned from, but that Samantha had never visited: case in point of Tausha offering value back to Sam. This conversation resulted in the two of them walking to the exit together as Sam went to get in her car and leave, and before she departed, she gave Tausha a warm goodbye, saying she hoped to "see her around" in the future.

"I’m so glad that I went back and looked for her and didn’t just think, I should have done this," Tausha says. "If it leads to something great, if it doesn’t fine, but at least I did it."

If approaching Samantha Brown was difficult for Tausha the first time, approaching her again was probably twice as hard. But she found stores of courage, and it all worked out -- in fact, it went better than she could have imagined. Now Tausha has the opportunity to follow up with Samantha, send her a pointed Tweet and see what happens. If they happen to be at an event together in the future, Tausha can reference their chat about the Philippines and maybe, just maybe, Samantha will remember her. If we're just going off their first conversation, I can guarantee you Tausha never would have made a mark on Sam's memory.

The moral of this story is two-fold. Firstly, each of us has to spend some time re-wiring our brain about networking. We need to remember that each of us has something unique and special about us, and that there's always some aspect of value we can offer to the person we're engaging. Networking is about building relationships, and you build relationships by simultaneously giving of yourself AND receiving from the other person.

Secondly, most of the time, being brave results in good things. Can I guarantee that courage will always get you a positive result? Of course not. But even in Tausha's example, worst case scenario Samantha would have blown her off or showed some annoyance at her persistence. And if that had happened, Tausha probably would have realized that Samantha Brown wasn't the kind of person she wanted to idolize going forward. 

And then her life would have gone on, no harm, no foul. We often blow the consequences of these things out of proportion to such an extent that we convince ourselves that trying isn't even worth it. Not the case.

Going to sleep tonight, I'm proud of Tausha, and I know she's proud of herself. And who knows? Maybe Sam will check out her blog and she'll wake up to an invitation from her newfound friend to join her for coffee. Only time will tell!

Your turn! How do you approach networking? Have you ever been in a situation where you wished you'd handled yourself differently? What did you take away from that moment as a lesson for the future? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting