1. The power of networking

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Eric:  [00:00:13] Hey there, everyone. This is Eric Mueller on the mic, and it's once again my pleasure to welcome you to The Eric Mueller Show. Welcome to Episode 1.

 

I hope you're eager to dive into the topic I've prepared for you today. It's called The Power of Networking.

 

Over the course of this episode, I want to help you understand the fundamental importance that networking has in the development of your skill set as well as how you can create a marketable version of yourself by using networking.

 

I have some experiences and how important networking can be when striving towards my own career goals, and I hope that the information that I share with you today will assist you in discovering how networking can best serve your needs, regardless of your pursuit in life.

 

The first piece that I want to touch on in regards to networking is defining the word network.

 

In the dictionary, they define network as a supportive system of shared information [00:01:13] and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. That's the definition of the word network.

 

The piece of that definition I want to draw specific attention to for you is common interest.

 

I want you to take a moment to think about this in perspective to your own environment. Think about common interests in relation to your career or your field of expertise.

 

Maybe you are in healthcare like myself, perhaps you're in finance, or possibly you are a teacher at a school or a professor at some type of University.

 

I want you to think about that. What common interests you share with the peers and colleagues in your respective field?

 

From my point of view in healthcare, all of us share the common interest of efficient and effective delivery of our healthcare services to our patients.

 

We strive to improve the overall well-being and quality of life of the patients that we serve.

 

[00:02:13] Now depending on your expertise or the field that you're in, you'll likely want to construct meaningful relationships with your clients, much like those of us in healthcare want to construct relationships with the patients that we serve.

 

Now you take the common interest you have, that is your network; the people that share that interest that is your network. What networking does is it takes this common interest, and it hones in and focuses specifically on the cultivation of those people within that network who can be helpful to you and how you can be helpful to them.

 

Through networking, you will find those people who can help you find employment, move to a higher position that you're striving for or accomplish X, Y or Z in your career. But you're also going to be able to offer your services and expertise, regardless of the stage that you are in your own career, [00:03:14] to help the people you're networking with develop towards their own endeavors. That's the piece I really like about it: the mutual benefit of networking.

 

And the cool thing here is you might meet someone who is working towards the same overall mission in life that you are.

 

And you won't find that out unless you network with them.

 

Take the terms network and networking and just think of how they relate to each other here.

 

So, I'm going to go back to what the definition of network is. It’s that supportive system of shared information among those common interest, common minded people.

 

So shared information, that piece I feel like is very important. It's not just a one-way street. When you network, You're not just going to go into it with the mindset of what can you do for me and not think of what can I also do for them?

 

So, you want to scan through your web of like-minded individuals in your life right now. Think of who those people are and seek [00:04:14] them out to see who can most likely help you advance, and also think of how can you offer your services and expertise to those people?

 

So, you might be wondering at this point: How do I network? And I want to share with you a short story from my own experiences with networking. Now keep in mind, I am not an expert on this topic by any means.

 

Networking is something that I've continually been practicing throughout my schooling.

 

Specifically, in my last year of pharmacy school, I really kind of ramped up my networking.

 

But my story starts at this pharmacy convention that I was at in the summer of my fourth year of pharmacy school, so my last year of pharmacy school. I was in my second rotation out of nine, and I had the opportunity to attend this convention in Overland Park, Kansas.

 

And I remember prior to that convention, I had a list of I think about five people that I knew I wanted [00:05:14] to connect with. I knew that these five people I wanted to have a business card of mine be placed in their hand, wanted to shake their hand, look them firmly in the eye. Mind you this is prior to the coronavirus, so handshaking was okay.

 

But I had this list, and I knew I wanted to connect with these people.

 

And one of these people was an executive director of one of the larger pharmacy organizations.

 

And really simply, prior to them giving one of their talks in one of the convention rooms, I just approached them when I knew that they weren't in a conversation with another person and they weren't busy.

 

And just walked up to him and extended my hand and said “Hey, my name is Eric Mueller. I'm a fourth-year student at the University of Oklahoma. It's a pleasure to meet you. I would love to be involved with you in any way I can throughout school or possibly after.”

 

Handed them that business card. They said it was great to meet you, put the business card in his suit jacket and that was it. That was it. [00:06:14] I later followed up with an email, and it actually led to a contracted, little part-time employment opportunity while I was still a student.

 

So, it was a really cool experience for me. I knew that I wanted to make the connection with that person, and I knew that I wanted to show them that I was interested in being involved with them in any way. Looking for potential postgraduate opportunities even, just plant that seed. And it led to an opportunity literally weeks later.

 

And so, I'm really grateful that I had made that list ahead of time because in the moment I might have been you know a little bit scared. I might have been nervous to do that. But since I had that list printed out for myself, I knew that hey I’ve got to do this. I set these goals for myself. I need to go meet this person and introduce myself. So that little, short story, I mean very simple. But it just shows that you know, the power networking is what [00:07:14] I'm trying to get here.

 

The networking aspects of your life can be super powerful, and you might not realize that in the moment. I certainly didn't think that this would lead to an opportunity within weeks to let alone make some extra money as a student. That was not on my radar, but that happened through the ability to network and the ability to start a conversation.

 

So, starting a conversation. You might be wondering. How do I do this? When is the appropriate time to start a conversation? What do I say? And also, how do I know if I was successful in adding the person to my network? Well, I tend to think that there are five main things to consider when looking to start a conversation.

 

The first of which I believe to be most important and that is to make eye contact. In addition to that, extending your hand for a firm confident handshake is a nice added bonus.

 

Now I know that COVID-19 is hindering this aspect [00:08:14] of networking as of right now.

 

But eye contact is still particularly important these days. Whether you're on Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams. However you’re meeting with people these days, maintaining eye contact as best you can throughout the meeting makes people know that you're listening to what they're saying.

 

Even if you're not looking directly into the camera, which is kind of tough to do on a meeting like that. As long as you're looking up and not looking down at your phone or your keyboard or notes next to you, it lets the people know that you're networking with that you're engaged in what's going on.

 

The second piece, introduce yourself. Give a brief description of where you're at in your career. An example from my story earlier is “Hi, I'm Eric Mueller, and I'm currently a student, resident, wherever I am at that point in time.”

 

Quick and sweet, and it just gives a little introduction to that.

 

That you can share with that person that you're networking with.

 

[00:09:16] Step 3. Be sure to listen to what the other person says next.

 

Try as best as you can to not be thinking of what the next thing you're going to say is. Now this is really hard to do.

 

It's very common. It's tough to train yourself into not doing that. I know that I'm guilty of doing that several times when networking. It's hard to break that habit.

 

But you want to try to let the conversation flow naturally.

 

By listening to what the person says after you've introduced yourself really keeps you engaged in what is going on, and it helps you after they're done speaking. Take a minute. You can pause and process what you've just actually listened to and then formulate your next response.

 

Step 4 is to say the person's name with their professional title, if applicable back to them, especially when ending the conversation.

 

So, if you're speaking with someone that holds a doctorate in some type of field, [00:10:16] I would suggest addressing them as Dr. First Name Last Name or Dr. Last Name. So, “Dr. Smith, it was a pleasure speaking with you today.” You know and then say whatever else you want to say to them at that point. I think that's a really respectful thing to do and it also makes them know that that you're trying to keep a professional networking feel about the conversation.

 

Step 5. Exchange contact information, if appropriate. So, for my story earlier with the pharmacy convention, I had some business cards that I had printed up to hand out to people.

 

If you feel like it's an appropriate time to hand a business card to someone that you've just had a conversation with, go ahead and do that. Typically, a business card will have some contact information such as email/phone number to let that person know how to contact you going forward. And if you get a business card in return, it's always prudent to follow up with an email shortly after that networking session [00:11:16] to let that person know you appreciated what you talked about and keep that conversation going.

 

Now, I want to challenge you to seek out opportunities to do these five steps. So, we'll review them real quick.

 

First step. Make eye contact and give a firm handshake.

Number 2. Introduce yourself with a brief description.

Number 3. Be sure to listen to what the person says after your introduction.

Number 4. Be sure to say the person's name with their professional title back to them. And

Number 5. Exchange some contact information if you feel it's appropriate.

 

Networking is an awesome tool that you have in your arsenal to build towards being a more successful you.

 

A quote that I personally like is “Dress like the person whose job you want, not the one you have.”

 

So, when you go to a convention or some type of networking event, no matter where you're at in your life. If your high school undergrad grad school, dressing [00:12:16] up is always a good idea. It lets people know you're serious, and it looks good.

 

Once you’ve become comfortable applying these 5 steps, starting conversations and building your network. It's going to become second nature to you. Once you've done it once, you're going to be able to do it in the future with others a lot more easily.

 

I like to think of a metaphor from one of my high school cross-country teammates.

 

He told him on a run one time when we were probably maybe about 60 percent of the way through the run. He said, “Eric, don't think about how far you have left to go, think about how far you've already gone.”

 

And I really like that quote because no matter what stage you're at in your life, I implore you to get involved early. And don't think about how far you maybe have to go and think “Oh, I wish I was you know, five steps further or wish I was done with my degree before I can network with these people.” Just go ahead and jump in. I really think you're unlikely to meet someone who would say they [00:13:16] wish that they would not have started networking earlier in their career.

 

I'll say that again. I really don't think you'll meet someone who says “Hey, I wish that I would not have started networking early in my career.”

 

Next, let's talk about bridge burning. So, what do I mean by that? Well, bridge burning is essentially when you have a network connection, and you leave that connection without any realistic way to return to it.

 

So, an example of this to illustrate for you would be a job type story environment where you have a boss and an employee, just two people.

 

So, the boss in the employee, doesn't matter what age the employee is. Let's say it's a high school student who has a part-time job working as a burger flipper for McDonald's. Make it real simple.

 

So, we have this high school kid, and they decide one day that they're not going to show [00:14:16] up to their Saturday shift. They've had enough. They decide they don't need the money, and they'd rather go hang out with their friends on Saturday. So instead of putting in a two weeks or letting their boss know about this, they just don't show up.

 

So, what they've done there, they've burned a bridge. So that boss I would say, I mean if I was at boss and that employee didn't put it in a two weeks or leave in an appropriate way. I mean, I would not, I definitely wouldn't hire them back, and I would also let other people know that this is what happened if they were to ever contact me saying should I hire this person?

 

So , the point of the story here is just you never know who your future boss is going to be or who that person that you might burn a bridge with will know in the future.

 

So, you just have to be really careful when leaving a position, put in a two weeks. Whenever you're networking with some body, I mean always respectfully end the conversation, even if you think, “Hey maybe this conversation or this connection is not really going to benefit me going forward [00:15:16] or I don't have a lot to offer this person.”

 

Even if that's what's going on in your mind, I strongly suggest to just you know, respectfully transition out of that conversation and don't do anything that would potentially harm your, you know employment or any type of thing like that in the future.

 

Because when you burn a bridge, you're never going to know how profound of an effect that had until the future, and you might not ever know. We might not ever know for sure how profound an effect that bridge burning hat.

 

Another way to view the burning of a bridge like this.

 

You can look at your network as a solid foundation to stand on. So, you want to have built this solid foundation so you have a level to stand on so you can network and build up to the next level.

 

So, we're going to use levels to illustrate this point.

 

I want you to imagine that there are certain levels required to advance in your career.

 

[00:16:16] Let's say we have a numerical scale here 1 through 50.

 

And let's say your foundation is set at level 4.

 

You have a desire to go from Level 4 to level 5.

 

Well, what if you burned even one of the connections on levels 2 or 3?

 

Sometime in the past. Sometime could be recent, it could be years ago.

 

Not only are you not progressing upward to level 5, you might even fall from Level 4 where you're currently at.

 

The worst-case scenario here would be falling way back to even level 1 because you burnt a connection at level 2 or 3.

 

What if that foundation that you once had, it's almost imagine like you've hollowed out 2 and 3. So, now you have 4, an empty space and 1.

 

Simple physics is going to tell you that that's going to fall down.

 

If levels 2 and 3 are not there to hold your foundation up any longer, [00:17:16] it's going to be really hard for you to progress up because you're going to fall down.

 

I don't say that to be negative nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject, but I know that I've seen this type of situation play out throughout my life so far.

 

And I just want you to be aware of the concept of burning a bridge.

 

I also hope to place within your mind a healthy respect for what burning a bridge could do to your network as well as your career advancement.

 

I also believe this goes beyond the success of one's career.

 

Burning bridges could also apply with family and friends.

 

A general rule of thumb to follow ethically is don't say something behind someone's back unless you'd be willing to say it to their face.

 

Probably something your grandma told you at one time when you were a child.

 

Overall, if you strive to be a good person, you will bear the fruit from all of your relationships: personal [00:18:16] or professional.

 

I really want to implore you to just jump in and do it. Just jump in and start networking no matter what stage you're at.

 

Fear is your enemy here. A simple way to do this, being that were in the COVID-19 season is using LinkedIn to connect with people.

 

I use LinkedIn a fair amount. I really like it. I feel like it's built my network up, you know very well in the past several months and years.

 

And I like using it to reach out to people who more often than not are in higher positions than I. So, sending a LinkedIn connection to a CEO, a director, some type of VP that you admire.

 

Rather than being fearful of that, just think back to my cross-country teammates message.

 

It's not how far you have to go.

 

Think about how far you've already traveled.

 

So, no matter where you're at. If you're in high school, [00:19:16] if you're in college, if you're in undergrad, if you’re in a graduate program, if you're 15-20 years in your career, if you're 50 years in your career. No matter where you are, don't let fear creep in to prevent you from reaching out to that person who might be able to jump you up further in your network and advance quicker in your career.

 

Keep in mind how much you've done to get to where you are now.

 

I'll relate this back to health care. If you're in a healthcare profession like myself, you've studied really hard for the tests. You've spent long hours doing that. You stayed up late most likely. You've gone to rotations, if that was part of your program. You've logged many unpaid hours. Actually, you were paying for it with tuition.

 

But you made it.

 

If you're an athlete, you've trained hard for your sport for months or more likely years. You've made it.

 

Regardless of your calling in life, the effort you have put in thus far is likely [00:20:16] a lot.

 

And no matter where you stand in your development, it's never too early to dress like the person whose job you want someday.

 

I really want to stress on confidence here and building your confidence while networking and trying to advance and making you more successful.

 

A quick story in regards to confidence for you.

 

I vividly remember my junior year of high school conference cross country race.

 

I toed that starting line truly believing that I could win that race.

 

I couldn't explain why, I just could feel it that day. I felt that I was going to do whatever I had to do to win that race.

 

The end result: I did win and I set a personal record doing it. It was actually the fastest I'd run in high school when it was all said and done.

 

If I could channel that mindset on command, I most definitely would.

 

But I know that there have been several races in which I don't [00:21:16] feel like I have it, and I go out there, and I don't perform to my highest potential. And I really think that whether you believe you can or you can't, you're right.

 

In cross country, half the battle is training, half the battle is logging in the miles.

 

But the other half is mental, and I'm still working at that today when I train for half marathons and a marathon one day, like channeling that mental tenacity is tough.

 

But confidence is something that really can help you succeed when you learn how to harness that power.

 

So, as we wrap up this episode, just want to give a quick summary about what we went over here. So, we talked about networking, we defined what a network is, we defined what networking is, we gave some tips on how to start a conversation. [00:22:16] We got those five tips that we talked about.

 

We went over the importance of not burning bridges.

 

And then we talked about just jumping in and do it. Just jumping in and networking.

 

Trying to harness that confidence to go ahead and get that done.

 

I really believe that your potential is truly unlimited when you leverage the benefits of networking.

 

And I want to be the first to tell you if nobody has told you this before, you can do what you want to do, and you can reach whatever potential that you believe you can reach.

 

I really believe the bar is where you set it in your mind, and I really think that networking is the catalyst to get what you want in terms of your potential growth.

 

I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone for listening. I hope that you enjoyed today's discussion as much as I did.

 

Until next time, Mueller out.

 

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Voice audio: Written, produced and edited by Eric R. Mueller

EDM music: Produced and edited by Eric R. Mueller