(Net) working

As a follow-up to last week's post, we wanted to share some thoughts on what we call the "new/old" networking strategies. In our opinion, the "new" networking sessions -- the business mixers, the networking luncheons, the Chamber of Commerce-hosted happy hours -- are, in general, a good idea. The problem is supply/demand. Too many sellers, not enough buyers. At those events (which we have been attending for years, mostly when working in corporate America), everyone wants to sell something, but most people aren't interested or ready to listen to what other people have to say; as it's all about their pitch and what they can get out of the informal meeting. We have now stopped attending these events, and went back to an old-fashioned principle, which is good for us, as we are not natural salespeople -- far from it.

What we now do is we speak passionately about what we do. We are in the lucky position to do something -- translation -- that we are truly passionate about. Hence, these conversations are always very easy, and we are not trying to sell anything. When we get asked what we do, we usually speak enthusiastically about our industry, our place in it, what we are working on, etc. Case in point that in can be effective: Last week, I finally found a fantastic tennis partner who is not my twin sister. My tennis partner, Staci, had just started running her own busiess as well (a wine distribution company). We briefly talked about how our businesses were going, and exchanged thoughts on leaving corporate America (which we both recently did). As I was telling her about our translation business, her face lit up and she said: "I will send your info to a friend of mine who owns a court reporting business; she always needs Spanish translations!". I quickly followed up with Staci's friend who might be interested in working with us. It may not lead to actual business, but it's good to know that one doesn't have to act like a used car salesman (sorry, car sales guys) to grow the business. The title of this post, "(Net) working" comes courtesy of fellow translator and blogger Corinne McKay of Thoughts on Translation, to whom I had related this story. Thanks, Corinne!


Kevin Lossner on January 19, 2009 at 6:19 AM said...

I think you've captured the discomfort I feel with "networking events" very well. I can picture the attendees now: coat pockets stuffed full of business cards ready to be pressed in any hand that still shows a pulse and perhaps some that do not.
I prefer to follow my interests when I have the time and take or leave the business opportunities as I find them. If I were to give a talk at a Rotary Club event or elsewhere on the subject of translation, my main purposes would be to have fun and share ideas. I wouldn't give a damn if I got any business out of it, and I'd probably forget the business cards too, though I would at least wear a tie ;-)
I can "network" at a meeting of Democrats Abroad, at a rock concert, in a museum cafeteria or walking my dog in the woods. It's just a fancy word for meeting people with an eye for forming possibly useful acquaintances, and if one is alert, this can happen anywhere. I think the most important things to remember are not to waste your time on things you don't enjoy or don't believe in and take John Kennedy's "ask not" advice and apply it with a happy heart to your everyday interactions. Everything else will fall into place most likely, and even if it doesn't you'll have had a good time.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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