More than cardboard

Caught up with an occasional contact last night for networking purposes. Networking is a necessary evil in my business, but something I rarely relish. I’ve let it go in recent times, too busy, or too exasperated to put the effort in. I’ve returned to it in the last month. I’ve attended a couple of general industry events, and thumbed through my address book and LinkedIn to make contact with likely types.

My connection with last nights contact dates back to a course a few years ago. He ran it, I was one of the participants. We had a beer afterwards and generally hit it off. We met on another occasion at a random network do – one of the better one’s – and caught up otherwise online every so often.

He’s a nice bloke, and very clever. He’s one of the leading proponents in his area, and known worldwide – next week he flies off to Europe to present at three conferences. For all that he’s pretty unprepossessing, and hasn’t converted his reputation into dollars as yet – and perhaps the two are related.

He’s a smallish type with a ready smile and an affable nature. He’s more comfortable doing his things than pushing himself forward. He’s the bright guy at the edge of the photo, rather than the charismatic type at the centre. For all his innovation he’s not particularly entrepreneurial – which he freely admits – and ever reluctant to push too hard.

I understand his story, though it’s not something I can personally relate to. I’ve long accepted that I’m one of the more naturally assertive people going around. Regardless of what I actually feel I seem always to present confidently, and with emphasis. It’s how I think too. As he spoke last night I’d interject every so often suggesting a salient point. Generally he would agree with me, a rueful smile on his face, before admitting he was always happy to present his findings, but was never able to press the point.

While I got plenty from him it was clear he got plenty from me also. I am entrepreneurial, or at least would be if I could be. I don’t like the schmoozing, the sale any more than anyone else – and contrary to popular belief, do get nervous. That doesn’t stop me from doing it though. I will press the point. I’ll happily demonstrate why this is a good idea, and will ask, how about it? This is what the guy last night was interested in. He queried me on all those things as if I was an old hand and the bearer of a wisdom he could benefit from.

At the end of the night he asked for something from me. He’s finally got to the point where he’s looking to monetise his knowledge and reputation. He’s come up with a novel way of doing so. All good. What he asked though was whether I would be happy to accompany him when he presents his pitch to CEO’s and boards? “Sure,” I said, hardly imagining it would actually transpire, but willing to help. His thinking, I think, is my harder edge and more entrepreneurial nature might be of use in that scenario.

That’s kind of flattering, but it’s also pretty frustrating. It seems I have a lot of people in recent times lauding me for similar values. Just in the last month I’ve had four different people compliment me on my general presentation skills. I’ve been told I’m a great listener, that I’m articulate, and that I have a ‘succinct’ way of communicating. They say I present well, from the way I dress, the way I look, to the way I put myself across. One senior recruiter told me he liked the ‘cut of my jib’. The thing is, I’m aware of all this. I can sit there and talk and know that I’m fluent and intelligent and forceful. Now last nights guy wants me to partner with him because I have the boldness that he lacks.

All this is great, right? Not really. That’s where I’m frustrated. I know I can walk the walk as well as I talk the talk. People who meet me seem convinced of the same. The frustration is that for all that I’m obviously not meeting the right people because none of it translates into business, or work, for me. “You’re great, H,” people say, imagining I’m a great success, or thinking that I must become one, but nothing ever comes of it. It’s all for naught. I’m dying to meet the right people. Or else get the opportunity to present in person to people I only ever correspond with or talk to on the phone. Face to face I can be primo, but it just doesn’t happen enough, not with the right people, and not at the right time.

This is no idle complaint. This is important. Really is. Till it pays off I’m no better than a cardboard cut-out; and the future is uncertain.

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