By Danae Reid
We spend the bulk of our foundational years bombarded by the unsolicited advice of our elders, and if you were incredulously stubborn like me, most of the counsel I received took a while to stick. But there is one thing I learned as a child that registered immediately and has served me well – the proclamation, courtesy of my parents, which goes as follows: “The worst someone can say is ‘no’.”
Most of us are frightened by rejection, so much so that we tend to cull ourselves before others get the chance to. The crippling fear of rejection is shared, but luckily I grew out of that early on. Which is not to say that I am bullet-proof – but I have mastered the art of “shooting my professional shot” and stay readily equipped to sell myself. I can recite my elevator pitch in my sleep, and I’m an expert at subtly sandwiching the fact that I want to be a talk show host into any conversation at any moment. I am a professional schmoozer.
I was inspired to write this piece after a conversation I had with a colleague. We were in the presence of a renowned radio host, and me being me, I saw the moment as an opportunity to further myself. I told the host who I was and informed her of my passions and ultimate goals. For roughly 10-15 minutes following, she shared with me her professional history, gave me work/life advice, and provided me with a horde of resources. I was feeling satisfied by my latest feat when my coworker asked, “It’s cool that you’re able to shamelessly create connections, but don’t you feel like that’s taking advantage of people?” I was caught off guard, but I swiftly told her no.
Over the years, I’ve found that the law of reciprocity is extremely powerful. Most people enjoy doing for others because they believe they’ll receive something in return, even if that something is nothing more than feeling invaluable and/or virtuous. Because of this, I consider networking conversations as beneficial for both parties involved, whereas taking advantage of a person usually leaves them feeling achieved while the other is left disgruntled and expended.
My life is governed by the mantra, “The worst someone can say is no.”, and because of that, I’ve built up an arsenal of resources. Everyone around you has the potential to help you advance professionally and/or personally. In fact, the reason I have this column is because I took a chance and pitched myself to Catherine Hicks, the publisher of “The Philadelphia Sunday Sun”, during a meeting that we’d both been attending.
Ask yourself, “Does a college degree even matter if you have no network?” I encourage you all to be valiant enough to spark up a conversation. The person sitting next to you on the train may be the one to give you the courage to quit the job you subconsciously hate or could possibly put you in contact with the right person; the outcomes are endless. Remember, that if you never ask, the answer is always going to be ‘no’.
The ball is in your court, so what’re you going to do?