Ever wonder why some people seem to have all the luck? They just happen to be at the right place, at the right time, and, with the right people? These serendipitous encounters that seem to happen so seamlessly – is it manipulation, or is it magic manifested via meaningful contacts?
Well, a recent watch on Netflix, “Emily in Paris”, was a good reminder of that. It’s a story about a Marketing Professional moving from Chicago to Paris, and her journey of making things happen. Now I understand that we can’t base our networking lessons on scripted romcoms and dramadies (only) – but seriously, work with me here for a tad bit longer!
You see, as an ambivert, networking doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, for the longest time, I prided myself with this pseudo sense of superiority that I don’t do small talk. I had rigid perceptions about networking being just a transactional exchange, and therefore disingenuous, and therefore, not something ideal for me. That changed (quite a bit actually), after I enrolled in the course ‘Strategic Networks for Innovation & Change’ at Imperial College Business School. Dr. Anne ter Wal, our Professor for the course, gave us insightful networking nuggets throughout the curriculum that challenged the way I perceived networking.
The world has lived with a whole year of COVID, and it’s taught us that our need for staying connected is critical.
Not long after, COVID-19 hit, and so did my quarantine routine. As an avid Netflixer, I watched Emily in Paris not once, but twice. First time because, well, I had to, I mean how could I miss seeing Chef Gabriel? And the second time, because I was interested in how the writers scripted the behaviours that enable serendipity. So, I took a good look at my class notes and picked a few gems that flawlessly flowed with this romcom and ended-up making it an interesting guide to effective networking!
Disclaimer: Major spoilers ahead
Here we go:
- Effective networking is founded in a genuine interest in others: Throughout the series, one thing that Emily is truly consistent with, is her genuine interest in others. So, when crisis hits, whether it’s getting a plumbing problem fixed in her apartment, or arranging a last minute gourmet meal for her standoffish boss, she has allies who have her back!
- Existing connections are a powerful source for referrals to future connections: At one point Emily accepts an invite to visit a gallery launch. Now many would argue that she had nothing better to do. But come to think of it, how many times do we decline invites because “we don’t do social events without our mains/squad” approach. Well, it’s via this event that Emily meets a contact who later becomes critical in creating a key client collaboration. So remember to think about the possibilities a new opportunity might afford you before you say no!
- Power and influence can be established by investing time and energy, and balancing strategic intent and openness to serendipity: Despite the fact that Emily’s first encounter with the Fashion icon Pierre Cadault is far from perfect, she invests time, energy, even takes a few innocuous risks, to build her credibility. Eventually, Emily is able to influence and perhaps even inspire Pierre to re-do his new collection and re-establish himself as the Fashion Guru.
Now I realise that real life is definitely different from reel life, and if not for the lessons, you may want watch this show as a feel-good series. But come to think of it, networking now is even more important than it’s ever been before. The world has lived with a whole year of COVID, and it’s taught us that our need for staying connected is critical. Meaningful connections become our super-power that help us better navigate life (even if most of seems virtual these days), that doesn’t come with a ready manual.
I read somewhere that when the universe wants to help someone, she sends people. Well, the goal for me now is to approach small talk as a segue to meaningful exchanges and perhaps even unravel the secret to seamless serendipities.