Tag Archives: networking tips

5 Awkward Conversations You’ll Have at the Office Party

Awkward conversations at the office holiday party are inevitable. But at least now you have some tips on how to deal with them!

awkward conversations

Need some advice for the inevitable awkward conversations at the office party? Here are some top tips for you!

Scenario 1: You’re stuck making small-talk with the boss and can’t think of anything to say. Awkward!

You’ve spent the entire party trying to avoid anyone in a management position and then you find yourself at the bar or buffet with the boss. And there’s nobody else there to share the conversational burden.

“So, are you enjoying the party?” enquires to boss. “Yes, thanks” is your answer. Then the conversation goes dead.

You have to fill the vacuum. After all, you don’t want him/her to think you have absolutely nothing to say. This is your chance to make a great impression…(or not!).

Don’ts:

  • Stand there grinning – come on, you can do better than that!
  • Walk off – that’s more embarrassing than an awkward silence.
  • Tell a joke – humour is subjective.
  • Make demands – now is not the time to say “as we are finally having a chat, I wanted to ask about a promotion”.
  • Try too hard to impress – avoid self-promotion. You may appear arrogant rather than self-confident if you start boasting about your sales or whatever. Now is not the time or place.

Do’s:

  • Prepare – think of something neutral you could say in advance. For example, I really prefer this venue to last year and then talk about best/worst party venues. But don’t rehearse the conversation (it won’t feel natural). If you are at the buffet you could even talk about the food. In desperation, ask about holiday plans.
  • Ask questions – when you are nervous there is a temptation to talk too quickly and too much. Remember a conversation is a two-way exchange so try to get the boss to do more of the talking by asking questions. And remember to actively listen.
  • Watch your body language – this can say more than words. Make eye contact, smile and try to look engaged and interested even if your instinct is to run and hide in the toilet.

Scenario 2: A colleague is flirting with you and is becoming increasingly suggestive and getting inappropriately close but you really are not interested.

Handle this carefully. If you publicly humiliate someone they will probably feel embarrassed and could accuse you of reading the situation wrongly. And if you have overthought it, you will look like an idiot for suggesting they were coming on to you.

Don’ts:

  • Be dismissive – telling someone that you are just not interested, even if you are being polite rather than rude, is a rejection. Most people don’t handle rejection well.
  • Go along with it – if you are not interested, don’t take advantage.
  • Make a big deal of it – drawing attention to the situation is going to make it worse.

Do’s:

  • Change the subject – if you can, and then find an excuse to move away and stay away even if you have to say you need the toilet. You don’t want to be left alone with them again.
  • Reject them without rejecting them – talk about your partner to make it clear you are not available. However, don’t lie (for example, say you are married when you are not) or try to deflect their attention by telling them someone else fancies them. That could lead to even more trouble.

Scenario 3: Your colleagues are pressuring you to join in with their drunken banter. You really don’t want to get involved because in past years this type of behaviour has cost people their careers.

Peer pressure is very powerful particularly when it is in the public setting of an office party. Everyone is doing shots, playing ‘truth or dare’ or ‘snog, marry, avoid’ (or other variations such as snog, marry, kill).

If you don’t join in, you might find you are not invited to the pub in future. But if you do, you could damage your career.

Don’ts:

  • Criticise – it is not your place to tell others what to do or how to behave (unless it is your place – in which case, you’ll have to come up with a more acceptable activity. Anyone for karaoke?)
  • Go along with it – if you are not comfortable with the way the conversation is going or are being asked to do something that could compromise your career, just don’t join in – even if you are called a chicken/wimp/loser etc.

Do’s:

  • Say no – do not do anything you are not comfortable with just to fit in. You can be identified as a trouble maker/sexist bully/aggressive drunk etc., just by associating with people who behave in this way.
  • Deflect attention – even if it means offering to buy everyone a drink to avoid the situation.

Scenario 4: The office gossip or political Machiavelli is grilling you for information. You don’t want to reveal too much, but you don’t want to get on their wrong side either.

The last thing you need is a reputation as the office gossip. For one, it may ruin any level of trust you have built up with colleagues. For another, you may end up hurting someone.

Don’t

  • Blurt out everyone’s secrets – they will find out it was you.

Do’s:

  • Be non-committal – don’t agree that someone is ‘awful’ but don’t disagree either. Say as little as possible.
  • Feign ignorance – pretend you don’t know what they are talking about. They will soon get bored and find another victim.

Scenario 5: You are desperately trying to talk to people, but they all make excuses and walk away leaving you standing awkwardly by yourself.

This can be a problem if you work from home part-time, usually leave early when everyone goes to the pub on a Friday, are not in the same age group as your colleagues, or suffer from social anxiety.

If you are not part of the “in” crowd, a work party can be a living hell particularly if you are left standing all on your own and everyone you smile at or say ‘hi’ to looks away.

Don’t:

  • Give up – leaving won’t solve anything. You will still feel left out next time.
  • Force the conversation – you cannot just slide into a group and interrupt. It’s rude and you are leaving yourself open to a brutal rejection.

Do:

  • Hang around in places where it’s easier to make conversation – the bar/the buffet/outside with the smokers. I know people who fake-vape just so they have an excuse to hang with the smokers who tend to be happy for company particularly if it’s freezing cold.
  • Prepare – try to find out who is going to the party, when they are arriving, etc. See if you can tag along with them – just be honest and say “I don’t really know anyone, can I walk there with you… it’s a bit awkward going on your own”.
  • Take support – if there is a +1 policy find the most fun friend you can and at least you can enjoy the free drink (assuming there is some)
  • Be helpful – offer to give people a lift. They will be more than happy to include you for a free ride home.

5 Conversation Starters for your Festive Party

Ready for another round of parties this festive season? Here are some hot tips and conversation starters to get you through your next social engagements.

conversation starters
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

The festive season can be a continual revolving door of social situation after social situation. When it comes to the work environment not only do you have to deal with your own office but often those within your customer or supply network as well.

Making small talk and being stuck in social situations is even harder when your energy is low and you’ve had enough of people. What makes it hard for us to engage in conversations and why should you care?

Fear of Being Rejected?

A University of Chicago study by Nick Epley has revealed the biggest reason people don’t want to engage in conversation or small talk is a fear of rejection. This causes the brain to assign a high degree of risk in the concept of talking to strangers or making small talk.

There has been a further study that has proven this assumption to be incorrect, where no initiator of small talk was rejected.

Myth Busted

Armed with cold hard scientific facts doesn’t make the situation any easier but at least you know that most people are willing and receptive to talking. Here are five conversation starters to get you taking that all important first step.

1. Check the attendees and do research

Look up who is attending and what projects that they have recently completed. This can work for internal office parties and for your customers or suppliers. Work related topics are the safest, but make sure you keep it light.

2. How to deal with hierarchy

There have been a few occasions when fate has left me a few drinks in standing with the CEO. Don’t be silent susan. Management are human to, stick with safe topics like plans for the holidays. If you’re feeling really jazzy ask them what their biggest success or challenge was in the past year.

3. Common ground

If you’ve exhausted all your “go to’s” then try to think of some common situations where you may be able to relate to each other. Start simple with “are you more into podcasts, books or movies? What’s your favourite?”.

A Harvard University study has found that asking people about themselves can cause a change in the brain that naturally enhances their mood. The trick is to make it general enough that it doesn’t seem intrusive.

4. Do the twist

Flip the script a bit. We all get stuck with the usual silence fillers of “what are you doing for your break?”.

Tweak things slightly and ask “what are you most looking forward to over the holiday season?”. You’ll make the person think and it will provide opportunity for light, but genuine, conversation.

5. The naughty list

It’s good to keep in mind things that are a no go zone. If these things are executed exceptionally badly, they may prove to be career limiting moves.

  • Don’t get wasted. Monitor your drink intake and make sure you eat!
  • Don’t participate in gossip. You’ll get such a cringe when you next see the people in the sober (fluorescent) light of day
  • Don’t cross the personal communication line. It’s probably not a good look to leave voice notes over messenger or create an IG story of your new bestie.
  • Don’t discuss work in depth. It’s amazing what you can hear on public transport or out and about, let alone at an office party. If you are representing your company at a customer or supplier event then don’t be drawn in to talking about the competition or your organisation. You’re still logged on.

By applying the first five tips and avoiding the naughty list you’ll be sure to be on top form this festive season. No ragrets! Regerts! Oh, you know what we mean…

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Become The Translator for Your Procurement Network

You may have thousands of contacts in your professional network, but how many of them are you actually influencing?  

By Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock

In the age of big data, “vanity metrics” are a plague that affect every profession. Anyone who has a website, for example, will know that page views and “likes” may make you feel good, but are very difficult to link with key business drivers.

Vanity metrics to watch out for in procurement might include measuring team activity, counting your total POs, your number of suppliers, or number of projects without actually measuring the value that they’re delivering. A team member who brags that they’ve had 100 meetings with key suppliers in the past six months is talking about a vanity metric, but if that same person provides numbers around the savings and other value flowing from those meetings, then we’re talking about real value. 

Online networking is another area rife with vanity metrics. No matter whether you have 500, 5000 or 10,000 connections across LinkedIn, Procurious and other platforms, your network risks being nothing more than a dormant asset unless you contribute. By “contribute”, I don’t mean that you “like” something they wrote or share photos of your holiday – I mean that you share your mastery, your insights and your experience. For the majority of us, it’s rare that we contribute meaningfully to our networks.    

Remove the collection addiction

I believe we have a collection addiction in the business world. In previous years we collected piles of business cards wrapped in rubber bands – which often (if you’re anything like me) ended up gathering dust on a forgotten corner of the desk. These days it’s about racking up the number of connections either online or within our databases.

Both these situations have the same outcome – a massive potential network and no influence. I would rather you have 50 people who are highly engaged in everything that you do – commenting, joining the conversation and sharing your insights among their own networks – than 5000 people on a list that have never been touched.

In other words, popularity is the wrong metric – focus instead on influence. Focus on having people engaged enough with what you’re doing – so much so that they would happily share your ideas, insights and achievements with everybody that they know. In other words influence is the ability to say ‘look over there’ and have people engaged enough to look. Your responsibility then becomes making sure that what you point them towards, what you contribute, is and valuable as possible.

Engage rather than collect

While collecting contacts is a vanity metric, engaging with contacts is a value-driving activity. The best way I know how to engage with others online is to become the ‘primary translator’ of your space.

A translator is someone who goes out into the areas where others don’t have the time, nor the bandwidth, nor the experience to go, and bring relevant information back for their network in a language they understand. If you want to stand out and build your influence, you need to become the translator of valuable information for your target audience. What does that look like? The best place to start is to make a list of the top questions the people you are wanting to influence are asking in relation to your area of expertise. If you’re not sure – ask! Then systematically go through that list and find the best way to contribute the answers. It might be in the form of articles, videos, internal presentations, checklists, how to guides, insight reports or even preparing in advance in order to contribute more actively in meetings.

Another good exercise is to take a moment to think about the translators that you follow. Whose work do you consistently follow or read? Now think about what they translate for you; the value they bring, and how they go about it – do they present the information in essay-length blog articles, or bite-sized posts? If you consistently give them your valuable attention – I guarantee you they effectively translate something important to your world.

Speak the language of the business

You’ll notice I mentioned that the first step in becoming the translator – is getting to know what questions are important to the people you’re trying to reach. For procurement professionals this means understanding what questions your business stakeholders are asking. What are their challenges? What are their opportunities? That they may or may not have seen? Then it’s up to you to access your own expertise and bring that information back to them – not in procurement technical language, but in their language – in the language they already speak.

Translators know that they need to be able to speak the language of the business, and also understand that a multitude of languages exist within every organisation. This is often referred to as ‘charismatic language’. Every group and community of people has one. Your finance function, for example, will speak a very different language – use very different and specific words – than your stakeholders in marketing. What they do have in common, however, is that neither group of stakeholders will want to hear you talk about RFPs, RFXs, or tenders.

Become the trusted authority

Take time to revisit your network of stakeholder (both online and in the office) and think about what subjects you can translate for them – within your area of expertise. Doing so will capture their attention and help build their perception of you as an influential subject matter expert. However – much larger than that. They will know that you care about – and have real value to share in relation to – the issues that are important to them.

It’s this decision – to become your organisations primary translator and contribute your mastery in a format that resonates – that will quickly accelerate you to the role of trusted authority.

Now that’s the metric of real influence.

Throwback Thursday – 3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Are you a procurement networking guru? If you need some tips to help up your networking game, this is the place for you.

Networking Guru

We’re looking back at some of Procurious’ most popular content from the past 12 months. This week, we revisit an article that speaks to the fundamental core of Procurious – effective networking.

Becoming a Networking Guru

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily.

By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship.

The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Don’t Work in Isolation

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!

3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Take these three easy steps to become a procurement networking guru and realise the benefits of networking in a global community.

venimo/Shutterstock.com

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily. By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship. The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!