Episode 181: The how and why of building an effective network – with Chris Meador of Yes and Thinking

Networking can seem daunting but if approached with the right mindset and clear intentions there’s no reason it can’t be fun.   

You want to start building a network before you need it but how do you create a network of people that’s mutually beneficial?

Chris Meador is a career and brand strategist with over two decades of experience across the tech, media and entertainment sectors.

He explains the different approaches to networking and relationship building, the mindset you should have at networking events and how to assess the value of your current network.He also talks about the time proper networking takes, the common roadblocks to networking correctly and the importance of personal branding.

Today’s guest

Chris Meador of Yes and Thinking

Website: Yes and Thinking

LinkedIn: Chris Meador

Instagram: Chris Meador

Drawing on over two decades of experience across the tech, media and entertainment sectors, Chris Meador is a dynamic senior executive and passionate career strategist.  Chris launched a career consultancy and coaching business built on the principles of saying “Yes, and” to opportunity and adversity.  His commitment to fostering growth, innovation, diversity, and equity is woven into his passion for helping individuals and organisations succeed.  Previously, Chris led marketing efforts for Atlas – an early-stage relationship intelligence platform – from its inception to achieving $1M in ARR.  Prior to Atlas, Chris’s strategic vision for talent and marketing strategies were pivotal in his roles at Hunt Club, Wistia and Facebook.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:58] What it means to be a career strategist. 
  • [3:02] Why Chris became a career strategist.
  • [4:12] How Chris approaches networking and relationship building.
  • [5:55] Reasons to attend a local in-person entrepreneur meetup event.
  • [6:36] The mindset you should have at a networking event.
  • [07:17] The question you should ask yourself before going to a networking event.
  • [09:10] What you need to know when you’re networking.
  • [10:50] The value of networking and building relationships.
  • [13:35] The benefits of second-degree connections.
  • [15:15] The value of creating a network for people with a stable job role.
  • [18:40] How to assess the value of your current network.
  • [23:18] Common roadblocks to networking correctly. 
  • [27:00] How to maintain your current relationships.
  • [31:45] The importance of personal branding and posting on LinkedIn.
  • [35:47] The amount of time it takes to network.
  • [39:30] The snowballing effect of networking.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

Episode 181: The how and why of building an effective network - with Chris Meador of Yes and ThinkingNew episode post

Jeremy Cline 0:00
Don't wait until you're thirsty before you dig the well. That was the advice I heard given on another podcast about networking. The idea being that you want to start building your network before you might need it. But how do you build that network? What are the ways that you can create this group of people both who might be able to help you but also who you can help? That's what we're talking about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:44
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. Since I left my job to become a full-time coach, networking and relationship building have become really important activities for me. But they're also challenging, not because I'm not used to networking, but because my goals for what I'm hoping it will do for me have changed. So, what are the ways you can create and nurture your own network of relationships? And not just any network, but one which both you can serve, and which will serve you. Is it something everyone should do? And how can you maintain your network without it becoming a full-time job in itself? To help answer these questions, I'm joined this week by Chris Meador. Chris is a career strategist who helps people navigate career challenges and transitions. He's also a brand strategist with over two decades' experience working in tech, media and entertainment, for companies like Facebook and Microsoft. Chris, welcome to the podcast.

Chris Meador 1:52
Thanks so much for having me, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cline 1:55
So, Chris, you describe yourself as a career strategist, rather than, say, a career coach. I'm curious what that means to you, and why you've chosen to describe yourself this way.

Chris Meador 2:06
Yeah, well, just to play up a little bit to your accent, I'm being a little cheeky. I'll be honest with you, strategist is just a little bit cheeky. And I think, for me, it's also a signal. Because it's not that I'm not a coach; I am a coach. Or that is how I'm showing up. But I think, when you think about what coaching is, or how I want to show up as a coach, it's really as that thought partner. It's as the brand strategist that I've been my whole career. Which is, how can I partner, how can I help you think through, how can I help you work through, and really, it's not just a coach as in I'm cheering for you, it's really a strategist, a thought partner, let's come up with a plan of how we're going to move forward. So, it's really, for me, that commitment to the plan and the path forward. And that word just felt like an important signal to that.

Jeremy Cline 2:58
And what got you into coaching in the first place?

Chris Meador 3:00
Yeah, I mean, what a great question. It came natural. It's the thing I always did in the workplace, but that's just office chatter. But I was really good at the office chatter. And over time, I also learned that, as I took on more global roles, I was really good at the allyship, I was very good at the advocating for teams who couldn't be in the room. And I could then represent and talk through and play back well. And then, for me, what really was the dive into coaching was November of 2022, when over the course of weeks, I saw thousands of people I knew all lose the jobs. I mean, that was the beginning of really this tech recession that we're in. And so, for me, as I saw that happening, I also saw that there was an opportunity to help. And there was an opportunity that I'd worked with some of the smartest and brightest in the world, I really had, I was so lucky, and they needed help in order to continue to be smart and brilliant. And so, I dove in, and I've been figuring out since.

Jeremy Cline 4:03
Let's dive into the topic at hand with a pretty broad question. How do you think about networking and relationship building?

Chris Meador 4:12
I think it's fun. I'm going to start there. I'm going to start from a place, it's fun. And I'm not just saying that because I'm an extrovert and very American, which I own and accept, and I know who I am. It's that you get to discover something about yourself. You get to discover something about other people, you get to learn about jobs, you get to learn what's out there, you get to hear stories. If you just take away the fear, the imposter, all those things that we'll talk about, and just really boil it down to its basic level, you get to be a human with a human. And it's just wonderful to be a human with a human. And so, for me, that's how I enter networking, as very much this idea of how do I get to just be a human today, how do I get to connect with folks sitting in my pyjama pants, not that I'm sitting in my pyjama pants. But it's like how does that give me that opportunity? And I think that's a really important place to start at. Because you enter with this mindset that networking is a challenge, that you're terrible at it, that you don't know how, that you don't have a network. All those can be elements of truth, and we can work through that, because that's a planning, that's a strategy. But you got to find at the core that glimmer of what you're going to get out of it and that value you're going to see.

Jeremy Cline 5:41
I love that. And I think you're my first guest who's particularly used the word fun. So, people have said it's a conversation, it's not selling, it is person-to-person, but this idea of fun, and also, what it gives you. Later on this week as we're recording, I'm going to my first local town, local entrepreneur, business owner networking event. And the reason I'm doing that, first and foremost, is that I do so much of my work online, that I'm just craving the opportunity to see people in real life in the flesh. And who knows, I might build up some connections, I might even find some potential clients. But first and foremost, I'm going just to meet some like-minded people, have a chat in a physical space.

Chris Meador 6:35
Be a human with a human. I mean, I'm in the process of finalising my coaching certificates, and part of the training really talks about this idea of being human with a human. And if you just boil it down, they, too, are awkward and weird and funny and don't know if they should be there and don't feel good wearing pants, they're humans. And just to show up in that way, I think, is really magical. The other piece that I think does become important is, that's about mindset. And I think mindset is incredibly important, but sometimes mindset is earned through starting to get out there and do the work. And so, one of the things that I always like to start with when I think about networking is what do you want to learn. What do you want to learn? I'll throw it to you, Jeremy, you're going to this networking event in your local town. What are you hoping to learn out of showing up?

Jeremy Cline 7:31
First of all, I think I want to learn what else there is local to me. Because a lot of what I do is outside of my own town, and it's quite a small town, that I'm intrigued to find out what there is, what am I missing that is more locally to me. And I think the other thing is just the opportunity to share challenges, and either to learn that other people are experiencing exactly the same challenges as me, or learning from people who have experienced those challenges and finding out ways that they have navigated those. So, those are the first things that come to my mind.

Chris Meador 8:14
So, you have a goal right now. And I look at this first networking, that you're going out there, and I bet you didn't realise that we were going to start doing a session together, Jeremy, but I think we're going to dive in here, because I just think it's working. I mean, let's go along with it. You have a goal. You have a goal. And so, what I start to wonder, as you show up at this event, how do you use this event not just to connect with the folks who are there, but to start finding other people or other organisations that folks might know? How do you start working your second degree of relationships in terms of that network that you built? And I think part of this explore, this explore is, you're going to this one event to explore it, that's awesome. I would then push on you and say, 'Well, what are other ways you can start to explore that?' Because you have now something that's interesting for you, and you have a momentum, and you have a story to tell that is very interesting, which I think is what you need for networking. It's the intent, clear intent. You know what you're doing, you know what you're asking for. It's the why. Why are you, why you? What's interesting about you? Is it that you're local, is it your experience, or what not? What are you seeing? So, again, it's about your intention, but it's really about the intention of the person you're talking to. And then, very clear on the ask. And an ask that can set someone up for success. See, I think what happens too often in networking, we jump on a call with someone, and you ended and go, 'Just keep me in mind.' Okay. I'll be really honest with you. I get told that about four times a day, Jeremy. And what I often say is, 'I love that you said that, I'm going to be really honest with you, there's not a lot of brain space that I have right now.' So, it might come up, in three years from now you might get a text me that says, 'Hey, I just thought of you, because that's what you've asked me to do.' If you have something specific you need, an introduction, a network or whatnot, make that more specific ask. Because people inherently want to help another human, and the more that you can set them up to succeed and feel good, the more that you're actually going to start to follow through.

Jeremy Cline 10:29
I think we're starting to touch on this, but for those who might be a bit cynical about the idea of networking and building a professional relationship, what is the value? What is the value in doing this activity and building up this network of professional connections?

Chris Meador 10:49
What a great question. I mean, there's so many pieces of value. And I'm going to move away from the who knows who about a job, because I honestly feel like that is the output of a network that you create, not the reason to create it. And frankly, there's only so much take you can do of that. What I've discovered, I'll give you a more personal story, which is what I've discovered about my networking, is I am in the process of a big career pivot right now. And one of the things that I've made a concerted effort to is, I'm meeting with coaches. Hi, Jeremy, you're one of them. I'm meeting with people all over the world who are fascinating and smart, who either build a business on the side, and then have this really interesting media they're creating with podcasts like you, met someone else who was a 20-year coach, who's finally realised he needs to be a little controversial. And that's like so anti to what he was, because like, no, I've realised, that's what people are looking for, and hearing his journey, I've talked to this other coach who was 30, sorry, 25 years at Google, pushed out, and now figuring out how to build there. Just meeting fascinating people. And each time I meet them, I become a little bit smarter about myself. I become a little bit more insightful in terms of like, could I see myself in that seat? Is that interesting? Do I want to build on that? And that is all, and all that insight I'm getting, I'm getting a crash course in mentorship, because I'm using my network in order to pull it in, and reaching out to new folks. And it's wonderful. And so, that is, to me, the one piece, I think, is like a big piece of the network, it's that discovery. And that moment in your career where you're at a crossroads of, I need a new job, I need to talk to folks about the job market, let's go discover what's out there, or I am done with this stuff in my career, I need to go discover what else is out there, think about it, because as much as it feels lonely, the road I'm on, a lot of other people have walked it. And so, let's learn from their journeys.

Jeremy Cline 10:49
I love that. And there's always this kind of little mental exercise that you can do. So, when someone tells you what they do, or how they work, or whatever it might be, you can almost imagine yourself doing that and see how it feels, and does it make you feel a bit, 'I'm glad they're doing it, I really don't fancy doing it myself', or does it make you go, 'Whoa, I think I'd like to be part of this, tell me more.'

Chris Meador 13:31
That's right. And then, it also helps you understand when you're talking to that person where you can hear that voice that goes, 'Oh, that's interesting', to say, 'Hey, I find this interesting, do you have other folks that you'd recommend I speak to with who understand X, Y, or Z as I discovered this about myself?' Smart people love talking to smart people. And I believe everyone is smart. And smart is just about something to bring. You bring something of value. Maybe I shouldn't use the word smart out there. But everyone has something of value. And I just think it's just about how you position, like, here's what I can give. And I love second-degree connections. The reason I love second-degree connections is because when a smart and thoughtful person has reached out to me and say, 'Hey, I would like to connect to someone in your network for these reasons, this understanding, I'm hoping to get this out of it', I can quickly go to them and go, 'Hey, no, I don't know them well enough, I can't do that. Hey, I know them pretty well, they're not really great at those things, but happy to connect, but want to be clear with you, I know them great, your story isn't as clear as it needs to be, work on this, and then come back to me, or now I'm ready to connect you', and it feels good to connect that person. And I truly believe that if you give someone a good conversation with a good conversation, that's also a value you've given to your network. You're not imposing on me by reaching out in my network for you. If you give me the right tools, you're actually making it a value. I can now say, 'Hey, I know this really smart person who actually could have a really good conversation about what you're working on, can I connect the two of you together?'

Jeremy Cline 15:16
I just like to pursue a little bit more in aspects of this value in creating a network. And I'm thinking, in particular, of perhaps someone who is pretty settled in a role, they're not looking to change, they're actually quite comfortable where they are, enjoying their job, and they're also not in what you might call a sales or a customer facing role. So, perhaps they've got an internal function, I don't know, internal audit, or internal accounting, or whatever it might be. For that person, I can see value in creating, if you like, an internal network within their company. So, if you're interacting with other departments, there's going to be value in getting to know people, getting people who can advocate yourself internally. But what about externally? For someone in that position, is it worth them putting in the effort to create a network beyond their own company?

Chris Meador 16:22
Yes. I mean, look, you teed me up for it, of course, I'm going to say yes. And part of the way I look at it is, don't build your network when you need it. In that moment of anxiety, and that moment of like, I need a new job, all that, well, you're going to execute, you're going to activate your network the wrong way, it's not going to be built the same way, and it's going to feel very self-serving, and you're going to have a hard time with it. And so, what I would say is, look, if you're this person that you just explained, Jeremy, well, then you have some open time on your diary, where instead of, if you're on the job search, use that time in order to network. Go meet with people who have your job. Maybe you know what the next job it is. Go be with folks who have with that next job, and learn what it did to get into that next pass. Go find organisations that seem interesting, that build community. Just start to put yourself out there in simple ways, that is about like, oh, I love my job, but I actually realised that talking to other people who then have my job is going to make me smarter, and also going to build your network. And that is actually, what you just explained is actually the best way to network, because that's a very earnest, hey, this is why I'm connecting. And that feels good to most folks. And then, you just don't know down the road. Look, I have discovered this in my 23 years of working so far, and hopefully, I want it to work out, how much longer I'm going to work for, which, you know, the way I'm spending money, it's going to be longer than I want, is what I've wanted for my career. And what I've wanted for my network has changed at every stage of my career, in ways that I didn't understand. But what's been great is, every time it's changed, I've had a network that I've been working to grow that then I can look at and go, okay, I'm trying to do X, how can I use my network to help me with X? And by the way, I've nurtured in a way that maybe I wasn't being intentional with getting people who can do X because I didn't know what that is, but inherently, I'm now better connected to find some of the answers I'm looking for.

Jeremy Cline 18:37
Okay, so let's carry on with this person, they've listened to what you've said, and they've realised, hey, you know what, I work in internal audit, going and speaking to other internal auditors in other companies and going for coffees and finding out what mutual challenges are, yeah, I can see that that's valuable, but they don't really know where to start. And let's start with the end in mind. Let's say that someone takes some steps, and we can come on to what those steps are, what can someone then look back on and think, 'Oh, yeah, okay, so now I've got a good network', I mean, what does that look like? Is it number of connections on LinkedIn? Is it the types of people? Is it the quality of the connections? And what are some of, if you like, the metrics that someone can use?

Chris Meador 19:37
Well, there are kind of two questions you put out there. So, I'm going to hit the first one first, which is talking about the end goal in mind. And the way that I look about it is, the end goal is being clear what your handshake is. And by handshake, I mean, what's the ask, why are you reaching out to someone, what is your materials, what you're calling cards you're putting out there, you know, we're in a digital world, it's going to be a digital handshake, what your digital handshake looks like? So, that to me is, because that's the same as any real-world interaction, which starts with that first handshake and an intro of the why. And I think the same exists in the digital world. And I think that there's a thoughtfulness that is put in there. So, to me, the end state is really coming to that point of view, and then figuring out what the pieces are. And I think to the question you said, the tools and everything that are there, look, we all are sitting on them. It's called social media. I mean, we may not love the LinkedIn all the time, we may not love the Facebook or the TikTok or whatnot, but that is your networks in digital form. And so, for me, I'm very big to think about like, look, really think about those, you know, those are the platforms you're working within, and how do you want to start thinking about them and using them? To your idea of what does a good network look like, and there's a step in the middle that we should hit, which is what to do with LinkedIn, but I know we'll get there. But what does a good network look like? You're asking a question, truthfully, I don't feel like I have a great answer for. Because to me, it's not about a number. It's not about a number. Because the fact is that your network might exist entirely in your text messages in a way that you don't even realise. I've been using some networking software that brings together multiple communication platforms together to start understanding contacts in a different way. And I start to realise more and more how much I have networks that exist in all these other platforms, just in ways I didn't realise. They're just text chains I've had for 20 years. But now, actually, I'm like, oh, that, oh, yeah, you're right, that is, I've just sent the memes for 20 years, but actually, there's something meaningful here that we can think about. So, I think the first step is not about the good or the bad. It's about the wrangling, which is to understand what is your network made up of. Like, just really, it's that audit. And I think you do that audit based upon really understanding, if you think about your network, your network is directly correlated, especially when you're earlier in your career, directly correlated to your work experiences. So, you can almost take your CV and take your network platforms and go, 'Have I built out the people that I worked with? Am I actually connected to all the contacts I should be connected to? Have I fleshed out the network of the people that I should know, because I worked with them at some point in my career?' And now, it'd be kind of the first part of the audit I would push on, is to really say like, well, if you haven't, you should go do that, because that is your low hanging fruit of people to connect to, to start building out, to understand what your network looks like.

Jeremy Cline 22:58
To pick up on one of those thoughts, and this is the, go back a bit to what you're saying about being clear on your ask and being intentional. I can see there's going to be people who that might become a roadblock, that they don't necessarily know what they're ask is, they don't necessarily know what their intention is. And I wonder what your thoughts are about, okay, just get started, and it'll come with practice.

Chris Meador 23:31
So, I agree with you. And I'll hit that. But let's go in, do you have an example of what you're thinking of, what could be a roadblock someone has? Because I think it's better when you can tackle the problems.

Jeremy Cline 23:41
Okay, so let's maybe start with someone who, perhaps they are a little bit more junior in their career, and there's just like an expectation of going to networking events. So, they work for a company, which organised a drinks thing, and they're expected to go there. And they're going to be meeting people, and they're going to have lots of anxiety about that. And they're not necessarily going to have in mind what they're there for, other than being there to being a warm body, representing their company. And so, if they're kind of going, 'I've got to think about this strategically, I've got to think about what I want people to know about me, what's my ask, setting people up for success when it comes to ending a conversation, I might hand them a business card, but other than that, what can I do?' So, yeah, I can see someone in that situation having lots of anxiety about getting it right.

Chris Meador 24:45
There is no right, and there is no wrong. There's just be. There's just being. There really is. And so, I think that's an important place. I feel like I'll keep on saying there is no wrong. You can't get it wrong. And if you are getting it wrong, then you shouldn't have the job to begin with. So, let's just be really clear, if you have the job, you're not going to get it wrong. It starts with really owning your story in the moment and being present in that. And let me really be clear on that, which is, let's play the example out you just gave. I would say, well, then your story is, you know, 'Hey, I'm more entry in my career, I'm excited to be here to understand what this event is, and understand how to best participate. Have you been here before? What's your experience here? Oh, you're new to? Oh, great. How's your experience going? What are you learning? Oh, interesting. We're learning through this. Great. Talk, talk, talk, talk, whatever it might be, we'd love to stay in touch. Thanks so much.' It's not hard to communicate with people anymore. So, you don't have to land the Tolstoy-size novel of your life. And what you need, and everything, just be present, just own your story, know your story. So, the flip I would give in that situation is, I think the less optimal option, not the wrong option, less optimal, was going like, 'Yeah, I don't really know what I'm doing here. I don't really know why I'm here.' Well, who's going to want to chat with that person? You've just closed yourself off. So, if anything, you've not gained this explore and discovery mindset. So, I think to me, I look at it as just like, it's as simple as that. And then, you follow up on LinkedIn, you start liking some of their posts. We're not like, this isn't, I think we overcomplicate what this is. And this is, like social media has made it easy. Now, easy has its downside, and we'll get to the downside in a second, but it has made it easy to start just trying to build relationships, do those drops in a bucket.

Jeremy Cline 26:58
I would like to move on to maintaining relationships, because it's very easy to meet people and to meet new people. But particularly, if they are people that you don't see all that often, it can be difficult to maintain connections. So, I'm curious as to how you think about that and what you do.

Chris Meador 27:25
I break down a couple of ways. Look, I have the people who are closest to me, who are professional, that I maintain, I maintain through, that really, if someone is close to me professionally, I move them over to text. Because that's the only platform in which you're actually going to get a more real time response for me. And I just know that. And so, that for me becomes, okay, folks that just I want to maintain that relationship, and most of the time, it's because they make me feel good. They make me professionally feel good. And that matters to me. And that relationship then I'm nurturing. The way that I think about a lot of the rest of network, and I'll kind of get to an end and then work backwards a little bit, is that I hear a lot from folks, well, I can't reach out to someone because I've not talked to them in a long time. And it's going to be weird if I reach out to them. Because I haven't had anything to say. And I'm like, okay, have they reached out to you? Have you ignored them? Well, they didn't have anything to say to you at that moment, too. Just because you guys didn't talk didn't mean the relationship ended, there just wasn't a real reason. There wasn't a reason to get there. And so, I think there's a mindset shift that always has to come in, which is that you don't know. You don't know what they're thinking, you don't know how they feel about you. And often, what I find is, when most people go reach out to someone 15 years later, as long as you are clear, you communicate, you catch up, you pick up where the relationship was, most people find that, oh, that was really easy and lovely. It was so great to catch up with someone. I'm like, yes. Yes, you are correct, it is quite easy. The other small ways I do it, Jeremy, is that I try and spend an hour or two during the week when I'm on social media, making sure to really go through all of LinkedIn and liking and commenting posts, and really trying to be present and just spending time. Anyone who says they don't have the time to do that, I would say, so on the time you're already on social media, just maybe get some effort out of it then. You're already on social media. So, let's just play around with it. Or I have like work people on an Instagram account that I'll follow and just continue and know. It's just in those, I continue to involve myself in small ways. So, again, once I do reconnect, it doesn't feel like they're a stranger in the same way. And what I come to realise is that person's done often the same. They're like, 'Oh, I just saw you did X, Y and Z. Congratulations.' I'm like, 'Oh, great. Now we can start the conversation from there.' And so, there's no big overture that needs to be done. It's just about small, it's about the small things. It's about the small things, and the intention and using the time you have maybe to be a little more productive on social media.

Jeremy Cline 27:25
Okay, so does that mean that you might spend, say, an hour, starting at the top of your LinkedIn feed, going through and responding to your connections if there is something which you feel like you could respond to, even if it's just like well done, or interesting article or a thumbs up or whatever?

Chris Meador 29:37
You know what I did at 7AM this morning? Yeah, absolutely. That's exactly what I did for half an hour. It didn't even take an hour. Half hour, go through pretty quickly, some commentary, some pieces on it, often, when I go through it, I'll suddenly realise, oh, I've not caught up with this person in a while, I put on my radar, I have a Google sheet in which I can start to track folks that I want to reengage with, so that I know it, and then I put next to it why, what's interesting, and I leave that for a later point to go back and look at it. And then, it helps me get a sense of like, what networking that week might want to look like. I find, in general, doing that work is better on a Wednesday or a Thursday, because it's given some time for folks to post during the week, and then also the algorithms caught up a little bit. So, I just find that is a better time to do it. But if anything, what I recommend to folks is just get into a rhythm of when you do it, because to me, it's less about the win, it's the habit of the win.

Jeremy Cline 31:36
Whilst we're on the subject to LinkedIn, and this might lead into a wider question about personal branding more generally, but how important do you think it is to build up your brand? And I've now realised that, as I asked that question, everyone is building up a brand, and I suppose what I'm thinking of is, how important is it on a platform like LinkedIn to initiate your own posts? Which some people might think, yeah, I can do that, and other people might think, I've got nothing to say. Versus what you've described, engaging with other people.

Chris Meador 32:14
It's more of the number one questions I get. I think it's the blocker that a lot of folks have, is this assumption that I think people have is, all this work is going to result to me becoming a LinkedIn micro influencer. And man, do I hate them. I don't want to be one of those. I really think that is the unspoken thing that folks think that I think they should do. I don't think folks should be that. I am trying to become that, and I hate myself a little bit for it, I die a little bit on the inside that I'm doing that. So, no one should have to follow that route. I think, though, let's just simplify it a little bit, which is, LinkedIn is a networking platform, so your LinkedIn presence needs to reflect you, it needs to reflect what you're trying to do, it needs to reflect who you are. That's just full stop. I mean, that's just to me your digital footprint, your digital fingerprints, that's there. And so, for me, if you're on LinkedIn, be on LinkedIn, in the sense of building out your profile. Not posting is a different thing. We'll talk about that in a second. The other piece that I think becomes really important about LinkedIn is just having a point of view. One of the pieces that I've really discovered, as I have been working with some folks who are maybe a little later in their career search after a riff or a layoff, and they had worked with an outplacement services. And they come to work with me, and they go, 'Hey, can you give me feedback on your LinkedIn?' And I go, 'Yeah, I can replace your face with anyone else's, and it would be the exact same profile. You genericized yourself. I don't know who you are anymore. I don't know why you're special, and you're special. So, that isn't here anymore.' And so, my thing is like, you should be very clear on that. It doesn't have to be overcomplicated, but being very clear, and then having built out. And then, I think what it comes down to, Jeremy, is, start with LinkedIn as just understanding who you're connected to. Because 99% of your business connections are going to be on LinkedIn. So, you're really going to at least have an understanding of what your network looks like. And then, once you see your network, okay, and then you have a clear intention of what you need to get done. You can start to go, well, how do I use you? Let's say that my intention is, I want to become a marine biologist. Let's say that's what I decide on this conversation. Chris Meador is going to be a marine biologist. Well, my first step would be like, do some research on the internet. My other step would be to connect to my network, to see how it could help me. I would look at my current network, and I would go, I'm not connected to anyone who does marine biology, so that's not going to help me. And I would also go, doing a post to my network about marine biology isn't going to help me, because they don't do that work. What I am going to do is do research on my own, and figure out, okay, maybe 25 people in the industry, marine biologists, I want to talk to you in different levels. And then, I'm going to go into LinkedIn, and I'm going to try and see who in my network is maybe connected to one of those people. And then, when I get some hits in second degrees, I'm going to reach out to those people and go, 'You'll never guess what. Chris Meador is going into marine biology. I'm so excited. It's what I just decided. I see you're connected to X, Y, and Z, I would love to learn more, would you be open to connecting me?'

Jeremy Cline 35:45
It feels like it could be an awful lot of hard work, it feels like it could be a full-time job. You're creating your own CRM, you're constantly maintaining this network, it can easily suck up time and get in the way of whatever, if you like, real work you've got. How do you make this simple and non all consuming?

Chris Meador 36:12
Yeah, well, I'm going to start at the very beginning and go, your career is part of your job, managing your career. And we've all learned in the last five years, that if you're not managing your career, something else is going to manage it for you, left, right and centre. Whether it's poor management, economies, diseases, things that just change, you change as a person, and it suddenly changes. And so, there's that. Also, networking has changed. It used to be that networking just happened because you went to the event you're supposed to go to, you're at the conference, you ran into people, it felt very, quote-unquote, 'organic'. I don't think networking is as organic as it used to be in terms of in-person anymore. We're not in-person the same way that we used to be. We're not meeting people the same way we used to. And so, you have to then be much more deliberate about it. And then, the last piece, and this is the most important piece, Jeremy, that I really want to call out, is, folks actually want to talk with you. If you enter with a mindset that folks want to talk with you, you can enter more with a winner's mindset than the like, oh, this is going to suck and whatnot. And so, I say all that because you got to know the why. If your why isn't clear, and you're like, 'This is just a chore I need to get through', it just shows up in poor networking. Look, there's a lot of different layers of how much effort you can put into it. I think that if you are not actively managing your network today, the simplest thing I would ask is spend 20 minutes when you're on LinkedIn already, because you're already there, and you're doom scrolling, and you're getting angry at yourself, because I hear that all the time, so that 20 minutes that's already been used, flip it and say, why don't you spend 20 minutes, instead trying to find posts that interest you about someone who's maybe doing something that you'd want to talk to? Or maybe you spend 20 minutes trying to find people you hadn't been connected to in your career before. Just use that time differently. You're already there, just make it a value. And I think that and what I see from folks is that, if you can just start shifting the time you're already on these platforms, and using the time in more positive ways, it's not really creating time, it's actually creating more value of what you're doing. And then, the bigger thing I'll just call out, is once you start doing that, and this is proven by 25+ folks who I've coached through this, the consistency I hear is folks go, 'Oh, my gosh, I didn't know I was connected to this person, I already reached out to them. Oh, my goodness, I was connected to this person. They just took this job over here. I love that company. Oh, my god, oh, this person, oh, they just did this. Oh, my goodness.' And suddenly, they were inspired. I didn't have to do a thing. They were inspired. And I just think that just that little effort yields, I really think, bigger results.

Jeremy Cline 39:27
And oh, so it happens quite quickly, particularly if, say, you're going into a new space, you mentioned marine biology, you can make one connection, and suddenly you've got all these second-degree connections, and you've got a name you can drop. You can say, 'Hey, I recently spoke to blah, blah, blah, who I see you're connected with. Can we chat?' And it just spreads out almost exponentially.

Chris Meador 39:55
I have definitely in my network in an email said, 'Hey, I know a lot of people reach out to you, I want to be really clear, not asking you for a job, not to do this, I saw you did this and this in your career, I'm in that same challenge, I'd love to chat about it.' I was on the calendar the next day. Because it was clear. It was just clear. And FYI, that person hired me a year later. Just putting that out there. So, I just think, you don't know what you don't know, but what I do know, if you don't do anything, you don't get anything done. And so, you went back to what is a tip I would give, is progress over perfection. Just doing something. Just doing something. That's all. Just to get a little effort and see what interests you and then lean into that.

Jeremy Cline 40:50
Chris, we've reached the point in the interview where I usually ask my guests for a recommended tool or resource. And I'm going to hijack that, because I really want to ask you what was the tool that you mentioned earlier, that kind of pulls together all of your SMSs and emails and WhatsApp and LinkedIn and all that kind of thing.

Chris Meador 41:07
There's a couple of tools that are out. All of them are okay. So, I use a couple of them. And they're all okay. One of them will be great one day. I've been using a software called Bronto. It is a networking relationship software that pulls together all of my LinkedIn contacts, all of my Gmail contacts, the metadata, so it's not reading anything else, which is great. And then, they have not done SMS yet, but I was able to import, I played with some other imports, because I put the time in because I wanted to track it. But there's software like Thumb, there's other ones like the Swarm and Connect The Dots. I used to work for another company that did this in space, but they're more on the enterprise side. So, I've mentioned more what I would call entry level that I've seen. I really liked the software, part of it is because LinkedIn is not always my favourite. And I do think at some point, you know, LinkedIn hasn't really been disrupted. Social media, in general, has been disrupted, obviously, MySpace, to Facebook, to Snap, to Twitter, and all those, but on the B2B social media, no one's really disrupted LinkedIn. And I think we're close. The thing that's hard, though, is LinkedIn owns all of that business relationship data. And it's a walled garden. And that's what I like about these platforms, is you can pull some of the data out. So, in it, I can just track, I talked to this person last, this is when I chat with them, and just have a record of that.

Jeremy Cline 42:29
Brilliant. Okay. And for those who would like to connect with you, obviously, with a specific, carefully crafted ask in mind, where would you like them to go?

Chris Meador 42:41
You can find me on LinkedIn, slash Chris Meador, as well as send me an email at chris@yesandthinking.com. Happy to help, I'm pretty easy to be reached.

Jeremy Cline 42:53
And yesandthinking.com, that's your website, so I can link to that in the show notes as well.

Chris Meador 42:58
Yes, absolutely.

Jeremy Cline 42:59
Brilliant. All of those will go in the show notes. This is yet another conversation I've had where I feel like we've only scratched the surface. But I still think we've given people plenty to think about and plenty of actionable tips. So, Chris, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom.

Chris Meador 43:16
I mean, you call it wisdom, that makes me feel good. See the networking we did here. Thank you for having me. And just, this is networking right here. Look how easy this was. This was fun. And thank you. Thank you for demonstrating that networking is fun.

Jeremy Cline 43:31
Okay, hope you enjoyed the interview with Chris Meador. I've got to say that my initial reaction when I have conversations with master networkers like Chris is that I just feel inadequate. I'm just not doing enough. Chris seems to have this system, his own personal CRM systems, that's content relationship management systems, and I just feel like I'm not doing any of that. Am I destined to fail? But then, I think, well, hang on, hang on, yeah, Chris is doing networking really well, but that doesn't mean that I can't start to implement some of the things that he talked about. And as he said at the top of the episode, networking can, maybe should, be fun. I know there's people who are going to listen to me say that, and their eyes are going to roll, and they're going to think, 'You know what, I'd rather have my teeth pulled out than do networking.' But maybe there's an opportunity there to turn the question round. If you knew that you had to do networking, but you had the opportunity to do it in a way which was fun for you, what would that look like? What would you do? What do you do which is already fun, which perhaps you can incorporate into your networking or make it part of it? The other point I'd like to draw out is how Chris has highlighted the importance of understanding what it is you want to ask of someone when you first meet them or when you set up a conversation with them. As I build my coaching practice, I've had all sorts of conversations with random people. And I have noticed that I tend to feel like I've got more out of them if I'm very clear to myself what it is I want to get out of those conversations. If I'm after advice, what advice is it specifically that I'm after? If I'm hoping for an introduction to someone, who exactly is it I'd like to meet? Maybe not the specific person, but the type of person. It's the idea of setting the other person up for success so that they are clear how they can help you. As always, you'll find the show notes on the website at changeworklife.com/181, that is changeworklife.com/181. And my ask of you this week is to leave a review for the podcast. If you have access to Apple podcasts, that would be my preferred place. But if you use Spotify or another provider which enables you to leave a review, then I would love it if you would do so. If you've only got time to pick a star rating, then great. But if you've got a few more moments where you can actually leave a comment and tell me what it is that you like, or maybe what I could do better, then please, I'd love it if you do so. The episode coming up in two weeks' time is for you if you've felt like you just don't fit in your place of work. We're going to be looking at how, when you're unhappy in your job, it can feel pretty lonely. And we're going to be discussing what it is that you can do about that. It's definitely worth a listen. So, if you haven't already, make sure you subscribe to the show. And I can't wait to see you in two weeks' time. Cheers. Bye.

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