In mid-July a neighbor asked me if I would like to go plum-picking with him. If you are a regular reader of this newsletter you know that I am always up for two things - networking and adventure.
My neighbor loaded a ladder in his car and we were off. About six blocks from my home he stopped the car and announced that we had arrived. So much for my picture of a bucolic setting, someone wearing a straw hat handing me a basket for picking, and an orchard of trees; instead, we were parked on a major road with the flashers on in front of a modest home that had a single plum tree on the front lawn. My neighbor asked me to wait by the ladder while he got permission to pick the plums. I couldn't believe he didn't even know the people! Turns out that a couple years ago he spotted this tree on his way to work. He couldn't stop thinking about how wasteful it was that so many of the ripe plums had fallen on the lawn, sidewalk, and street. On his way home that night he rang the doorball and asked if he could pick some of their plums. The people were thrilled to share the fruits of their labor; plum-picking is now an annual tradition. I quickly got over feeling like a criminal and totally enjoyed catching the plums as my neighbor shook them off the branches of the tree.
It took over a week for the dozens of plums to ripen on my kitchen windowsill. As I watched them soften and darken, I also watched my son (home from college for the summer) eat me out of house and home. The expression, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," kept coming to mind. My son, as he grows from teen to young man, very much reminds me of my husband when I first met him. He does his best to exhibit a facade of nonchalance, but his compassion, sharp wit, and intelligence can't help but shine through. Like the plums, they are both softies at heart!
Back in June my whole family attended a cocktail party in my honor. My husband and daughter, both consummate introverts, stood off to the side. My son, on the other hand, proved that he really did come from my womb, and dove right in, mingled, and did me proud. At the end of the night, as we were walking to the car, he said, "Mom, that was a great networking event for me!" It's times like these that make parenting feel like the most PLUM JOB in the world!
Fall, the biggest networking season of the year, is almost here. If you are more like my husband and daughter, here are a couple of my favorite tips so you can see networking as an adventure rather than a chore:
1. Find out who is attending the event, do a bit of research on the ones who interest you focusing on the personal rather than business (facebook is great for this), find a common bond, and then, when you meet them, you will have something to talk about.
2. The hardest part for most people is approaching someone you don't know. Go up to the person standing alone in the back corner who is probably most likely intimidated by the experience. They will be relieved that you are making the first move. Ask them what they like most about what they do.
Ellen Fisher, Publisher who is contemplating hanging plastic fruit from the brim of one of her networking hats