What fishing can teach you about professional networking

By Judy Brosky

The Brief
Our newest guest author writes about the networking lessons learned while out fishing in the deep seas. As the captain leads her boat to the big catch, Judy shares her best tips for making a great first impression and keeping the relationship strong long thereafter. 

On a chartered deep-sea expedition not too long ago, a few of us found ourselves comparing the activity with our everyday work. We watched the captain doing what he did on his own to get us close to our quarry, but we also noticed how he depended on his crew to give him additional useful information. And when that still wasn’t sufficient to get us to where the fish were biting, we listened as he put out calls to a wider group of charter captains.

The similarities with our work were as glaring as the sunlight bouncing off the waves. The goal of both enterprises is the same: to hook that perfect catch. The process is the same too: targeted cooperation between a leader, his immediate mates and extended network of colleagues.

In the end, we are all ship captains, searching for the next big catch. And we all need to use our networks to help us land it. Here are my three tips on growing your relationship capital, in nautical terms of course. 

1. Always be trawling. 

Socializing on the open water on a cloudless day is an unadulterated pleasure. It may be too much to expect that regular workday networking will give you the same joy. Still, there is undoubtedly something satisfying in making genuine connections with others. One way to do that is provide value first. Offer to send them an email, an article or an introduction to someone they might appreciate; then don’t forget to do it. But even more important, make it a point to learn as much as you can about anyone you meet. 

Have a set of starter questions at the ready—about where they grew up and what their parents do, where they went to school and what they studied. (Don’t worry about being annoying; the person who asks interesting questions tends to be remembered, even if it means the responder does most of the talking.) From those answers relationships are made. And from those relationships come secrets about where the next impressive catch might be hiding.

“Have questions ready. From them, relationships are made, & those relationships hold the secrets to your next catch.”

2. Read the current. 

Two years ago, a client of mine accepted the executive director position at a nonprofit. One of her first priorities was to expand its market into other cities. After her new team let her know that one of their biggest donors lived in one of her targeted cities, she called to thank that donor for her support and then asked her to lunch. 

In all the years the donor had given to the cause, she’d never been called, let alone offered a meal. Over the next months, what began as a moment of mutual appreciation grew into a trusting relationship that led to a host of new connections in that city, connections that generated an additional $700,000 of revenue. The captain of the ship is often credited with the catch, but rarely does he get to it on his own.  

3. All hands on deck. 

On the charter that day, we all were of one purpose: to catch the big fish. Unfortunately, none of us got it. But had any of us hooked one, it would have almost assuredly been a group effort. The biggest fish aren’t landed easily. And the cooperation makes the moment more satisfying. In the end, only one person might get to mount the catch on the wall, but everyone can be made to feel like they played an important part. That means not only sharing the moment, but also offering a hand when someone else’s line bows with the weight of a big haul. You’d be surprised what a little reeling-in assistance can get you in return.   

Judy Brosky is the founder and CEO of The Moxie Mentor.  She is a speaker and coach, and an “Act As If” advocate for the less courageous. 

RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. Stay on top of our networking and leadership articles by subscribing to the RelSci blog!


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