What happens in Vegas doesn’t always have to stay in Vegas.

Here in New England, this time of year is not just about the beautiful foliage and crisp, cool weather; it’s about learning! Be it a short gathering, a day-long event or an overnight trip, opportunities to learn (and network) are filling your mailbox as I write. You can see them as wasting space and time—or as opportunities to network and learn. And whatever you learn will strengthen your skills and your network.

In late August, a colleague received an email from someone she had networked with in April alerting her to an industry conference being held in Las Vegas that would focus on some of the trends, issues, and key challenges they had discussed at their meeting. She read it, deleted it; undeleted it; and for the next several days would ‘click’ to look at it; think about it and talk about it with a few friends: “Do I go, should I go, I’ve got too much to do to go; what will I get if I go?”
She decided to fly to Vegas to attend 2 days of the conference. Although there were plenty of professional, and personal reasons to keep her at home, she changed her schedule, juggled a few appointments around, made the financial investment and told her family “Here’s the phone number for takeout pizza”–to learn! This conference offered the opportunity to learn from national- and world-recognized experts, to learn from interactive workshops that ‘promised’ actionable takeaways, and to learn from other professionals/attendees coming from all over the country. Now some might call this networking; but my friend saw attending this conference as a unique learning opportunity. She did her due diligence; read the conference schedule carefully and selected those activities and sessions that would give her the most “bang for her buck.” She also built in structured networking time, allowing herself to meet, be with and learn from like-minded people, to talk with industry experts, and to be a student of the profession she loves and has spent decades developing as her expertise. I can assure you her time will be well spent and what she “learns in Vegas, will not stay in Vegas.” It will be shared with her clients, colleagues and with the person in her network who sent her the email telling her about the conference.

Have I overused the word learning? Maybe, but networking is about putting yourself in places with people where you can hear new information, exchange idea, listen to different perspectives, broaden your thinking—in other words: learn! Now you may not plan to fly to Vegas, but do think about what you will learn if you will take the time to attend a local professional association event or industry meeting!

Are you ready for some footballllllllllllll!

It’s football season in America and for the next several months (oh, there also is a presidential election, but that’s a topic for another day) a lot of talk will be about who ran the ball, threw the ball, caught or dropped the ball. There will be much ado about who won the game; who lost the game; all of which got me thinking: will there be much talk about how someone played the game?

I got my answer recently when I read a series of articles on Peyton Manning. For the few who don’t ”know” Peyton Manning, for many years he was quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  He is a person who showed up game after game, with a long list of accomplishments over his career including one of the best records and highest winning teams in football (remember, I’m from New England). Yet, last year, Peyton lost his job. The good news: he quickly found another—at the Denver Broncos.  But like the rest of us, when work life changes unexpectedly (and in his case gets national attention), there is no way of getting around the many ups and downs of a career transition.

Almost without exception, every article I read detailed the positive way Peyton handled his ”job loss.”  He gathered himself up and every day did the work he had to do to be ready for taking to the field this season. He looks back on the past with pride and toward the future with promise.  What I enjoyed most however was reading the many personal examples he gave of the “community of people who helped him.”  These articles reminded me that whatever the sport—business, academics, non-profit, or football, when you give your best, act your best, and be your best, how you play does gets remembered!  Makes even a Patriots fan want to quietly whisper:  “Have a great season, Peyton.”

When is it OK to talk to strangers?

At a networking event, getting the conversation rolling may seem daunting, but really it’s easy. Here are a few starters:

  • Talk about the purpose of the event. Is it a one-time gala event, the kick-off to a season of events, a fundraiser?
  • Ask about his or her connection to the organization sponsoring the event.
  • Be ready to chat about something other than ‘work.’  Be up to date on the day’s news, relevant blogs, current trends.
  • Pause. Let him or her say something, listen, and ask a question.

A few “don’ts”

  • Don’t talk exclusively about yourself. Yes, you can tell people about your business, your job search, or yourself. Just don’t become known as the person who only talks about her search or himself.
  • Don’t talk about sports unless you know the game—the players, teams, and standings this time of year.