We often find ourselves in situations that are new and unexplored. Sometimes we stubbornly continue with an activity which to date has yielded little result. Whether you are going out on a blind date, sending a self-addressed envelope to the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, or attending your umpteenth networking event, you are investing a lot of time and energy into these activities. When asked why, you often take a breath, think for a moment, and say, “Well, you never know…”
Perhaps it is part of our cultural conversation. When in need of a response to justify our decision to take an action on something, “you never know” is an easy answer.
Mary: “Hi, Bob. What are you up to these days?”
Bob: “Not much, Mary. I was thinking of going to a networking event Thursday evening.”
Mary: “Sounds good and I wish I could go, but I can’t. What do you hope to get out of going?”
Bob: “Not sure, but you never know…”
Take a moment to think about the phrase “you never know.” When do you typically use it? What feelings do the phrase “you never know” create for you? Do you feel a powerful sense of purpose and energy? Or do you feel a sense of randomness and lethargy?
With each activity that we do, we have the opportunity to choose purposefully. With each question that we are asked, we have an opportunity to respond purposefully. What we may not realize is that by responding with “you never know,” we are at risk of illustrating to others and defining for ourselves actions that are random and without purpose. Consider that when we think or say “you never know,” we are abdicating our purpose and devaluing our intuition.
Networking for work, business, and affiliation are too important to be characterized by random, lethargic, and risk-based feelings. Our time is a valuable asset. Are you planning to use your valuable time for something whose sole justification for doing so is “you never know”? While the answer may be unclear, if you feel that this activity is a good use of your time, perhaps your intuition is telling you something. Perhaps you have not given yourself enough time to think about the purposeful reasons for making the decision.
The next time you respond “you never know,” revisit your response and think about the reasons to take action. In our networking example, rather than “you never know,” and after some introspection, Bob might respond to Mary as follows:
“I go to this networking event because it provides me an opportunity to stay active in my professional community, practice the ways in which I want to present myself, and polish my communication skills. While I recognize that a positive outcome is low, this is an effective use of my time. When I determine this is no longer an effective use of my time or if I identify a competing activity that provides greater promise, I will stop this activity.”
Whether your next networking activity is one that is new and unexplored, or one to which you are stubbornly clinging, is your primary reason for attending encapsulated by the thought “you never know”? If so, perhaps this networking event might not be the best use of your time.
However, after introspection, you uncover reasons to attend the networking event that are more tangible and actionable, you have begun the process of networking purposefully.
Written by Ed Evarts, a leadership development coach who works with mid-to-senior level business professionals, in corporate environments and is based in the Boston area. He can be reached at www.evartscoaching.com.