Leslie Grossman is the author of Link Out: How to Turn Your Network Into a Chain of Lasting Connections. Her book is a step by step guide to turning your network into an entourage, which she defines as “a mutual fan club in which everyone is cheering one another on to victory and success.” Why should entourages be only for the rich and famous? We can all have – and be part of – an entourage.
If that sounds like something you need, here’s how to begin.
Entourages are about collaboration and relationships, which means that both parties are committed to helping each other. If you meet someone who seems disinterested in you or overly interested in himself, he’ll probably never make the cut from contact to entourage member – no matter how well connected he is.
Now a piece of counterintuitive advice: in order to find people who can be helpful to you, stop looking for people who can be helpful to you. Focus instead on how helpful you can be to everyone you meet. Grossman says if it sounds like there’s some work involved in building an entourage, you’re right. But life is better together, she insists, and your path to success is bound to be easier when you have partners traveling with you.
Who should you look for in an entourage? First, look for people who are pleasant and positive. Especially if you’re in a long and difficult job search, you want to associate with people who can make you feel better. Avoid people who commiserate with you and seem focused on how tough things are. To paraphrase Tyler Perry, “I can feel bad all by myself.” Find people who will help you focus on what’s going right, right now. And who can lovingly kick your butt when you need it kicked.
Second, look for diversity. You may find that people with your industry background are the most helpful in your career or job search, but don’t overlook people who know nothing about your job. Their perspective will be very different than yours, and the questions they ask may bring on a fresh idea or brilliant insight. They also have completely different networks of friends and contacts, which grows your ability to meet people and develop leads.
Once you have connected with someone you think might become a valued member of your entourage, schedule time to get to know her better. That means face-to-face, actual meetings where you talk and listen to each other’s goals and plans. (Talk about hard work!) Turn off your smart phone and the noise in your head and really listen. Think about how you can be helpful to this person as she talks about what she hopes will come next for her career or business.
Many jobseekers make the mistake of thinking that their power disappears when they lose their job. They mistake their personal power for their former positional power. Even if you are not currently employed, you have the power to be helpful to the members of your entourage. You can forward research and helpful resources. You can connect them with people you know or new people you meet. You can speak about their company, their cause, or their talent to people you think should be aware of them.
Your other obligation to your entourage is to keep your members in the loop. Don’t just thank them for their help, advice and support – take the time to tell them about what happened. Your personal brand, according to Grossman, consists of the sum of two things: what you do and what you believe in. Creating and becoming a valued member of an entourage gives you a chance to put both what you believe in – and what you do – to work.
She cites the example of a young woman who interviewed Grossman for a documentary. Leslie, being helpful, offered her several other people as resources and subjects – and then went about her business, not giving it another thought.
Several weeks later, Grossman received a hand-written note from the filmmaker in Utah, thanking Leslie for her referrals and talking about how they impacted the project. Grossman may not have thought about the project or its producer in some time, but now, she says, “I’ll never forget that woman.”
How unforgettable are you? How many thank you notes have you written in the past year?
Do you have an entourage, or the beginnings of one? Has it been helpful? Leave a comment and let me know.