Business Development

Should You Talk About What You Do, or What You Love?

By Anusia Gillespie, JD, MBA
We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone… and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something. 
~ Sandra Day O’Connor

Imagine introducing yourself at a networking event. What do you say? How does it feel?

Now, imagine telling someone about the great ski trip you had last weekend. It snowed all day Thursday and Friday, so conditions were ideal on Saturday. Oddly, no one was at the mountain so you were able to shoot back up on the lift without waiting in line. The sun was out. It was so warm that you even got hot at one point and removed a layer. At the end of the day, you enjoyed an après-ski beer outside, with red cheeks and tired legs. It was perfect.

How does this feel different from your first interaction, in introducing yourself at a networking event?

I facilitate a variation on this exercise in my branding seminars, and always receive the same answers.

In the first interaction:

  • It felt uncomfortable.
  • I’m still working on the best way to describe myself, so it felt awkward.
  • It was sterile.

In the second interaction:

  • I was more relaxed.
  • I felt more connected to the person.
  • We found we have something in common.

As an observer, I also notice the same behaviors. In the second interaction:

  • The volume of conversations increases.
  • People start smiling, and laughing.
  • People often exchange business cards.

Isn’t that interesting.

What is it about talking about our work that makes us shy? Why is it easier to recount an experience, than it is to relay what we spend the majority of our time doing and have strived so hard to achieve?

What if you were able to shift your business development efforts from how you felt in the first interaction, to how you felt in the second? That’s what I help professionals do. Integrate passion and work in a way that becomes enjoyable and creates opportunity. So, in answering the question:

In developing business, should you talk about what you do, or what you love? 

I would say, find a way to do both.

What changes can you make to shift into a more enjoyable and productive way to build your network? Consider why your standard introduction feels uncomfortable. How can you tweak your introduction to address that discomfort? Consider what story came to mind, for you, in discussing a recent trip or other excitement you’d want to share. What about that story lights you up? Can you integrate a piece of that into your networking, or find shared values among colleagues and clients? Such shifts might seem small, but they can produce considerable changes both in how you experience building your network, and in the results you’ll attain.