ChEnected Post: The Credibility Threshold
- Exchange pleasantries, handshakes & (if appropriate) business cards.
- Ask where the other person is based or “where that accent is from.”
- Share a story of working in the discussed location.
- Discuss the business environment and developments in one of the locations.
- Eventually get around to asking what one another do.
- Acknowledge that your organization needs their offering, can fill their need or has similar technical interests.
- Make agreements to contact the other person to maintain a business contact, acquire their services, or provide them your own.
- Shake hands, and move away with a slight nod.
The interesting thing for me was noting that, in order to discuss the business you are both there to discuss, you must first (a) indicate how experienced you are, and (b) show that you understand the industry. If you can’t satisfy these steps, then you end up stumped at Step 2, which is inevitably followed by an awkward excuse, a gentle nod and a quick exit. The take home message here is that some reactions only go one way:
Tell me why I should listen to you, then tell me what you have to say.
We hear all the time about the importance of market knowledge and experience, so I got thinking about a business barrier I now refer to as The Credibility Threshold. Enter the activation energy graph that all chemical engineers know and love:
Input enough energy (Ea) and your reaction can proceed, but don’t put enough in, or try to go directly to the payload (that’d be the equivalent of only adding the delta H energy value) and pfft… nothing. Without sufficient energy input no bond can be formed, no product produced, and no (pardon the cheese) chemistry occurs.
But now replace our activation energy with activation credibility, and the interaction recipe above makes a little more sense. We need to put enough energy into the relationship before it is going to produce the end product we are seeking. If we try to jump straight to the payload discussion of what we can offer each other, then, again, pfft… nothing. Stumped at Step 2.
In short this means that we need to ‘talk the talk’ in order to network effectively.
Engineering information can come through many channels (for entry-level professionals this is often through our professional certification bodies), but for more industry-specific knowledge we may need to be more creative. Here are some of the methods I use to keep up-to-date:
- Going to local seminars through Engineers Australia and IChemE;
- Taking advantage of conversations with my colleagues and bosses who see different aspects of projects, have more experience, etc.;
- Reading industry RSS feeds on my daily commute (if you have a smartphone, then I recommend NewsRoom);
- Following Twitter users who post interesting industry information (e.g. I follow a number of oil companies, energy news outlets and Chem Eng related posters);
- Reading industry publications (e.g. for O&G the SPE, Oil & Gas Journal or Offshore Mag publications are a good place to start); and
- Staying in contact with previous colleagues (through lunches, phone calls, e-mails and LinkedIn – preferably in that order).
I’m the first one to admit that this takes some effort, but I’ve seen the payoff of breaking through that credibility threshold. It opens up opportunities to discuss interesting information, make business contacts or build good industry relationships.
Oh, and see how the use of a catalyst means that less energy is required in the activation energy graph? Maybe a future post will talk about how having a good mentor or champion to be your catalyst can make the credibility threshold just a little easier to break through.