How May I Help You?
Who likes networking? Television networks I get, and the Cisco kids have taught me something for certain, but I mean the act of "cultivating productive relationships for employment or business"? It is indeed an important part of what makes the world work, and didn't High School Musical remind us, we're all in this together? It's not what you know, they say. But isn't it? How does one make human connection in this big, fast world? To make it work, you really ought to know what you're doing.I sometimes volunteer for a most fabulous national organization- the Step Up Women's Network (SUWN). The always inspirational and eloquent (now retired) Managing Director of the Chicago chapter would often remind us when we gather for meetings and events to "network powerfully". If I was talking to my IT brethren of yore and asked them to network powerfully, they would know just what to do. But some people are scared to move on this encouraging suggestion of interpersonal adventure. For some people, initiating a relationship that just didn't exist moments before feels a little....icky. Like being approached on an average car lot (or the street corner, or in front of the grocery store, or...) by someone who wants something from you when you're just "looking". Or like cold-calling. But it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, LinkedIn and Facebook and _________ make it easier to get the party started. And thanks to the "powerful networkers" and some amazing women that I have met with SUWN, I have developed a new perspective on the networking event. It might still feel awkward to approach a group of talking and laughing beauties and expect that you are welcome to insert yourself. But you can start by talking to one person, and then give as much of yourself as you possibly can in that moment. What can you do for them? Maybe they feel funny, too. Maybe the depth of the relationship will not emerge for days or months or years to come. And the moment when you need something might come, and it might still leave you feeling like a bother or a burden. But good people doing good things will find each other, and support one another, and help other good people get their good things done. A dear friend and previous colleague of mine recently made contact on my behalf with someone who she thought might have contacts local to me that I ought to know. This special someone second-removed jumped right in, reached out to a few people closer to me geographically, and sent me a message to let me know that she had done so. In the message she referred to one of the contacts like this: "he's one of us." Ah, good people doing good things. He probably has a LinkedIn page and a Facebook account, but I'll be choosing to network socially, adding him to my MAN and my WAN in person.