Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Networking - how not to…

• Networking is not where everyone is on the make - it is not like a meat market for professionals.
• Networking is not a job fair
• Networking is not exchanging business cards just because you have them.
• Networking is not shaking a lot of strangers’ hands trying to make some kind of vague impression.

But what does a network or community mean? What is networking?

Start with any image you find familiar - a village, a web, a chain - with you as one point within it. You can be the centre point… I think of my network as webs within webs - I am not the centre point but I do have my own immediate network and it is interwoven with the other networks around me.

There are lots of websites, books and articles out there on HOW to network. Everyone has their 10-step process by which they swear.

I apologize - I don’t.

I believe everyone has their own style and comfort zone and exploring those will get you to your own process.

I find networking awkward. I also know how much comfort I found from the support of my network. That outweighs my discomfort. I choose to participate.

And while I’m a reluctant networker - what I do love about networking is the chance to actively promote and celebrate those around you. You’re not always asking for something - you’re offering - yourself, your thoughts, your people from your circles.

Networking doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen without effort. It’s not about attending a single event. It’s not a checkmark on your list of things to do. And it doesn’t happen in isolation. You can’t network by yourself. (You could try but - like one-handed clapping - it’s only effective in limited circumstances.)

And if you’re reluctant… And the person beside you is reluctant….. one of you has to make a choice to engage.

Kids do it better than anyone. No kid is going to see another kid in the sandbox and not interact. It’s a given. They don’t know each other’s names or address or whether they like a pail and shovel or front-loader - but one kid will either offer toys or take them and get the party started.

They don’t care what the other’s name is. Grown ups care about that. They just care if you want to play. It’s only worth knowing the names of the people you like playing with!

Simply put, networking is not a transaction. It’s about relationship and values and part of a long-term development plan and view of yourself.

I know I haven’t made networking seem easier. I know this doesn’t make it any more comfortable. But hopefully you want to keep trying?

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