Awkward. That should actually be the title of this post because there is no better way to truly describe the art of networking. During my job hunt, my dad always pushed me to “ask if they want to meet for coffee” and I always replied, “Dad, I don’t LIKE coffee!” Obviously, the coffee wasn’t the point, but I was so deathly afraid of meeting strangers and asking them for help that I thought my dislike of coffee could be my escape.
Like all children, I regretfully write these words: my dad knew what he was talking about. *Shudders*
The thing is, no one else is looking out for you except you. You have to be the one to reach out to others and ask for their help because how else will they know you need it? I’ve been on several meet and greets that were horribly nerve-wrecking, but once there, definitely not awkward. Everyone has done it and everyone is willing to help (including me, so ask away).
I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, in which he describes people that are good at networking as “connectors.” These connectors are relationship builders and have friends, or rather, acquaintances, in every corner of their life. I’ve also been watching a lot of Downton Abbey recently and would call the entire Crawley family connectors. If they wanted William in the hospital they simply went through their list of acquaintances to find someone that knew someone that knew someone who can get him in despite the hospital initially telling them no. They’re connectors.
Networking and connecting do not end once you find a job. Connectors are people that network for the fun of it, with no purpose in mind, that’s not to say it doesn’t come in handy in the future. Connectors simply enjoy meeting people and are enlightened by the variety of personalities and stories they encounter. Networking and connecting are not skills that go away when you find your dream job. It’s something that will (or should) follow you through your life.
I am the only person in my company that is in charge of creating our social media plan and have been appointee as the “expert”. The pressure of that expectation mounds daily with the inconsistency and ever-changing world of social media. It’s hard to keep up and know what the best online strategy is for our company with no other social media focused people to brainstorm with. To overcome this challenge, I realize the need to network and ask questions with others in my field. What a relief it was to find groups like Indy Social Media and Indy Social Talk that I can ask for help and learn from.
I already admitted to being a big chicken when it comes to this sort of thing, so don’t be fooled into thinking signing up for those meetings and walking in to meet a group of strangers was easy. It wasn’t. But it does continue to get easier and I don’t feel like I am on a digital marketing island all alone anymore.
My New Year’s resolution was to step out of my comfort zone and meet people. It’s a big deal for me to practice these networking skills because it is so much easier to go about my day saying hello to people without building relationships, but it’s amazing how much more enriched my life is by learning more about those people I am surrounded by.
I encourage you to give it a try. Set a goal to be a connector and take an interest in everyone. You can even start with me by commenting!