By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This Shakespearean quote resonates as I ponder the value of networking.
If only networking were under the guise of a different name. Personally, I bristle when someone uses the word, ‘networking,’ an odd reaction considering the line of work I am in. I use the term, because of its universal appeal, but sparingly, as I believe there are better ways to articulate how to forge, cultivate and leverage value-add relationships in one’s career.
When someone overtly and pushily tries to network with me, my response often parlays my distaste. More organic in my approach, I weave in proactive, and when needed, assertive communication to move conversations forward. But bottom line, I strongly believe in a more natural approach to connecting with others to build a net of supportive careerists.
Networking Will Happen Organically
With that said, natural does not have to imply weak or lacking assertiveness. Certainly, if you have an important message to share with someone, and you genuinely feel that it will add value to them, then push a bit to get voice or face time to present your position.
While I DO believe it is essential to get a bit out of one’s comfort zone to initiate conversations with others, I also believe that, if done well, and as a daily part of your career and personal life, networking will happen organically, through conversations you are having with your colleagues, friends, family and such. As well, compelling someone to engage with you, to help fuel your goals, is best done as a result of your first proffering your value to them.
3 Ways to Netweave Toward Your Goals
We must learn to invite others into our lives to build those value-add relationships, and that in and of itself may require initially unnatural confidence in believing you add value to others and have something to add to the conversation. For those who struggle with exuding that confidence, I offer three scenarios where you may find netweaving your way toward career goals more naturally attainable.
1. Solving Mutual Problems: A colleague or someone in your industry and you are having a conversation about a problem(s) with a specific technology, product, process or customer acquisition challenge. You have some ideas that you’d like to share, and you offer a 30-minute phone call to avail yourself and provide value. Likewise, your colleague will naturally unveil his/her ideas during this exchange. Everyone wins. You may find this initial conversation a lead-in to future exchanges and/or to further resources with whom you can connect on similar such issues.
2. Inspiring: You’ve connected with someone online (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) who inspires you with his or her words, images, enthusiasm, personal or professional goals and achievements and such. Likewise, s/he feels a connection with you, and you hit it off. Why not take it a step further and schedule a focused one-on-one Skype, phone or face time to brainstorm and plan and encourage one another’s efforts and goals?
You may even find that this new-found friend is someone you will regularly meet with, or, who will spur ideas and contacts for further netweaving connections. Several of my Twitter colleagues and I have formed what we now unofficially call #SummitFriends, and we met by Skype for the first time in late 2012. Dorlee (@DorleeM), Marianna (@AuntieStress) and Jackie (@JackieYunTweets) inspire, motivate and support my blog with their words. Several other careerists and encouragers have imbued my day-to-day, on- and offline, and will be mentioned in future posts.
3. Industry Visibility: Through Twitter, Facebook and industry conferences, you’ve discovered chemistry with and among several of your peers. An opportunity to collaborate on a particular event, project or public speaking initiative arises, and it requires a collective mind. Invite your colleagues into the experience. Remember the ‘rising tides’ quote? Lift one another.
You might find that an initial collaboration turns into a career-long conversation. When a handful of colleagues and I came together in 2009 to appear on Recruiting Animal’s show, we didn’t know it would turn into a more substantial collaboration. The Resume Chicks has converted into a Twitter stream, a website and a bi-monthly meeting schedule where we share industry best practices, help each other solve business problems and freely exchange strategies through sometimes casual, sometimes quite focused brainstorming sessions. We also genuinely like one another, on a personal level, which further fortifies the bond.