The Work at the Heart of the Work

networking Oct 10, 2017

No matter your field or discipline, making connections and building relationships is at the heart of not only your personal success but to the success of your cause, business or services. 

You've probably heard the comment, relationships are job #1.  So what is networking if not relationships in the making? I've come to think of networking skills as foundational to just about all the other skills we need.  If we are to be successful in our aspirations, it behooves us to become a well-connected, go-to resource for those we serve whether in business, nonprofits, or government. 

I thought I knew all about networking. 

I was wrong. 

Perhaps you are too?

Do any of these resonate?

  1. What if our network is actually plural? In other words what if our network is really several nested networks, each serving a different role and function? 
  2. What if we already have a network but it is somewhat hidden from us? What if we could see it clearly?
  3. What if all connections are not equal?
  4. What if we don't need to be an extrovert to do great networking? 
  5. What if our assumptions about networking turn out to be wrong?
  6. What if there are practices and ways of thinking, mapping and optimizing our networks that are soundly rooted in research and the science of networking? 

What if all of these things are true and possible? They are. 

In my experience, the toughest part of building relationships is getting started. Sometimes you're the brand new person on staff or more often you're new to a particular group.  Or perhaps there are people attending your group for the first time? How will you connect with them to decide where (and if) they fit in your network and you in theirs?  

Relationship building is rooted in making connections in a positive way that results in getting to know each other well enough that we want to continue knowing each other -- as in networking!

Ideally, we share our experiences (superpowers) with our networks and, perhaps more important, we engage in order to reveal, validate and value the superpowers we discover in others.  My colleagues at 7th Generation Labs like to call it mutually equitable exchange

The questions I've had and often hear from others include,

  • "How do I get started networking in a group that doesn't know me and I don't know them either?"
  • "What do I talk about?"
  • "Who do I talk to in a room full of strangers without feeling like a wet blanket or a wallflower?"
  • "How do I do networking without feeling like I'm trying to be someone I'm really not?"
  • "If I gather a bundle of business cards (and give out a bundle) how on earth will I follow up with all those people?"

 Well, I found answers that started me down an unanticipated path from this great resource from Maya Townsend on Networking for Introverts. (Just sign up and download, another opportunity for mutually equitable exchange). 

If you feel like you could use more to make the most of your efforts, she's also doing a three-part series on Smarter Networking: Weaving Connections that Matter starting on Oct 20th.  In addition to the three learning sessions, there are three group coaching sessions to give you added support as you work through the Smarter Networking steps. Course information here.

I'm excited to be one of the collaborative hosts for the learning sessions and I know first hand the power of smarter networking!  Join us. You'll be so glad you did. 

In the comments below, tell me. What do you find most challenging about networking? What do you notice that we've all pretty much assumed about how to do networking well?