By Terri Moore, Master’s Candidate, TRDV 499
The year 2011 just rolled in and the one thing we all like to do is make a New Year’s resolution. Well, I had decided to make a New Year’s resolution, however it would not be focusing on losing weight. This year I had a different kind of resolution I was going to make. I made a resolution to focus on building my networking skills. Really networking, why now? What caused me to decide to focus on networking? To be honest, I learned that my current position was going to be eliminated by the end of 2012. However, I did not want to be pretentious in my network endeavor because many people think that networking is something that you do, rather than a way that you live. Networking is a life skill, rather than something you do only when you want something. Yes, I did not want to be unemployed however, this was bigger than that. I was learning to step outside of my comfort zone. Do you know what that feels like?
So how do I start? I had a conversation with my manager and mentor and she basically told me to start where I am. What a concept! I pulled out my notepad and began to write down names of colleagues that I had not seen or had lunch with in a while. I decided I wanted these to be meaningful meetings once a month with one of the colleagues on my list. I began to reach out to each of the individuals to set up time on the calendar. I was excited that each of the four appointments I made, the individuals was very receptive and was looking forward to our time together. Then the first appointment was approaching and I got a call from the individual needing to cancel our time. I was a bit disappointed. And surprisingly each appointment that was scheduled was canceled. I started to think there was a conspiracy against me.
I understand that schedules can change however what I realized was I was going about this the wrong way. I was treating this as a task to check off my list. Networking is not about completing a task it is about building strong, meaningful relationships. So I came across this book that talked about networking. What I learned was that great networkers know how to make heart-to-heart connections with people when they talk to them. They listen with their hearts as well as their ears. They are totally focused on the person in front of them, regardless of whether they think that person can be a prospective boss, employee, client, new friend, or someone to add to their network. Great networkers realize that every person they connect with forms part of their networking puzzle, and every stranger has the potential to become an important connection within that network. Great networkers network ethically, professionally, and courteously. The basic philosophy of great networkers is to treat everyone the way they would like to be treated.
February arrived and to date, I have not had a meeting with anyone from my list. I was starting to doubt this whole New Year’s resolution idea. Now there was an annual engagement meeting in Washington, DC that I was scheduled to attend as the consultant for my area of the business. This was a week-long conference where I would be meeting with other consultants from the business. I gave myself a pep talk to use this meeting as an opportunity to develop new genuine relationships. So not to drag this resolution thing out, to my surprise I was able to spend a fun-filled evening with the Director of Engagement and a few other colleagues. We agreed to connect one evening after the morning sessions just to get to know each other outside of work. This was the beginning of something new.
Later in that year, an opportunity to work with the director of engagement for six weeks on a special project became available. After discussing my desire to step into this temporary assignment with my manager, I was given the green light to work with him while still maintaining my current role. I had the opportunity to meet individuals within the business that I would have never been able to do so had I not stepped out of my comfort zone that night in DC.
The year 2012 comes around and the director of engagement gave me a call to ask if I would be interested in working with him to develop engagement strategies for the business. So in June of this year, I officially joined the Global Engagement team. I am truly happy to be in this role and I learned a valuable lesson about networking that I will continue to develop throughout my life. If you are hitting a wall in regards to networking, then ask yourself how have you been developing your networking skills? And, are you treating networking as a task or are you genuinely looking to build new relationships?
Henderson, Robyn. (2005). The Power of Networking. Australian Institute of Management. Understanding Influence for Leaders at all Levels. Australia: McGraw-Hill Publishers.