Friday, November 30, 2012


"Sun/Moon/Dome" by Adam Leventhal, 5th & Main, Los Angeles

It's the buzzword of the era. Networking. Putting the word out. Connecting.

A few weeks ago I attended a "networking event" for entrepreneurs with a friend. Several people gathered together and each spoke about the product or service they could offer. The moderator emphasized that they were not here see the rest of the group as primary customers, but rather as connections to potential customers of their product or services.

Not in the market for party-planning services? No pressure! But if you have a friend who's thinking about throwing a kid's birthday, perhaps you'll remember the funny young woman who made such a great presentation, and pass along her card.

You aren't shopping for office space - but the next day at work on the phone your client reveals they're planning an expansion. Hey! You just met this great guy who's in the commercial lease business!

It was an interesting evening. I'm not an independent entrepreneur, not by a long shot. So I didn't join the group my friend invited me to. But it was intriguing. And it underlined for me how useful networking can be - and these aren't even people you know.

Playing together

Networking more frequently happens on the personal level. When you're reaching out to market something, whether it's a product or service you're selling or even just when you're trying to sell yourself, it's great to reach out to people you know.

I've been trying this in my job search, and it's been great to reconnect with people I've lost touch with. Even though I worry sometimes they think it's only because I'm looking for a job.  I've gotten some great tips, and some useful leads.

A lonely ship at sea

But, really, I have to confess I'm not very good at networking - I never have been. I don't know what it is, some combination of not wanting to be beholden to other people, fear of disappointing someone's expectations if they do give me support, and some weird kind of independent stand-offish feeling that, dammit, if I'm good enough I should be able to get a job on my very own.

I know these feelings are silly, untrue, and self-defeating. After all:
  • People love to do favors for others. I do, don't you? It's a good feeling to help someone. I shouldn't fear that people will look down on me for asking, and, in fact, I'd love to be able to help them in turn.
  • At the same time, I'm not asking anyone to go out on a limb for me, just give me a lead or a tip. It's my responsiblity what I do with it next.
  • No one stands alone. Even customers, clients, and employers like working with someone who's connected
What's the focus?

My biggest problem, though, is that I'm not really sure what I want. Do I want just another job?  There really isn't an equivalent of my own job available anywhere, so I have to adapt. And I can adapt going up - reaching for what might be a promotional opportunity. Or I can adapt going down - decide I'd like to learn more about something else, and going for a more entry level position. I can stay within my industry or field, or I can branch out into another one, adapting my skills to a new speciality.
Take a seat and pick your own color!
It's kind of hard to network with people if you don't really know what to ask for. "What do you want to do?" is a question that's come up in some of the conversations I've had, and I'm not quite sure I can answer it.

What about you guys - talk about your experience networking, and the things you've learned.


small mind said...

I think the networking thing is in stages, like buying a car, you might know you'll NEVER get a red car, and you vaguely know you like the look of the hatch back or SUV but the exact make and model eludes you - so you start talking to people - how is your car? what do you like about it, what would you change, I fancy a VW SUV, you have one, what's it like ... then you hone in and hone in more ... and so the process goes on ... the other thing, I think being straightforward is key, sometimes we feel embarrassed or awkward and so create stories around a simple desire to broaden out and information gather ..

Look forward to hearing other people's experiences/thoughts ...

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

I think networking is harder for introverts. My husband has never enjoyed it, and I think it was for the very reasons you listed.
Do you spent any social time with people in your desired field? That is probably key. Easier said than done, I know.

I've let on to others that I'm hoping to get a part-time job and if the conversation goes further, I share what sort of thing I'm looking for, but so far nothing has come of it. I probably need to spend more time with people in my desired market.

Wishing and hoping the very best for you, Aunt Snow!

Kizz said...

I used to feel like you do about networking. I still maybe have little hitches in those areas but I'm somewhat more open to it. I think the turning point for me was when I just started saying what I wanted out loud. It didn't have to be to anyone in particular, I just needed to speak it so it would be real. When I moved from my previous job to this one I spent a lot of time thinking I'd just leave the job and worry about the rest later. I couldn't make that leap, though, too scary. When I thought, "I want a part time job, 4 days at the most"I felt able to say it out loud. The 2nd person I said it to pointed me in the direction of the job I've had since 2005.