CONNECTING vs clicking
When I started my business, my goal was to help others find rewarding work and, through that process, help build better workplaces. The mission hasn’t changed, although along the way the path has been adjusted to keep up with the times.
Listening to different perspectives
In pursuit of that mission, I started a networking group in 2001. The group was born from the concept that more brains working together are better than one. I was determined to build a sense of community that would create a positive ripple in our universe. The intent was, and is still, to bring people together to help one another and to allow them to hear different perspectives. The networking group is designed to help people in different fields learn more about worlds beyond their own workplaces and find different ways to address the challenges they face. It includes scientists, engineers, marketers, service providers, health care professionals, technology managers, project managers and more, all in a variety of industries. And I might add, much to my surprise, we still have some of the original members.
Build meaningful relationships vs drive-by clicking, friending and liking.
We have found that different perspectives can shed new light where, in other circumstances, receiving feedback from only one frame of reference may not have. We have developed a structure for participation, and we provide clear expectations to all new members. Our networking group’s overall concept is based on really CONNECTING, with the intent to build meaningful relationships vs drive-by clicking, friending and liking.
Being “other-centered” benefits everyone
We have created a “safe” environment where giving help or asking for help is expected. Being willing to help others and then actually following through does require “other” thinking and a commitment. Like most things in life, the effort you invest in networking directly impacts what you take away. Inside of our networking group, that investment leads to benefits for both the receiver and the giver. It provides opportunities for both parties to improve communication skills, grow their networks and expand their awareness outside of their comfort zones. It helps some members build self-esteem when they may not have been able to view their own circumstances in a positive light.
Using structure to improve communication and promote relationship development
Our networking group is different from other professional associations in that our format supports ways to more personally connect with people. We have been sharing information to help relate to one another since long before LinkedIn existed and have been promoting the development of relationships vs “clicking to connect” for many years. Our networking group is structured, with processes for sharing information, and we support a shared code of conduct. Our structure helps take away the assumption that everyone’s needs will be met by simply joining, as is the case with other professional associations that require payment of dues but nothing else. Our communication guidelines help members develop good habits that, when followed in the workplace, help them become more effective and/or more successful.
Commitment vs obligation
Over the years, some people have left our group because they believed they were well positioned in their career or new job and didn’t need to think about putting effort into a general network — or any kind of network, for that matter. Some have left to invest their time solely in specific industry/field-related networks. Some said they didn’t want the “obligation” to stay involved. Others simply kept their heads down and went to work until they experienced an unexpected layoff, merger, acquisition, market change, which then prompted them to return for help supporting their next move. As it is with family members or perhaps like growing a luscious lawn, attending to a relationship only when you need something or after the ground has already dried up, the effort to reestablish a flourishing support system takes much more time than regularly maintaining it would have taken. Real (and productive) relationships require consistent attention, nurturing and a desire to recognize the needs of those you are connected to. Productive and solid networking relationships thrive from a commitment to mutually enhancing both parties, more so than viewing any time invested as solely an obligation.
“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”
– Chinese proverb
The willingness to help others (and for some, taking a big risk to ask for help) is a good first step to building a solid network. A small gesture from one person can make a huge difference for many people. It may require getting uncomfortable, making a deliberate effort, and practicing and improving your time-management skills. And overall, yes, it requires a commitment. If you want to make a difference to others and would like to create something more meaningful in your life, take baby steps and begin to build lasting relationships. Do more than “like” something. Speak up and reach out with the intent of hearing back and staying in touch. This famous quote comes to mind: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”