Networking doesn’t have to be scary
It's an open conversation. It's growth.
As I’m catching up with my “LIVE HAPPY” journal where I write at least one thing daily that made me smile, I can’t help but stop and reflect on how great the past week has been (especially Pi Day, 3/14, and the day after, 3/15). Here’s why:
I realized that networking doesn’t have to be scary, formal, or overwhelming. I don’t need to be an extrovert or be free of social anxiety to be good at it. It doesn’t have to be superficial. It also doesn’t have to be called “networking”. Until now, I’ve never been the largest fan of “networking events” as much as I know it to be important. Some of you probably think networking is fun and interactive, while some of you freeze up and think about how scary or intimidating it is, and I empathize with both viewpoints. For the longest time, my worrisome self would think what could I possibly talk about or contribute when I’m in an entry-level job? Wrong. The best of any genuine relationship starts with conversation. Everyone starts somewhere.
On Pi Day, 3/14, I attended the NYC Strategic HR Analytics Meetup and spent a few hours with a diverse group of creative and talented professionals. Among one of them was a witty industrial-organizational psychologist/coach/applied researcher/change consultant Dan, who I was able to open up to about some doubts and ways I want to improve professionally. It wasn’t about impressing him or trying to pitch myself and get a job, it was about being genuinely curious and engaged. Isn’t that what networking is all about? An open conversation of ideas, challenges, perspectives, contacts, and resources? Dan told me that people appear smarter when they get others talking more (about themselves–most people love talking about themselves). I agree. The more you know about a person, the more you are able to lift others up and lend a hand in whatever way possible.
It’s okay if you’re just starting out in the field and are a junior practitioner- in Dan’s words again: “you can tell others that you’d much rather hear their story/experiences and learn–ask questions like what drew them to their role and organization, what the culture is like in a few words, and one thing they wish was different in the organization.”
Networking can seem superficial and filled with small talk, but that’s the beginning as Dan reminded me–covering basics before you dive deeper and discuss someone’s story. From reconnecting with fellow HR peers at NYU to hearing some great tips on how to become a better storyteller and then breaking into teams to use facts/data to build a story, we were surrounded by a welcoming, supportive and encouraging community. A huge shout out to my amazing peers, Batol and Priyal in the HR program at NYU School of Professional Studies for co-organizing the event and sharing the details with students in the program. I did not expect to stay an hour after I planned to take off, nor did I expect myself to enjoy the event this much, but I did. This is proof again that people are organizations’ most valuable asset and competitive advantage.
Yesterday came around and I left the office to attend the Potentialpark Conference from 12:30-5:00 p.m., where I got to meet a handful of amazing humans and digest information about employer branding, social media, trends in talent communication, and best practices around the world. Networking doesn’t have to always involve work. You don’t always have to put on this business face to appear professional. It’s not about using people to get something you want. It’s about strengthening relationships and being a valued person in others’ networks and gaining fresh ideas, advice and support. Thanks to Roxanne, Beth, James, and Kathi on my team for sharing this event with me.
These two events have challenged me to think more on my feet, to get out of my comfort zone, and take away new ways of looking at storytelling, networking, and collaboration. People are people. Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Networking is what you make of it. Networking is smart. Networking is growth.
What about you? What has been a highlight of your week? Do you have any tips and/or thoughts around networking that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below!