What is the first word that pops into your mind when I say “networking”?
“Sharks”? “Feeding Frenzy”? “Terrifying”? “Fear”?
What about “adventure”?
I hate the word networking. I will be substituting the words “adventure” and “road trip,” because most people love adventures and road trips. Think of networking as the road trip of your lifetime: it isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. Most people try to network (adventure) with the effort to GAIN something from someone. I’m here to tell you that’s not really the point.
The point of networking (or road trips) is to connect with other people. That’s it. While the connections could possibly lead to a new job or a career, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t work like a simply transaction.
Networking (and road trips) take work & relationship building. That’s right. Real, hard work. In order to truly have incredible adventures with people, you have to be prepared. Here are 5 ways to prepare for your networking adventure:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. You aren’t going to get anywhere if you don’t have a plan of action. Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? What will you do if that plan doesn’t work out?
- Don’t be afraid to meet someone new. Take your friends along for the ride, but don’t be afraid to make new ones. New people challenge us: our skills, our thoughts about ourselves, and our dreams. They take us places we never imagined we’d go.
- Be yourself. Let people know the real you – what your interests are, what your dreams are, what challenges you have overcome, and where you want to go. Don’t hide behind your phone. Set it down, walk up to people, and have a conversation. Stop “social networking” and start “connecting.”
- Learn about THEM. What drives them? What inspires them? Why do they do what they do? Think of other people like your “road map.” In order to plan YOUR path, you must be aware of how other people have traveled theirs!
- Be prepared for flat tires. Sometimes, life will throw you a flat tire: a job that doesn’t work out, an employer you didn’t get along with, a fundamental change that leaves you jobless. The most important test of our character is how we handle the “flat tires” of our lives. Things change, and we must keep going.
There are always challenges to face on the road trip of life. Traveling pushes our limits, gives us the opportunity to grow, and builds our friendships with each other. Isn’t that the goal of networking too?
About the Author Danielle is a 2nd year AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Habitat for Humanity. Last year, she served in Homeowner Services in Sacramento, California. This year, she is serving as the Store Development Coordinator for the two Habitat Stores in Seattle. She has a bachelors’ degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz, and she plans to work in non-profit management. Danielle enjoys hiking, running, and reading on the docks of Lake Washington. She is a member of the SAC Career Fair Committee.