Talent Tip #80: The Power of Networking: Landing a Job (And Maybe a Dog-Sitter) in One Evening
When I first moved to Washington, DC for graduate school many moons ago, I found myself surrounded by students and faculty who had a very different worldview than my own. I distinctly remember seeing a larger than life “Socialist Meeting Today” banner hanging outside of a building on campus. I thought it was a joke until I noticed the large gathering under the banner. Don’t these people read history books? At that moment I knew I had to expand my network.
A friend suggested I attend an America’s Future Foundation happy hour. I wasn’t sure what AFF was at the time, but I was quite familiar with the happy hour concept. So, I went.
Several pretty cool things transpired as a result:
- I met a gentleman whom I started dating
- I met a gal who is still a friend to this day (a decade later)
- The gentleman I started dating later introduced me to the organization where I landed a job post-grad school and started building my career in the liberty movement
- The dating relationship fizzled, but not before he fell in love with my dog (understandably, as she was easier to love than me) and became my go-to dog-sitter
So, just to recap, that’s a boyfriend, friend, job, and dog-sitter — all from one networking event
But let’s face it – networking can be a drag. We often have to battle our Myers-Briggs “I” to get psyched up for an event. Who among us doesn’t prefer to throw on comfy pants, pour a glass of Trader Joe’s wine, and veg in front of the TV instead of attending another rubber chicken dinner? Yet, stories like mine prove just how valuable networking can be.
Need another story to convince you? You got it. A friend in the liberty movement recently shared this little nugget:
Why is networking important? It seems like a bunch of people looking for something, and if they aren’t interested in what you have to offer, they move on. It’s eighth grade gym class waiting to be picked last except now I’m dressed up. Pass.
That’s what I used to think.
Now I know: networking is most valuable when you are yourself, and you have your eyes open but you aren’t scoping out the room only for the VIPs. Because someone out there is looking for someone like you. Crazy isn’t it? Especially if you’re like me and you have a difficult time taking a compliment, it may be hard to swallow.
Last fall, I went to the State Policy Network Annual Meeting to get training. One session, an opening “Speed Networking” event, stuck out to me…as something to avoid like the plague. I had just gotten to town, was tired, and needed to gear up to be around crowds of strangers for the rest of the conference.
But, I went anyway. I met five people there, the last of whom is the leader of the organization…where I now work.
He asked me what I did, if I enjoyed it, what was my biggest accomplishment. Then he asked if I had ever thought about leaving my current employer. It took me off guard, frankly, because looking for a new job was the last thing on my mind. I told him I was happy where I was, but would like to stay in touch.
I researched the organization when I got back to my hotel. Over the next few weeks I reached out to a few people in my network to ask about the organization. I sent my resume a short time later.
I can wholeheartedly say this: if I had not put myself out there, I never would have met him. Here is the kicker: he told me later how happy he was that he met me at SPN. I’m not sure if our paths ever would have crossed if we both hadn’t attended the networking event. It’s what they call a mutually beneficial exchange. I’m now working in a role I find challenging and rewarding, all because we both went to a networking event.
Wow. My friend’s story beautifully illustrates the power of networking. I hope you’ll take it as an inspiration to fight the lure of the comfy pants and take advantage of the next networking event. Your career (and possibly your dog) will thank you.
(A big shout-out to organizations such as America’s Future Foundation and State Policy Network for their amazing work bringing people together and harnessing the power of networking.)