Networking: It’s Just a Conversation

It took me a long time to figure out the power of networking and how to do it. Growing up, I was told that networking leads to good things, but no one ever said exactly how it should work. So I went to events and conferences, met some people, but wondered what do I do now? I’d connect with them on LinkedIn, but then what?

It wasn’t until I was incredibly bored at my job that I started to figure out how to effectively network.

I knew I needed to change things in my job to feel more engaged and challenged. I wrote down on a post-it note “What can I change?” I sat with that note in front of me and each day I’d reflect on it. There were certain things I could try changing in my job and there were things beyond my control. At first, I tackled changing things in my day to day world, but it became increasingly apparent that the change I needed to make was moving to a different company. I didn’t want to run to just any job; I wanted to find the right fit of challenge and culture. So I decided that I would just have conversations with people and see where that led.

I set out to chat with people who were doing something interesting. I found that starting with a conversation led to more conversations and more connections. A person would suggest I meet up with someone they found interesting or who was doing innovative work. Ultimately my conversations led me to the next chapter of my career.

The moment I changed my mindset about networking was 6 years ago. Since then, I have had countless conversations and have met so many wonderful people. I have found that just a conversation can lead to interesting opportunities and connections. While I set out to meet others, now people seek me out for a chat.

What I have learned is this:

  • Everyone has an interesting story.
  • People are willing to chat if you just ask.
  • Some people just need someone to listen.
  • Many young people are nervous about taking a path that is not straight, but need the encouragement to embark on adventure.
  • There are unexpected inter-connections.
  • You can find new opportunities, whether that means a new job or a new experience.
  • I can help others find the next conversation they need to have.Now I will meet anyone for a cup of coffee or lunch who wants to chat. I go with no agenda, open to what I will learn and how I can help. It’s just a conversation.
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