I’m not writing about anything new or ground breaking. There are hundreds of blogs that explain the importance of a network of peers and professionals. I have read my fair share of them. I have always understood and believed that a network is fundamentally important when trying to make your way into an industry- any industry. In fact, even your friends are just another type of network, often leading you to meet more friends, lovers, even your significant other.
In the past I have played the networking game in a very light way. I did it when I had to. I worked it only when I was stuck. I am extremely independent by nature and that need to ‘do it all’ has often put me in uncomfortable corners. I am the person that helps others, and rarely asks for help. Or should I say, thats what the old me would have done.
Here’s the long and the short of it. Bad things happen in life just as good things do too. I experienced some life changing stuff in the past year. It changes you in a positive way- if you let it.
So now I call on my network. I don’t discriminate by only meeting people that fit my exact profile or need. I don’t wait until I “have to” catch up with people. I have overcome my fear of meeting brand new people, in a city that’s unfamiliar to talk about experience, business, belief, philosophy, leadership, money, passion…..life.
That’s not to say I don’t meet people for a reason, or that there is no forethought behind it at all. It’s simply that I want to put myself out there in the world and I want to learn brand new things. I approach networking with a new set of eyes, and a refreshed attitude.
Other than the obvious benefits (friendships that are made, job and business opportunities that are created) the biggest gain for me has been the education. Hanging out with people that inspire you or have blazed a path before you, is like attending a course in entrepreneurship and life for free.
I have gained the answers to questions I would never have thought to ask. I have heard about the good times in business and the times that could easily crush a persons spirit. I have listened as people lay bare their vulnerabilities to me- a perfect stranger. And I have gained so much insight into so many areas of life and business I could not possibly list them all.
For me what has been the most astounding so far, has been what I have learned about myself. Sitting with people over coffee while they are bluntly honest about themselves, and what they see in me, has given me the courage to be honest with myself. I have a clearer picture of what drives me, what I will and will not do, what principles are most important to me, what my weaknesses are and how I can work with my strengths.
It’s phenomenal just how much more confident I feel knowing these things. I feel privileged to have talked to so many business leaders, most of whom have never heard of me before. They have each provided me with a college degree in experience.
These things may seem obvious, but too often we sit back and wait for things to happen. But rarely in this life do things just fall into your lap. Sometimes we see networking as selfish but it’s far from it. There is nothing lost on either side from just having a chat. Sometimes you can inadvertently educate someone in a way they weren’t expecting just by sharing your thoughts. It’s very much a two way street.
There is an entire world out there filled with people that can enlighten you in more ways than you can even imagine, and lead you in new and often better directions. Don’t allow your preconceived notions about yourself, or your position in you chosen field stop you from reaching out. Send emails, tweet people, contact them anyway you can. Try to talk to the ‘big fish’ people on your list. Nothing ventured is absolutely nothing gained. Be persistent and when you start gaining momentum, don’t stop.
Whatever it is you are seeking; the people around you can be your key to finding it.
I’d love to hear about what you’ve gained from your networks below!