Many of us consider networking a ‘dark art’ that requires a magical ‘insiders’ key to gain access to the influential. What we miss is the daily opportunity to connect, as we ride the bus, the train or stand in a long TSA line at the airport. Wisdom can present itself in all shapes and sizes if you open yourself to conversation.
This past week, consultant, Whitney Johnson shared a recent experience via a post on LinkedIn, ‘An airline cancelled my flight and put me in a van. Along the way, I got lots of lessons on how *not* to network.’
After offering a fellow traveller, a member of the Class of 2016, a ride home after a diverted flight, she realized her passenger had no clue how to network.
“As I was giving him a lift home, I learned a lot about him: his name, where he grew up, where he goes to school, his major, what his parents do for a living, his own career aspirations when he graduates in a few months. We even discovered that we have an acquaintance in common. Meanwhile, I made a few mentions of my children, such as my 19 year-old son is living in Brazil, my husband teaches at a local university. Conversation starters.
I’ll confess I felt a little invisible—and exasperated. I find it easy to ask people about themselves. I genuinely enjoy doing it. It’s one of my strengths, and we’re often exasperated with people who aren’t likewise adept at the things that we do well.
But here’s the real take-away from this chance encounter: this young man is looking for a job when he graduates in a month… I could have potentially helped him, if he’d just shown a little of the moxie that would have motivated me to recommend him.”
This is not just about a ‘newbie’ to the job search process, it’s a story that recurs daily. Just walk through an airport departure area and observe the diversity of folks and contrast that with the homogeneity of technical disconnection. Each individual, existing in the ‘comfort cocoon’ of their temporary piece of real estate, happily texting colleagues and friends, totally ignorant of the ‘chance’ professional encounter in the adjoining seat.
There’s no magic in networking. The magic is in the conversation, perhaps leading to a relationship. All of us harbor ideas and dreams. What are they, if not shared?
This afternoon, seize the moment, and start a conversation with a stranger, or maybe the acquaintance you pass in the hall every day. Listen, share, and you may be on your way to mastering the ‘not so mysterious’ art of networking.