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An Unexpected Benefit to Networking

Do you like networking? Some people do! I do not.

Despite knowing it is important to my career, helps me learn, and even provides unexpected opportunities to grow my business, I still don’t like it. I associate it with conferences and meetings that involve small talk. Idle chat that lacks depth and nuance which means, I find networking boring.

And, like most people, when activities are boring, I don’t do them.

This mindset about networking is one I must regularly and intentionally work to reframe. I’m heading to a conference soon and spending time now trying to take my own advice, such as:

  • Think differently. Center my attention on learning from and being helpful to others. This feels more authentic and less “cheesy” than my connotation of networking.

  • Prepare. Identify what I want to learn and then create 3 meaty questions to help the conversation go deeper and become more meaningful.

  • Be realistic. Sometimes meeting new people is indeed boring. In fact, I may bore others. It’s all a part of the process.

This aspect of networking is centered on meeting new people. This is what we often think of when it comes to networking: new people and new conversations.

But the other and likely more important aspect of networking is how these new relationships are nurtured after the initial meeting. This is the part about networking I routinely forget though appreciate and value the most.

As these relationships grow, they provide us with real value like support, perspective, information, and friendship. When we have people in our orbit who provide us with this, we are better at rebounding after a tough week or a perceived screw up.

Having a diverse network plays an integral part in our resilience and well-being.

Rob Cross, Karen Dillon, and Danna Greenberg study resilient people and write in Harvard Business Review that “…resilience isn’t just a kind of solitary internal “grit” that allows us to bounce back. New research shows that resilience is also heavily enabled by strong relationships and networks.”

They found that those most resilient had people in their network who fulfilled different support needs. These needs were described as “sources of resilience”, but they aren’t universal, and one may not need or have all eight. Yet, they provide a diverse array of support.

Review the eight sources of resilience below and think about who in your network provides you with this support. Also, think about what you are missing and what role might need to be fulfilled:

  1. Empathy – People who understand me.

  2. Humor – Those who let me laugh at myself and the situation; those who can find humor anywhere.

  3. Purpose – People who keep me connected to the meaning of my work.

  4. Perspective – Those who help me maintain perspective when there is a set-back.

  5. Vision – People who help me see a path forward.

  6. Pushback – Those who help me stand up for myself and challenge what is asked of me.

  7. Politics – People who help me navigate the unwritten rules and norms.

  8. Work Surge – Those who help me manage workload.

If you reviewed the list and see some gaps, that’s common. It is also natural to feel a sense of inadequacy or disappointment if you don’t have many meaningful relationships in your network.

Here are a few steps to follow to begin to fill those gaps.

  1. Strive to improve your network by one. Select a category and identify one person who might fill one of the roles from which you would benefit.

  2. Send them an email to connect with them. To do that, praise something about their work. This isn’t flattery, it is a demonstration of respect. It will make you both feel good.

  3. Invite them to have a virtual coffee (No virtual lunches. No one wants to watch anyone eat up close on a screen) and mention you’d like to learn more about whichever “source of resilience” you’re seeking them to fulfill. For instance, maybe you’re interested in #6 Pushback. State that you are seeking to learn more about how to pushback productively at work and would be interested in their experience and advice.

  4. Before the meeting, prepare your questions and even send them in advance.

  5. Meet and before wrapping up ask to get together again in a month or two. If appropriate, send a thank you note. This is the nurturing part of the relationship. Small gestures of gratitude can go a long way.

This is a formal structure to initiating a connection and one that I’ve used before. It works for me, perhaps it will work for you.

Networking is so much more than meeting new people. There is a powerful outcome to developing meaningful relationships with colleagues. It builds our resilience.

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Until next time!

Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.

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