Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at Take Charge! Take 2! An event organized by Newark, NJ based corporations (Prudential, Horizon BCBS, PSE&G and Panasonic) for the express purpose of building community in downtown Newark — by facilitating networking and connections between their respective employee populations.
So what, right?
Well, first, the corporate leadership in recognizing a role in building community and the value for employees in doing so, is one the others can replicate. Companies have the power to convene. Use it.
Second, on a hot, humid, dragging my butt to get motivated sort of a summer day, an email from one of the Take Charge! Take 2! event attendees frankly, has re-energized my “what am I working towards” efforts.
Here’s the email:
I attended last week’s Take Charge 2 event at Prudential Financial and I just had to send you a note. What if I told you that I may have been one of those people that signed up because I like time away from my desk and free food? When I saw the agenda and read that your presentation was on building your network, I may have even rolled my eyes!
All that to say, I absolutely loved your talk. I loved that you made us sit next to people outside of our companies — I met a fabulous woman at Horizon that I am sending my next email to!
As an introvert, I found myself following the advice of “fake it till you make it.” I would force myself to attend networking events where I usually felt fake — like my smile was scaring people away more than attracting mentors and that my suit jacket made it look like I was playing dress-up. I often would leave feeling a mixture of exhaustion and failure. I had honestly turned myself off from all things networking because I thought I was just so bad at it.
I found your advice so refreshing — that there are other ways to build your network and it can be as simple as making everyone you meet feel valued. It gave me hope to try networking again. I purchased your book and can’t wait to start reading it.
Thanks so much”
The only way to connect is by being authentically yourself. Skip the fake it so called “tried and true” BS standard ice-breaker blah blah blah. ’Cause here’s the thing: what works or worked for someone else may not be the best networking choice for YOU. You’re not that other person. Your goals may not be the same or your ability to commit the time or or or any other of the endless reasons on why you are uniquely you (and they are them).
Now….back to my Take Charge! Take 2! attendee. RSVP’g for an event to get away from your desk, and snack on free food is not the best reason to attend a networking event, however, if you go with an open mind…it’s not the worst use of your networking time either.