What’s not to love about On-Line Social Networking? Sprawled on my couch with my laptop, comfy pajamas, my favorite cat and a bag of potato chips, I can present my professional on-line image to my fellow networkers with no one being any the wiser of what a slob I can actually be or how truly awkward I am socially. In my version of an ideal world On-Line Social Networking would entirely replace Networking Events. If only…
The Experts seem to be divided over whether Social Networking will ever totally replace traditional Networking Events. If it does happen, it hasn’t happened yet. As I have become someone who leaves no stone unturned in my quest for opportunity, I recently resolved to attend at least one Networking Event per month. I’ve attended three so far and have had very different experiences.
The first one was an organization of mostly female business professionals. A good friend had invited me as her guest and I resolved to go with an open mind and a positive attitude. Even before my friend arrived, members of the group had already made me feel very welcome. Seated at a table with total strangers, I was asked about my goals and help was not only offered but the promised assistance actually materialized after the event. It turns out that the philosophy of this group is to ask “What can I do for somebody?” rather than “What can somebody do for me?” (I’m learning, by the way, that “What can I do for somebody?” is networking—whether in person or online—at its finest and most effective.)
I have since joined this organization and attended a second Networking Event with them. I met two very experienced people in my new field who have offered me mentoring, training and even a little work. Several other members have inspired me with their drive and ingenuity and I’m looking forward to having lunch with one of them next week. If you are ever in Metro Detroit, come check out the Michigan Professional Women’s Network (MPWN). We’ll make you feel at home.
Fired up from that success, I decided to attend another Networking Event—if I were to name the group they just might blacklist me from all local legal jobs so I’ll only say that it was a Paralegal organization. This time, the environment was exceptionally cold and catty with the group members clustered together defensively least they be infiltrated by students and/or the under-employed. (If the goal of the dozen or so members present was to gain new members, they might want to reconsider that tactic...)
At one point, a member broke from the cluster and came over to the group of students and/or under-employed. She announced that she was in charge of their annual student’s event and had decided to ask our advice about a giveaway. I suggested arranging an internship as a prize because that was something that could likely help a student the most. She laughed uproariously. I had no idea why. I asked politely but she would not say. Instead, she called a couple of her friends over and repeated what I had said. They kind of giggled and walked away. Finally, she told me that she was looking for something to hand out to all attendees. Apparently, I should have known that. I then suggested flash drives so students could load work and form samples to assist them on the job. She then abruptly walked away, rejoined her cluster and loudly announced what had now become her idea for a giveaway: flash drives. Glad I could help.
While this second Networking Event was not exactly a positive experience, it doesn’t change the fact that when I compare the opportunities I’ve received from Online Networking versus Networking in Person, I think they are about dead even. As I am a person in need of every opportunity (and who amongst us isn’t these days) I will continue to do both and will learn and grow in the process. Also, when all is said and done, technology doesn’t change the fact that as human beings, we occasionally need to get dressed up and put ourselves out there. Despite the possibility of being ignored, rejected or even publically ridiculed, I’m still willing to take the risk because I’m going for the good stuff. I hope you are too.
There are lots of expert tips for Networking but I’d like to hear from some of the rest of you here on the Front Line. Please share your tips and any interesting Networking experiences that you’ve had. (I promise not to take credit for your ideas!) You can leave a comment or connect with me via LinkedIn. With a name like mine, I’m pretty easy to find.
Your Front Line Reporter,