I recently attended a meeting at a local university campus. We have been asked to talk to second year students about soft skills and networking. It seems a bit odd that students dodn’t understand what networking is about but the lecturer said that their perception of networking is to go out and ask for a job! They have no idea about soft skills, building relationships and just getting to know people in the industry that they want to work in.
The result of the conversation is that we are going to talk to them for an hour about networking and our experiences. We will be talking to them about building relationships, just building their network of people who may be able to connect them to others or just talk to them about the world of work and the different options open to them.
There are lots of stories I can tell about connecting and where it takes you – sometimes quite surprisingly to someone you wouldn’t expect to connect with. My favourite story is the one where I was challenged to up my game on social media and I posted a blog on LinkedIn about self-publishing my book. To my surprise someone from one of the High Street banks in London messaged me and said that he was envious of my book and would like to chat to me. He gave me a mobile number and a time slot to call him. It should have rung a few alarm bells but it didn’t so I called him and chatted for about 20 minutes or so. After I’d put the phone down, I Googled him. To my shock, he was a very senior member of the bank and I’d just been chatting to him as if he was my best friend! Actually, it was a personal conversation but turned out to be an amazing business contact for me. If I’d tried to connect with him on LinkedIn, he would probably have ignored me but because he wanted to talk to me, we connected and still chat some years on.
The week after our presentation, the University are holding a networking event and inviting students and local business owners so that the students can put it all into practice and make some local connections. Everyone has roughly 250 connections although most don’t realise it. When you do the sums, that a lot of potential contacts in the room and I’m sure the students will change their opinion of networking and how it can help them in their future careers.
So, if you aren’t networking, why not?