April 2018 Features On The Cover

What if Networking Was Like Preschool?

Written By: Janna Magette

You walk into the room. You don’t know a single person there. This day has been circled on your calendar for months. You went to the mall and bought a special outfit for the occasion. You have practiced your smile in the mirror. You are fully prepared with everything you will need for the event. Maybe you even did a little dance or said a little prayer before you got in the car. You have done everything right and then… you walk into the room, everyone stops what they are doing and turns to stare at the door.

This is not a nightmare. It’s just your first day of preschool. Last month, we dropped our one-year-old off at preschool for the first time. As we entered the classroom, his classmates immediately stopped everything to examine this new person in their lives. There was no judgement.

None of them evaluated what he was wearing or the contents of his lunchbox. No one inquired what he had done with the first 12 months of his life. There was no fear or inhibition surrounding the discovery of this new person. There was only joy about the day’s possibilities.

If only networking was as simple as preschool. Maybe it can be with a simple shift in our mindset. We have all been there. We walk in to a room filled with strangers scanning the room for a dark corner, the bar or a face that you think is inviting you into a small group conversation. Or, you are already in the room, watching the new person walk in, deliberating over how to engage them. In both situations, what do you do? Do you participate or spectate? In these moments, let’s consider the following anecdote from Joshua Medcalf’s Chop Wood Carry Water:

“Akira just smiled…’Did you know that the Chinese symbol for crisis is the combination of two words: danger and opportunity?’ John shook his head, as Akira continued, ‘At every crossroads there are at least two choices: to view your circumstance as a calamity, or to view it as an incredible opportunity. The most important question to think about right now is this: five years from today, will you be ashamed of how you shrank from what you saw as a calamity? Or, will you look back and be proud of how you maximized your in credible opportunity?'”

For some of us, networking is not a crisis and for others it requires serious crisis management. Building relationships should not be a scary thing. You could argue it is a skill that can be developed. Mostly, networking is about connection, energy and choices.

Here are few ideas from preschool and the years following that I personally believe in and use when it comes to networking:

1)Remember, you are in the room so at least one person thinks you belong there (that should be you, but it definitely is the person who invited you) so take advantage of the moment.

2)As Genie from Aladdin says…be yourself! Self-awareness is at the core of everything we do. Harness all of your super powers and bring your full self to the opportunity.

3)Be kind to one another and stay together. My grandmother left our family with those words. She did not say, you must agree on everything and have everything in common in order to get along and benefit from each other.

4)On the heels on #3, choose kind. We are all born into networking circles: families, schools, teams. You do not know where someone’s life is going to take them. You do not know what gift or passion you are going to share with the world and neither does your 6th grade classmate. She just may write the recommendation letter you need for your next job.

5)Share your blocks and crayons. Collaboration is a beautiful thing. It creates life. Share yourself and ideas vulnerably. You just may be standing next to the missing piece or catalyst you didn’t know you needed.

6)Genuinely engage with an emphasis on understanding rather than being understood. Listen. Not everyone wants advice. Most just want to feel significant which means being heard.

7)Remember the reciprocity ring. You may have a great conversation or meet a really fascinating person and it may yield nothing for you personally, but you may be able to connect them with someone else down the road.

8)Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm a.k.a. smile when you talk. This does not come easy for me, but it matters!

9)Choose relationship over reputation. Name-dropping or asking for your next job in a first meeting is a no-no.

10)Follow up in the same manner in which you met. Make it personal and keep it old school. Write a handwritten note and be specific. Include a quote or article based on your conversation. Now pay attention to this one because it is tricky. Pick up the phone and call them. I know, scary. Thank them for the conversation and ask them to continue it another time.

11)After #10, you are now allowed to connect on social media. Add, link and like your heart out.

12)What if there is no event and the original conversation never happened and there is someone you just really want to meet? Revisit #10.

13) Go! In her book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, Mel Gibbons encourages her readers to act quickly on an idea, including introducing yourself to someone you have always wanted to meet. According to Gibbons, the moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will stop you. When you build anything, there must be a foundation, consistency and maintenance to the structure. This is the same for a relationship. Build a great foundation through fearless connection, build consistency through the authentic energy you put into it and maintain the relationship by choosing to make people the priority. So, pack your lunchbox and get networking preschool style!


Janna Magette is the Founder and CEO of GoFollowLead, LLC. Her work includes leadership development, team building, and personality assessments. She and her family currently reside outside of Tampa, FL. To learn more visit www.gofollowlead.com 

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