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Thoughts on networking

January 18, 2014

An electrician by trade and a generous and friendly person by nature, my dad is someone who always “knows a guy.” He did much of the work on the  house we had built when I was young.   While I’m sure plenty of people were paid in the construction of the house, I have memories of a lot of his friends coming over to help out on weekends.  Even I “helped” shingle the roof, much to my mom’s horror. (I was about 9 and playing on a roof…)  A few years later, I remember tagging along with my dad as he helped his best friend wire his house.

I didn’t always see this as a positive.  When I had car troubles – which was often, as he’d buy cheap old huge Buick’s for his teenage daughters to use until the car died – I’d have to wait around for “his guy” to get around to fixing it at whatever discounted quid-pro-quo arrangement my dad had made.  When something needed to be done around the house, it often wouldn’t get done in any reasonable amount of time for similar reasons.

Yet, I can’t imagine the money it has saved him, the number of inexpensive cars it showed him ;), and the feelings of connection & humanness it brought my dad and “his guys.”

When it came time for me to go to college, my dad’s “guys” had no connections or advice.  That wasn’t their world.  I didn’t have close relationships with any adults that were adept in that world, really. After I’d decided to go to the local state school and major in engineering, the father of a high school acquaintance  reached out to me and offered to connect me with the department chair, and tried to get me set up with a position in a research lab.  He was a doctor and had a reputation (from his children) of pushing them to succeed.  I didn’t know him well, yet he had noticed I was smart and driven, and he did what he could to help out.  It was the same thing my dad may have done, but in completely different circle – a circle with department chairs and academics.

I got my first job in college through on-campus interviews.  My now-husband passed my resume to someone he’d met at some event for his grad school, which led to my second job.  My most recent job was a referral from a friend I met my first year in L.A.  Even though I consider myself poor at networking (or  “relationship-building “or “connecting”), networking has led to opportunities.  Imagine the opportunities I could have if I was actually good at it!

One of the reasons I pursued my latest career change was because I knew it was a path that would allow (and require) networking.  I knew I would learn a lot of hard skills, but I also would have a chance to work on my soft skills.  My soft skills are good – for an engineer.  In the business world, I have a ways to go.  So, this year I’m going to work on my soft skills, on networking, and on building relationships.  I’m going to help others when I can, and try to learn from those who can help me.  I don’t exactly know HOW to do this, but just committing to doing it is a good first step.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2014 11:18 am

    It actually sounds like you are good at networking. I think to be the best networker it requires that you be genuine with the people you meet. You will want to help them out and in return they will help you out.

    • February 1, 2014 3:44 pm

      I totally agree, and understand. I just can’t always a) figure out how to be helpful to people b) make good and genuine connections with people easily.

  2. January 18, 2014 2:04 pm

    Yeah, I think you probably have less faith in yourself than you give yourself credit for. You and I might be terrible at the working a room, small talk, schmoozing part of networking, but it’s also about being a genuinely good person, making friends, paying it forward (I’m pretty good at the helping people out and making connections part because I genuinely like to help when I can – ie with interns and the like – I’m not so good at the making higher level connections which are arguably more important, and utilising those).

    Look forward to following your adventures in soft skills at the new job – if one of your goals is to get better at all this stuff this is perfect for you.

  3. January 21, 2014 12:49 pm

    I grew up with the same gregarious dad-type and I often wondered why I didn’t inherit any of it, it’s so useful! (My sibling did, in spades. Of course.)

    But it is something we can work on, so I’ll join you in the attempt! Especially as after this job, I’ve no clue what I’ll be doing next.

  4. January 22, 2014 7:55 pm

    I think sometimes we get the impression that “networking” is just shmoozing at cocktail hour and handing your business card out to EVERYONE. But I think you’re on the right track: nurturing relationships and keeping in contact with people who are important to you. I think I also need to work on my “soft skills” like presentation and talking like an actual adult (I don’t say “like” all the time, but I have trouble getting my point across sometimes).

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