* this post recently appeared in Forth – check them out!
Folk spend so much time trying to be connected to people because of who they are, what that relationship represents to them or what they think that person can do for them. Just give me people who I know in my heart know God personally. That’s the greatest human connection I can have. That’s REAL networking.― J’son M. Lee
I’m blessed that many people reach out to me for career advice. Meeting with others to talk about our professional journeys is one of the highlights of my days.
Usually the initial connection is initiated by a referral. On occasion, it’s someone who found me on the interwebs. Most always, they reach out and say they are currently networking, or seeking advice about networking, and I was recommended to them as someone they should talk with about networking.
And here is my response: stop networking.
Networking does not express your greater potential, nor honors the greatness in others. Sure, casting a net may yield some fish, but wouldn’t you rather swim in the ocean? If you are interested in following the true path to your purpose, in my experience, connecting with the right Guides means knowing and being yourself.
Knowing myself is an ongoing quest, but I know a great deal that is helpful. For example, I don’t enjoy bowling, or board games or Match.com. I’m not really in my element at the Union League Club or formal boardroom presentations or after work “social” business events. I HATE PowerPoint.
Conversely, I LOVE breakfast. I am much happier outside v. inside; warm v. cold. Inspiration comes to me during runs and walks and in unstructured idea-sharing conversations.
So I schedule breakfast meetings and find opportunities to participate in daytime small group conversations over lunch. I often walk or bike to my appointments. Obviously it’s impossible to avoid completely the things I don’t like to do as much. I’m a consultant, so PowerPoint is not exiting my world soon.
But I do find that when I participate in activities that I genuinely enjoy, I’m happier, my creative energy is full force and I am meeting and attracting people who complement and grow this power. It’s like a magnet.
When I am being Kelly, I offer people insight into my true gifts. People who want to work with these gifts (or date them!) are attracted to me. It’s also true that trying to stick myself to people or paths that are not attracted to me is usually a dead end.
If you seek genuine leads, the kind that inspire you, hire you and get you, just be you – they will come.
Of course it helps to recognize Guides when they present themselves. Not everyone runs around talking about his or her passions. So be curious, ask questions, and pay attention. Identifying people that expand your horizons and your opportunities means you need to know them too. Not what they do, or how they do it, but what they are about and who they are.
Asking people to reveal themselves is an amazing way to gain insight and direction. What gets them excited? Who do they live for? What do they dream about doing? How did they get where they are? Pay attention to how their answers make you feel– your emotional responses are guideposts in your journey. Often the qualities we react most strongly to in others lie within us, consciously or unconsciously.
Every place and every person is an opening for inspiration if you are a seeker. You don’t need to pack your calendar with new events, just the right ones. Talk with your cab driver, the woman in the seat next to you on the plane, your best friend’s mom. Don’t define your relationships as “work” and “personal.”
A few clues that can help you spot if you are fishing instead of swimming: If your search has become a job, you may not synching it up with things you love. If conversation is uncomfortable and your experience is a chore, ask yourself if you are really being you or trying to please someone else. If your calendar is draining you, and you feel like you can’t keep up with all the events–you might be fishing.
Recently I was at a party with a friend and some of her clients. When introducing her client to another person, my friend introduced him as “her client.” Later, the client said to me, “I hope someday she will introduce me as her friend.”
When we stop viewing people as fish, and start relating them as friends, our universe expands- personally and professionally. Dive in and swim.