Rumour has it that networking is the be-all and end-all of most of our business relationships. I don’t know about the be-all and end-all bit, but what I can assure you is that networking certainly plays a very important role in our lives. I have come to realize that it is indeed the glue of human interaction within a community.
As an international professional, very much used to doing business in Germanic Europe, with a dash of Mediterranean Europe thrown in here and there, the concept of networking has been quite difficult for me to grasp. It’s not that we don’t network in Europe…we just do it in a different way, as is to be expected, since Europe and the USA are very different cultures… you know – we say crisps, you say chips, we put vinegar and mayonnaise on our “chips” (which you call fries), you just put ketchup, and please don’t get me started on your “iced tea.”
When I moved to Atlanta in August 2012 the most consistent piece of advice that I received was, and still is, “You need to grow your network!”
My first step was to look up the meaning of network in the Oxford English dictionary (the only one I would trust), just to make sure that we were talking about the same network, and these are the definitions I found:
1 – “A group or system of interconnected people or things;” “A group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes”
2 – “A number of interconnected computers, machines, or operations;” “specialized computers that manage multiple outside connections to a network”
Well, as I expected the network they were all referring to was not number 2, which was obviously the only network I had been concerned with during my career in Europe. That was positively shocking!!
My noble quest to start growing my network started with trying hard to understand the true purpose and value of growing my network, as well as coming up with a plan of action to grow it.
Why do I need a network? I have managed to live a perfectly happy life without one – I foolishly thought – but the reality is that I have always had a network; I just never bothered to think of my family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances as “my network.” Labeling these type of relationships as a Network would allow me to glue all my connections together, add some new ones and interact in a more proactive fashion, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of others and the community – isn’t that a novel concept?
To be continued…..