Last time, Adriana talked about learning what networking in the USA means. Here’s the rest of the story.
It took a while for the concept of networking to sink in because I was used to being self-sufficient and not ask for anything. But eventually, I began to really understand the benefits of networking. I also came to terms with the fact that it is OK (and not weird at all in this country) to reach out to strangers and ask them to meet me for coffee or lunch…when I relate my “networking” stories to my British friends they cringe and look at me in disbelief. “You go out for coffee with perfect strangers? What do you talk about? Why would you do that?” my mates ask. My answer: isn’t this what we often do at the pub every weekend? We constantly meet strangers and get chatting. The difference is that we rarely follow up and/or connect with them on LinkedIn.
Initially I felt so awkward reaching out to “strangers”, I must have drafted and deleted hundreds and hundreds of emails trying to say something like – “Hello, how do you do? You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but someone told me that we should meet”…weird. But that’s how the yanks roll. And it is very much part of embracing the culture—at least that is what I kept on repeating to myself!
Eventually, with the help and encouragement of my mentor Randy Hain, I realized that even though I hadn’t personally met the people that I was reaching out to, we often moved in the same circles. Professionals that have things in common, such as our Catholic faith and Georgia Tech, are more often than not willing to connect, help, guide and share experiences.
Through my networking efforts I have met the most wonderful people in town (including my brilliant boss Alex Muñoz and his lovely family), and I have made some really brilliant friends. Now, I would now be more than willing to connect with anyone that approaches me for guidance.
My advice on the whole networking business is to first identify your circles. these are the groups where you feel most comfortable mingling around. Start with you family, school, university, and religious community. Once you complete this step, go ahead and reach out, but reach out sincerely and because you want to get to know that person. It is better to make very few real connections than thousands of fake connections where you barely remember people’s names.
Try it, and let me know how you get on!