Most of us have sought out successful networking techniques at some point in our lives. We become familiar with the skills required to network, and try our best to apply them when meeting contacts. However, sometimes successful networking is more about self discovery - a hidden gem that is often less talked about.
Just before writing this blog post I googled "networking and skill development". I was looking for information on how networking can lead to personal skill discovery. Instead, I found tips on how to build and create a network.
These are two very different things.
Learning how to build a network is no doubt important and it requires a set of skills. Some examples include being a good listener, asking the right questions, and appropriate follow up with a contact. These skills are designed to help you successfully meet a contact and make a meaningful professional connection with him or her.
The kind of networking skill development I was searching for is different. I wanted to find out what kinds of skills we develop and discover within ourselves while we network. These kinds of discoveries may include:
I recently experienced skill discovery when I met a new contact for the first time. Over coffee we discussed job opportunities in the field of education. When I mentioned my website she began to identify a list of transferable skills I had developed by creating it; skills that were sought after by employers in her field. It took me a minute to figure out she was referring to skills I hadn't even thought of:
Now I know I'm not a website genius, and website development is new to me. As a result I hadn't even considered the above skills . Even career counsellors have their flaws! In talking further with my contact, I realized I could apply these skills to a number of job opportunities in her field. For example, if I was interested in workshop facilitation or teaching in a college, my ability to create visual presentations, and doing so on the internet, would be valuable for visual learning and online teaching. I walked away from the conversation feeling somewhat enlightened, and energized by the potential this skill set had for future job opportunities.
I call this networking experience a hidden gem - it can be unsuspecting but rewarding. We tend to think about the skills we need to get a network going, but it's also helpful to think about the skills we gain while we go through the process. These can be skills we already have but just aren't aware of yet. When you network, keep in mind that your contacts can offer insight not only about job prospects but also about you. It is really up to you to listen openly when engaging with contacts, as what they say may trigger a moment of self discovery. Remember to keep a note of what is said, or what thoughts come to mind by what is said.
We all need a boost here and there. Sometimes, this will come from a network contact you've just met who has a fresh perspective on your skills and interests. If a contact is willing to sit with you over a coffee and chat, you may walk away with more than just insight about the job market, but also about yourself.