By: Alyssa Fechner, Regular Contributor
Networking isn’t something I ever want to do, and it’s not something that I am particularly good at. I am not a person who thrives on a room full of people, or who has ever been very loud about accomplishments or plans. In fact, my MO has been, since I was a child, to be the “sleeper.” I wanted to do everything just right, but keep my head down, so that no one would notice until I was leaps and bounds ahead, surpassing any and all expectation. That’s where I am comfortable; that is who I am. So networking doesn’t come easily to me.
I heard, all through college, and even some in high school, that “you have to network!” You just HAVE to. You have to get to know people in your field, find mentors, stalk them, whatever.
And while this is, I’m sure, very valuable advice, to me, the concept of networking feels contrived and forced. So I don’t do it. At least that’s what I thought. When I look at the people in my life, I would count probably half of them as mentors. They are experts in their fields, they are trailblazers and entrepreneurs, they are some of the most resilient and determined people I can imagine, with pure hearts, and with beautiful spirits. These people, I call friends.
Networking doesn’t have to be the get-to-the-point, purely business errand that it’s always been made out to be. I am looking at networking from the top down. Instead of looking for people to fill our career pockets, what if we look at the people who we’ve surrounded ourselves with, or who have been attracted to us, and see where that points us?
I’ve found that when looking at my “network” like this—as a group of friends who are supportive of me, because we have certain commonalities along our life’s path, not as people who can just help us get ahead—that doors have been opening up all over the place!
I wonder what else, like the idea of networking, has rubbed me the wrong way, which may only require a shift in perspective? Networking was horrible, until I saw all my amazing friends and family, teachers, fascinating acquaintances, as personal, rather than professional assets. In the end, the rewards of my strong support system will far outweigh benefits that I might have found chasing down a department head. My favorite, most valuable network is the one that I have come by naturally.
Alyssa brings up an awesome point: sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is a change in perspective. What are you finding resistance to that could use a bit of a mind make-over? Tell us about it here!
Alyssa grew up on a diet of grilled cheese, books, and ice cream with books predominating. She recently graduated with a Master’s degree in English and lives in her favorite place with her favorite fiancé (she only has one). Post-graduation, her plans are to start a new women’s magazine that leaves women feeling GREAT about who they are, and to open a publishing house for untapped talent.
image via kimconstable.com