iNetwork: An Invaluable Experience
By: Ima Ituen
Really, how hard is it to talk to another person? Well, depending on who it is, I guess, it could be tough. But most of the time, it isn’t that hard. Talking to strangers? Same difference. We do it all the time! I mean, the check-out girl at the grocery store is a stranger, right? But we can talk to her. “Three bags, please. Oh, and I’ll put that second block of cheese back, please.” Then she notices you’re buying cat food so she asks, “How old is your cat?” And you answer, “Three. A little terror she is.” Check-out girl responds, “Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a male Cheshire, Taby, and a two-year-old female Siamese, Sam, and she won’t leave Taby alone!” On and on you chat until the groceries are all scanned. You offer her your credit card, heft your bags into your cart, and you say a quick ‘Thanks & Goodbye’ as you forget her and start planning what to make for dinner. Have you just networked? I used to think so. But thanks to Donna’s terrific session at MITACS, I found that I just had a conversation.
I, like many other sceptics, used to think that networking events were dull; a real drag. Oh, the food and cheap (or free!) and drinks were always a great draw, but I have hardly gotten anything out of the events. Therefore, I thought it was either an effort in futility, or possibly a task that needed a tremendous amount of luck to get what you wanted. Oh, how wrong I was! I simply approached it the wrong way.
Donna Messer showed us the value of using the W3 approach to networking. It’s sure to reap wonderful results and leave you fulfilled. The W3 answers 3 questions that could get your foot into just about any door: Who am I? What do I need? What am I willing to share?
The core of the W3 method is realizing that ‘networking’ isn’t just identifying the person in a room whom you want to meet, or finding someone who knows someone that can give you a job; it’s about asking someone what you can offer.
Donna showed us that EVERYONE has something to share, something that will be valuable to another person. For example, “You knit? Great! I was looking for cute booties and stockings for my niece.” And the person you’re speaking with is the wife of a board member of Coca-Cola – the company you’d like to do an internship with. Maybe she can put in a word for you with her husband now that she can buy booties from you…
A lot of the attendees in my session were students on the verge of completing their 2nd or 3rd degree, or students who are about to graduate in a few months, so just about everyone came to learn to “Network to get work” (Donna’s phrase). We found that one of the easiest ways to stand out from the other interviewees is to make who we are relevant. After introducing ourselves, telling what we know, and explaining what we need, we can ask how we can help them. By making ourselves interesting and likeable, we’re more likely to be remembered – and hired!
What was the problem with the cat scenario I referred to? Yes, we both had something in common – being cat people – but we did not really establish a link for ourselves. We didn’t offer each other anything that added value to our lives or experiences. That’s the difference. When you truly network, you give something and you get something. And there’s value added on all sides. Win-win, they call it…?
A very generous touch from Donna was a list of over 50 resources from a vast number of fields. This was extremely fitting since we were from diverse disciplines and had different interests. The list featured a club we could use to travel the globe on OPM (other people’s money), a resource to send out free cards (not e-cards!) to people, and even an organisation that offers mentoring to young professionals. I could go on and on about the value of this workshop. But don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s what some other attendees said:
“I am planning to join the work force after 4 years off to raise my 2 babies. I needed the energy and the ideas you imparted to start the journey again. I feel energized, my batteries are recharged and I’m motivated and confident to start that journey again.”
“The session was quite useful to me, it clarified some points I needed clarified and showed me new methods that I can utilize in both my career.”
“I’ve learned it’s not what you want that goes first, it’s what you can offer to the other party that should be uppermost in your mind.”
“I love the idea of “giving a gift” to another person to help build their network. It’s the pay it forward belief. Thanks Donna.”
Yes, the iPhone, the iPod, iTouch, and Xbox are great. But let me challenge you to try something new: Engage in iNetwork. It won’t only enrich your life, it’ll take you to places you’d only dreamed and wished for.
Want to hear a true story? This is my first published blog – a venture I’d only secretly dreamed of. And it’s all come to fruition because I attended Donna’s teaching, and said ‘Yes’ at the right time.
Try it. You will NOT be disappointed. So when next opportunity knocks…? iNetwork!
Contact Ima at email@example.com