Staying Connected With Your Network
Feb 28 2009
Unlike my friend Thom Singer, I’m no subject matter expert on the topic of networking by any means, but I am a strong believer in the power of building and maintaining a solid network of both personal and professional friends. I’m an extrovert by nature and an ENTJ on the Meyer’s Briggs personality typing test (link to Wikipedia) so networking and relationship building usually comes easy for me, and I enjoy it. According to Wikipedia, only about 2% of the population are ENTJ’s (a.k.a. Fieldmarshals.) When I was getting my MBA, which was when I was last tested, I think about 30% of our class were ENTJ’s. Only about 20% of our class were women, so it’s probably an even rarer type for women. I’ve been told by more than a few people that I exhibit some typical male characteristics. Go figure!
I also believe the time to cultivate and reach out to your your network is not ONLY when times are tough. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who I haven’t spoken to in years (not just one or two years but five or more) who have been contacting me to help them with their job search. I mean, come on! How can I put my reputation on the line and refer them when I have no idea what they’ve been up to?!
There have been people I’ve worked with who I’ve stayed connected with in one way or another over the years who I’m more than happy to help introduce to people I know, but when I don’t hear a word from someone and the first contact I get is “Can you help me find a job?” or “Can you introduce me to so-and-so?” I literally roll my eyes. I love helping people so it pains me when people don’t get how important keeping up your network is when times are good.
Apparently no one (or no one will admit it) could have anticipated the economic state we find ourselves in worldwide, and despite the inordinate amount of angst I felt before taking on a day job, in hindsight someone (possibly the Flying Spaghetti Monster) was looking out for me and my family. Somehow I had the foresight (a.k.a ESP) to take drugs beat the angst into partial submission and accept the job which I’m now grateful for. I’m still trying to figure out how to get to what usually ends up being a good result without beating myself up inside to almost a bloody pulp before I realize the decision was not such a bad one, but that’s a topic for another blog post a whole novel.
There are four professional groups I meet face-to-face with fairly regularly throughout the year that mean a whole lot to me for a variety of reasons and they are:
B2C CEO/Founder Group – A small group of us meet monthly for lunch to discuss the challenges and joys of running a business that sells products to consumers (i.e. B2C), which is completely different than selling directly to businesses (i.e., B2B). I happen to be the only woman in this group, but in my career that has typically been the norm. The format is that we share something good and bad that has happened to us both professionally and personally since the last time we met. I really like this format because it allows us to get to know each other as human beings…not just business people. This month we discussed all the challenges some of us are facing with money, employees, and finding other creative ways to keep our businesses going. One person in the group had to put his business on hold for a while due to the economy. Sadly, he also recently discovered that one of his key technical people committed suicide which really threw him for a loop. Most of the rest of us are just taking it a day at a time and trying to keep our businesses alive. When I shared during our meeting last week, they all told me I shouldn’t give myself such a hard time and beat myself up for not being motivated to do some of the things I need to do after my day job and family commitments. I really needed to hear that because I have a lot of respect for them and it gave me some room to breathe. Last month we discussed mid-life crises since I seem to be in the middle of one (middle of my mid-life crisis sounds about right) and one guy said the way he dealt with his was to start a business! One thought he had to be married with kids to experience one but the rest of us who were married with or without kids quickly assured him that was not the case and he then said he’s been experiencing one for most of his life.
Boss Ladies Group – Another small group of only women about my age (all with small children) that meets monthly for lunch. When one of us has a baby, we work around their schedule if we can. We talk about our businesses and balancing our interest in building them while balancing our desires to be great mothers and wives. One of the women who formed this group invited me to speak to them probably a year or so ago, and I liked the group so much that I asked if I could become a member! Unlike the B2C and Web CEO groups, most of the women in this group do not have technology businesses. The businesses range from restaurants, to event planning, to consumer packaged goods, to marketing consulting.
Web CEO Group – This is a larger group that meets probably once every other month and there are a handful of other women CEOs in that group. We typically meet during a weekday afternoon. The format has typically been that we pick a topic and present what we’ve learned or questions we have that we pose to the group in that topic. Topics have ranged from internet marketing, to fund raising, to how to stay alive. A couple of us in the group have taken on outside jobs to continue moving our businesses forward.
Tuesday Ladies Group - This is another small group where we tried to meet bi-weekly but after a good start, many of us couldn’t make it consistently so we meet more sporadically. This group typically meets in the evening so I have a harder time making these meetings given that I’m the only one in the group with small kids. I’m actually the youngest one in this group with the others ranging in age from their 40′s to 70′s! Some of the women are entrepreneurs and some of them work for larger organizations but in my mind they are all very entrepreneurially minded. They have such wisdom to share not only in business but also in life. I get to hear and feel their life experiences, and I get such perspective from them both personally and professionally!
I had to take a hopefully temporary break from a weekly Blog Mastermind group that I’m involved in that I mentioned in my Giving Things Up post. Even though the calls are held over lunch I had to take some things off of my mind’s plate and that was one professional group I had to cut.
I also try to stay connected over email or phone with my family and friends when I can because without that support network, I surely would have lost it (more than I have) by now. I would do what I could to help pretty much all of the people in these groups if they needed it, and I’d like to think they would do the same for me.
So for those of you who are still employed, cultivate your network now but please be sincere. Just like on any of the social sites (e.g., twitter, facebook, linked in, etc.), people can detect insincerity or even desparation. If you always have a ‘what’s in it for me‘ approach, you won’t get as far as if you have a ‘how can I help you approach.’Author: Aruni | Filed under: entrepreneurship, networking | Tags: entj, meyer's briggs, networking | 15 Comments »