Networking

Networking is key to success, regardless of you vocation! Aside from my faith, few tools in my toolbox have served me better than my personal and professional network. When I think about how my network started and has grown over many years, I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” This proverb holds true when developing and nurturing your network.  If you’re a student reading this article, start growing your network today.  Your network is the most valuable currency you possess.

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I’m often asked by young adults what is the number one thing they should be working on.  It’s simple – your network.

Your professional network is much like a tree. As a young adult, it starts small with a few connections here and there. As you advance in school or your career, your network grows more limbs and branches.  With each passing day, a new branch is added and, sometimes, those branches take us in seemingly strange and unexpected directions. Those unexpected directions, when taken prayerfully, may represent God unveiling his will for you. Taken without prayer or contemplation, those directions may be foolish, or worse, dangerous.

Intentionality

How do you about intentionally growing a network?  It begins with goal setting. Setting a goal to meet at least one new person each week. A lunch meeting or a quick coffee request are generally well received by others (if not, you may not want to network with them anyway) and one meeting usually leads to another.  When meeting, your exclusive goal is to get to know someone better. Be fully present and keep your phone in your pocket or your purse. You may discover the person with whom you’re meeting to have interests and life experiences you never knew existed, thus expanding your horizons. Be willing to share “your story” with intentionality, discussing your family, career and interests.

Benefits

A robust network can produce job opportunities, new friendships and relationships. In times of need, big or small, your network can be relied upon for help.  For instance, at Apprentice University, we frequently need many professionals at our various events to network with our students.  Over the years, I’ve deliberately grown, pruned and nurtured my network such that filling an event with quality and qualified professionals is relatively easy.  Favors and requests are common within a healthy network and, the broader the network, the more likely you’ll find that specific person for a niche need.

Networking is a 2-Way Street

Networking is not all about receiving help or being asked by a friend for help It’s not all about taking. Your network is a two-way street and it demands your attention. Random acts of kindness ought to be labeled as “rare acts of kindness” these days and therein lies a great opportunity for you to differentiate your personal brand in your network. For example, let’s assume one day you’re scrolling through posts on social media and you happen to see someone you know has recently lost their job.  Instead of just scrolling on by, pick up your phone and give them a call (a text message in this case would be insulting, insincere and cheap). Rest assured their world has just been rocked and their need for their network to engage is high.  Don’t wait to be asked to help – jump in, grab coffee with them and listen (truly listen) to what’s on their mind.

Investment

As mentioned above, your network is like a tree. Thus far, we’ve focused on the visible portions of your network, the parts above ground – the limbs and branches.  But what’re equally important are the roots of your network, or your inner self.  A character willing to serve, with humility and without being asked, is a character which will produce a robust network of friends.  We spend time with people in our network, but we invest without reservation in those individuals of an authentic, humble character. In networking, if you’re perceived to always be out for gain, your network will be shallow and flimsy. Be prepared and eager to serve.  In other words, be willing to give of yourself. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Schedule Your Coffee Date!

Your network is one, if not the, most valuable tool in your toolbox. It requires intentionality, pruning and, most importantly, your deliberate and authentic engagement. Remember, plant that tree today – who will you ask to coffee tomorrow?

Networking

Aside from my faith, few tools in my toolbox have served me better than my personal and professional network. When I think about how my network started and has grown over many years, I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” This proverb holds true when developing and nurturing your network.  If you’re a student reading this article, start growing your network today.  Your network is the most valuable currency you possess.

I’m often asked by young adults what is the number one thing they should be working on.  It’s simple – your network.

Your professional network is much like a tree. As a young adult, it starts small with a few connections here and there. As you advance in school or your career, your network grows more limbs and branches.  With each passing day, a new branch is added and, sometimes, those branches take us in seemingly strange and unexpected directions. Those unexpected directions, when taken prayerfully, may represent God unveiling his will for you. Taken without prayer or contemplation, those directions may be foolish, or worse, dangerous.

Intentionality

How do you about intentionally growing a network?  It begins with goal setting. Setting a goal to meet at least one new person each week. A lunch meeting or a quick coffee request are generally well received by others (if not, you may not want to network with them anyway) and one meeting usually leads to another.  When meeting, your exclusive goal is to get to know someone better. Be fully present and keep your phone in your pocket or your purse. You may discover the person with whom you’re meeting to have interests and life experiences you never knew existed, thus expanding your horizons. Be willing to share “your story” with intentionality, discussing your family, career and interests.

Benefits

A robust network can produce job opportunities, new friendships and relationships. In times of need, big or small, your network can be relied upon for help.  For instance, at Apprentice University, we frequently need many professionals at our various events to network with our students.  Over the years, I’ve deliberately grown, pruned and nurtured my network such that filling an event with quality and qualified professionals is relatively easy.  Favors and requests are common within a healthy network and, the broader the network, the more likely you’ll find that specific person for a niche need.

Networking is a 2-Way Street

Networking is not all about receiving help or being asked by a friend for help It’s not all about taking. Your network is a two-way street and it demands your attention. Random acts of kindness ought to be labeled as “rare acts of kindness” these days and therein lies a great opportunity for you to differentiate your personal brand in your network. For example, let’s assume one day you’re scrolling through posts on social media and you happen to see someone you know has recently lost their job.  Instead of just scrolling on by, pick up your phone and give them a call (a text message in this case would be insulting, insincere and cheap). Rest assured their world has just been rocked and their need for their network to engage is high.  Don’t wait to be asked to help – jump in, grab coffee with them and listen (truly listen) to what’s on their mind.

Investment

As mentioned above, your network is like a tree. Thus far, we’ve focused on the visible portions of your network, the parts above ground – the limbs and branches.  But what’re equally important are the roots of your network, or your inner self.  A character willing to serve, with humility and without being asked, is a character which will produce a robust network of friends.  We spend time with people in our network, but we invest without reservation in those individuals of an authentic, humble character. In networking, if you’re perceived to always be out for gain, your network will be shallow and flimsy. Be prepared and eager to serve.  In other words, be willing to give of yourself. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Schedule Your Coffee Date!

Your network is one, if not the, most valuable tool in your toolbox. It requires intentionality, pruning and, most importantly, your deliberate and authentic engagement. Remember, plant that tree today – who will you ask to coffee tomorrow?

Read the entire Tools for Tomorrow series!

 

Empolyability Ron Brumbarger

Ron Brumbarger is one of Indiana’s most recognized technology and education entrepreneurs and visionaries. As a dedicated husband, father, friend, mentor, business owner and volunteer, Ron continually strives to weave his many passions into a unique tapestry to serve others. He has spent his entire professional career leveraging an entrepreneurial mindset to help disruptively change education, apply technology to enhance business practices and facilitate organizational growth. He co-founded BitWise in 1992 and served as the company’s president and CEO until January 2018. He was tapped in 2006 by Indiana’s Governor Daniels and Ball State President Gora to start Indiana’s first, statewide, virtual-charter school. In 2013, he founded Apprentice University ®, an award-winning, competency-based college of higher education, preparing future leaders.Content goes here

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