One of the first American values of importance I learnt about, is that of networking and its power. During the on boarding Fellow orientation upon arrival from our home countries to the United States of America (USA), networking was highlighted as a key American value we should learn and live up to. To prepare us the Fellows for the great ocean of opportunities in networking, we were oriented about the importance of having business cards and being ready to always give them out. We further learnt about the one minute elevator speech to summarize and effectively communicate our core skills, competencies and experiences, attending happy hours, keeping an updated LinkedIn profile and attending as many networking events as one can possibly manage to meet new people, among other strategies, all in the importance of growing our networks and preparing ourselves for that particular opportunity we so desire.
May 2018, being my 8th month in the USA, and having lived all the learnt networking strategies during my on boarding orientation, I am rethinking my strategy of always being on my marks to attend numerous events, dish business cards and re-citing the one minute elevator speech to whoever is willing to listen. I have somewhat still ended up with my initial belief, about networking- you can’t know the whole world. You can simply be your best in your relationships and your work as you impact those you meet daily and for the first time, as you grow your circle of friends and acquaintances.
If one cannot know the whole world, what then is the best strategy for building networks? I think the best strategy is to adopt what works well for an individual. In a world of stiff competition, for jobs, donor funding, supplier contracts, and other forms of attention, I think it is important for us to aim at building a good lasting impression on the people we work with and live with. Additionally, joining groups that tap into our natural talents and skill sets and being committed members to these associations. For example, if one is a committed member of a tennis club, professional association or a church group, and one makes meaningful friendships in these associations, the members of these associations are more likely to put their reputation on the line because friendships have been harnessed. The same is equally true if we work well with our co-workers and supervisors, which places us at a better position in awarding us the next opportunities we seek, than just going to numerous events and dishing out business cards and LinkedIn profiles, because people may not likely put their reputation on the line for someone they don’t know. This is not to say that the way I networked in the last 8 months has not entirely been fruitful, it just may have slower results, in my view.
I will end with a quote from Mishaat, “Networking is not collecting contacts, networking is about planting relations”.