Building your personal network and engaging it

In another lifetime, I trained people to speak and interact with their local media (newspaper, radio and/or television) on behalf of their organization. One of the questions I asked that used to really stymie people was, “How many of you are completely networked?” No hands would go up. I would then ask, “How many of you have five people who work in a different field from yours that you can call with a question?” Most of the hands would go up and I would then say, “Then you are indeed networked.”

My belief is that while an online network is good, a personal network is even better. You need to expand your list of people that you can call with a question OUTSIDE of your department. I’m a bit of dinosaur in one way (besides my advancing age) – I firmly believe that it’s better to communicate IN PERSON or ON THE PHONE rather than through E-MAIL only. Yes, it’s a sure sign that I should probably be headed for a tar pit, but not before I give you a good reason or two for this philosophy.

For example, you work in IT for a company or a government agency. You probably have more than a handful of people you can call for answers to any questions regarding hardware, software, routers…you get the idea. However, when it comes time for you to call about getting your chair replaced or how to sign up for a company event or even what changes are coming out in the next handbook, you find yourself staring mindlessly at an organizational chart as flop sweat breaks out on your brow because you have to CALL SOMEONE THAT YOU DON’T PERSONALLY KNOW!

Relax, Binky. First and foremost, unless you have the unenviable job in a company or department that is run as a fiefdom, you are free to communicate with anyone up and down the food chain (or chain of command, or org chart or whaterver term you use.) Second, it’s good to step outside your comfort zone once in a while – it gets the blood flowing. Third, you are networking externally. You are developing a contact that is outside of your normal sphere and that is a good thing.

You should be able to have just about any question answered with a phone call, if you are fully networked and your network is engaged. You also have to be a part of THEIR network, as well – it cannot work one way (at least not for very long.) Believe it or not, these work relationships and/or symbioses are a good thing. You all work for the same company or government – you might as well actually work TOGETHER. I realize that it’s a bizarre concept in the time of non-verbal communication, but it is one that truly works.

If a number of people are committed to the same goal that goal is so much more easily attainable. If all the oars are pulling the same way, the boat can go through any storm. If all the people you can network with are committed to work with each other and with you and you are committed to working with them, there isn’t anything that you cannot do as a group. Yes, it involves actually talking to people, but no one has ever died from that as far as I can tell.

So, what do YOU think, gentle readers? Am I right or am I (as has been postulated by my boss) more than a little off? Let me know what you think by leaving me a comment below. I look forward (no, really, I do) to reading them

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