Network with a Purpose — And It Will Be Less Awkward!

We’re blogging from the Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Follow along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

“How do you feel about networking?”

That question was met with mixed results as the afternoon breakout session — Purposeful Networking — began.

The session was hosted by David Uejio, Lead for Talent Acquisition at the CFPB, and David Bray, CIO at the FCC.

Uejio kicked off the conversation by explaining that not everyone regards networking in the same way.

Some people look at the process as simply a means to an end. These people often introduce themselves by asking the question, “Who do you work for?” – which can be a big detractor. Others approach networking as a transaction. These are the types of folks who attach a quid pro quo to conversations. And there are also people – especially in the Federal space – who spout too many acronyms too quickly and are just plain difficult to understand.

But networking doesn’t have to be complicated or uncomfortable or awkward.

“Instead of thinking about networking as a way to get ahead for yourself, think about it … from a place of service,” Uejio said.

Bray and Uejio presented their tips for an alternative form of networking:

  • Network from a place of service
  • Reframe your role
  • Play the long game
  • Manage expectations
  • Work as a team

“Thinking about the way you ask questions really changes the dynamic of a conversation,” Uejio explained. Don’t treat someone as a walking career commodity — treat him or her like another human being.

It’s all about figuring out how you best communicate and reflecting that back upon the person with whom you’re speaking. Introverts, for example, might not want to approach networking in the same manner as their extrovert counterparts.

“It’s about managing your own expectations,” Uejio said. Keeping an open mind and being friendly can go a long way toward solidifying your reputation as a person of integrity – which can help you down the road.

“Increasingly our issues are horizontal in nature. They don’t fit into one agency,” Bray said. Being comfortable about exchanging ideas and presenting yourself in an honest way will not only help you become better at networking, but it could help you in the office, as well.

Most importantly, remember that the onus is on you. You control your own behavior and therefore you own the way you present yourself.

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