Why Networking Proves The “It’s Not Me, It’s You” Theory

It’s not me, it’s you. You’re the one who should’ve recommended me for a job that is not yet advertised. You’re the one who could coach me up on a challenge I’m facing at work. And you’re the one, who, with practice, could turn me into a better communicator, allowing me to put people at ease and share valuable information about myself that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

So yes, this time, it’s not me, it’s you.

With that mindset networking becomes more of a chore and less of an essential skill. So how do you avoid the biggest networking don’t – turning a networking opportunity into a rant about “me, me, and me” – and turning it into a tool to grow and sustain your personal and professional networks?

In our recent career online training, “Become a Networking Ninja: Tips to Better Networking,” panelists gave insights on just that – 20 tips to get the most out of your networking event, networking inside the federal government, and how to maintain relationships by following up.

Speakers included:

  • Catherine Andrews, Director of Content at GovLoop
  • Asha Aravindakshan, Operations Director, Global Talent, Ashoka
  • Michael Lawyer, Special Assistant to the Chief Human Capital Office, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Here’s a checklist to follow from the tips provided in the online training, which you can view here:

  • Set internal reminders: it’s easy to talk too much about yourself when you get nervous but ask yourself every few minutes if the other person has spoken or is “looking off into the distance with a desperate look into their eyes,” as Andrews puts it.
  • Practice on the “unimportant people”: though there is not such a thing as unimportant people, Lawyer enforces that networking is a skill that takes practice, so ”practice on a more forgiving audience.”
  • Keep off the short-term: Lawyer recommends framing a question that doesn’t ask a higher-level executive to solve a problem for you, but instead respects their perspective and expertise and that keeps off the immediate ask and more towards a future mentorship. Always be sure to follow up with how their advice helped you.
  • Build friendships: Lawyer put it best: “Networking really is about building friendships, they’re just friends you happen to do work with and that’s just a better life when you get to do the things you really care about with the people you really care about.” So make it your goal to set up two coffee dates between now and NextGen (GovLoop’s annual training summit) to build those lasting connections.
  • Avoid talking personal: Andrews said it depends on the person you’re talking to, but recommended staying away from personal issues unless it’s bought up naturally – never initiating a personal conversation.
  • Show your spirit: use the summary section of your LinkedIn profile to craft a narrative to explain your professional journey beyond resume bullets points, noted Aravindaksahn. “And you can also add videos or documentations to really make it lively.”

So back to this whole “it’s not me, its you” theory. You’re the one who cut me a break. You’re the one who can serve as a reference to me on LinkedIn. And you’re the one who gets nerdy about the same things I’m nerdy about. Maybe we can work it out after all. Be sure to view the on-demand version of this training here for the full list of tips for better networking.

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