I went to get my nails done today, with my daughter. I only have one daughter, so I’m lucky that she likes to do mother-daughter stuff like that with me…at least, for now. No telling how long she’ll be willing to hang around with me, so I’m taking it while I can get it.
We were waiting for our nails to dry, and she said “I don’t understand all this talk about networking. It sounds like just talking to people. I do it all day long, if that’s all it is. I’m the biggest networker ever.”
“It’s true!” I said to her. “You are the biggest networker ever. You like to talk to people, and you are genuinely interested in what they say.” I remembered a story from a few years ago, when she started middle school. The poor thing hit the school as the only child – apart from her twin brother – coming from her elementary school. All of her elementary-school friends had gone to other middle schools. She sat in the lunchroom and tried to make conversation with the new girls she was meeting – girls in groups – the groups of friends-since-kindergarten, from other schools, who were all entering middle school together. My daughter would eat her sandwich and await her turn to speak, and when she did, she’d usually ask one of the girls something about herself. Do you have any siblings? What do you like to do after school?
One day a girl turned to her and said “What’s wrong with you? Why do you ask people questions all the time?”
Here’s why: because she’s a networker! These days, she has plenty of friends. She understands that the best networking focuses on the other person.
Anyway, here’s the story I want to tell you. I belonged to a mastermind group, and it wasn’t a good one. Those things can be great, so they tell me – or they can be awful. Mine was pretty bad. I quit, and so did my friend Susan. Susan said “Let’s get some folks together for lunch, say, once a month. That will be better than the mastermind group.” So we did it. At the first lunch, I met one of Susan’s friends, named Peggy.
Before long, Peggy asked me to join a leadership group for an association she’s involved with. I went to one meeting as a guest, to meet the folks and learn more. Peggy was asked to introduce me to the group. She said, “This is my friend Liz, an online marketing expert.” I laughed. I’m an HR person! But I understand the confusion. Peggy knows me as an online networker, a discussion-group leader. She knows I speak about social networking and branding. But, still. I am a complete novice when it comes to SEO, meta-tags, natural search – forget it. I’m totally out of my depth.
I had two initial reactions to Peggy’s surprising intro. The first was “Wow, I should do a better job of letting people know what sort of work I do.” I’m an HR person, totally in the communication/culture side of the fence. My second observation was “The good news is, it doesn’t really matter whether Peggy knows what I do. I could be an electrician or a Tarot card reader. She like me, she thinks I’d be a good addition to this leadership group.” That reminded me that networking is all about creating relationships, not so much describing one’s Unique Selling Proposition.