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by Denise DeJulio, KCSAE Ex-Offico Board Member

When I was presented with possible topics to write about this month …. The one that caught my attention was “networking.”  After all,  my entire career has been all about networking – attending tradeshows, conventions, meetings, dinners, lunches … etc.  And I don’t know if anyone felt like I did coming out of Covid, but I felt that my in-person networking skills were a little rusty.

Some people do not like to network, it makes them feel uncomfortable or feel phony, they don’t’ like to share about themselves.  While others thrive on it and are energized by it.

Regardless of whether you like to network or not - the reality is that networking is still a necessity in today’s business environment.  Have you ever heard that “Your network is your net worth”?  Or, how many times have you heard – “It is not what you know, but who you know”?

You may have first been taught that networking is just to get access to job opportunities …. While that is true, it is just one of many reasons we network.  We network to gain more knowledge, get fresh ideas, get a new perspective, build confidence and strengthen business connections.

Networking can be done anywhere and with anyone …. Co-workers, friends, clients, neighbors, teachers.  We could probably all share a story about how we were sitting on the shuttle bus and the person next to you shared a common interest or connection – you then became quick friends and maybe even gained a new client.

I don’t consider KCSAE a shy group, but now with so many remote workers, it may be time to dust off some networking tips and reminders.   Here are a few which are intended to help make networking more meaningful …..

Quality over quantity - you don’t have to act crazy and talk to everyone in the room.  You want to build genuine relationships …. know before you go who you may want to connect with.  Look at that pre-registration list!

Focus on learning – concentrate on the positives and you’re more likely to perceive networking as an opportunity for discovery verses a chore.

Identify common interests - consider how your goals align with those of people you meet, and networking will feel more authentic.  Don’t preach, pry or pretend.

Think broadly about what you can give - remember that you have something valuable to offer, whether it’s knowledge, gratitude, or recognition.

Don’t make it about “me” - always give before you ask for something back.

Listen – this could be the most difficult but probably the most important skill there is.  Don’t’ worry about what you are going to say next.

Have your elevator speech ready – prepare, practice and perfect your approach.

Follow up – this may be the most important item, you have created this relationship - now you need to maintain it.  I believe social media channels have given us no excuse not to follow up – it has made it easier to stay connected thru LinkedIn, Instagram, and so many other platforms.  I will date myself but I remember having to send letters or call people on the telephone – before email.  (I also had to walk 5 miles to school uphill in the snow)

Networking is about interacting with others and KCSAE provides a great setting and opportunity to interact with our peers and colleagues.  So, dust off those networking skills and join in the next KCSAE in person event.  Even if you make just one new connection … it will be well worth it, who knows - it could be your next new co-worker, mentor, advisor or your new best friend!

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