On Sunday I have to give a talk to a group of high school students about networking. They are attending Camp Enterprise, a program organized by the Rotary Club.
To be honest, I am a bit nervous about talking to a large group of teenagers. Intimidated, actually. Plus in their world right now, networking is not exactly something they practice or do on a regular basis.
So I have been working on how to make this more practical and relevant to them. I think it is the label “networking” that puts me off. Maybe it is just a case of changing our vocabulary. To me it is more about connecting with people in a genuine, authentic way, whereas networking conjures up pictures of a sleazy car salesman.
When I look back on my own career, it was through my connections and volunteering that new opportunities came my way. The jobs were never advertised, but people would put my name forward, or in one instance I suggested that someone hire me to tackle a challenge he was facing, and he did.
So how do you teach teenagers about networking? Part of it I think is explaining what it is and what it is not, and encouraging the practice of taking an interest in other people. Be interested and interesting is what I would suggest. And always, always follow up and say thank you to someone who has helped you or spent time chatting with you.
The whole six degrees of separation is also worth exploring, because we never know who knows who and how that connection could be the key influencer in their lives.
What do you think? What advice would you give?
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.