Networking is one of my favorite topics to discuss. As a recent college graduate, I vividly recall my initial trepidation attending networking events with my boss. Despite being an extrovert, the idea of conversing with strangers was daunting. Questions like, “What do I say?” and “Why would they want to talk to me?” loomed large. At 23, how could I add value to discussions with individuals a decade or more my senior?
To overcome my apprehension, I stuck close to my boss, relying on him to make introductions and guide me through the crowd. His graceful approach to people, marked by authenticity, left a lasting impression. Even as a CEO, he remained himself—genuine, unconcerned about being liked but genuinely caring, interested, and attentive. His advice to read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” became a cornerstone for me, shaping my approach to networking. The key takeaways were simple: be myself, be genuine, be kind, and let conversations flow.
Despite the initial dread many feel about networking, it became easier for me over the years. I had to dispel misconceptions and I reframed my mindset, viewing networking not as a sales endeavor but as an opportunity for learning.
During my tenure leading the team at BCBSNC, I recognized the need for a peer network. I reached out to five leaders from different organizations in the Triangle, offering to treat them to coffee or lunch. To my surprise and disappointment, only one person agreed to meet. This experience highlighted a common misconception among Talent Acquisition professionals—that networking is unnecessary. While most recruiters acknowledge the importance of social networking on platforms like LinkedIn, real-world connections within the talent community and industry expertise are equally crucial.
Networking isn’t just about job hunting or hiring; it’s a valuable avenue for professional growth. As a leader, I make an effort to connect with others over coffee, lunch, or phone calls. Building a strong network of talent professionals allows us to share ideas, learn from each other’s successes and failures, and collectively navigate common challenges. By paying it forward—sharing insights and lessons learned—we contribute to the growth of our professional community.
Ultimately, my networking goal is centered on learning, and the friendships I’ve cultivated along the way have proven invaluable. I encourage you to approach networking with a similar mindset, emphasizing the mutual benefits of knowledge exchange and relationship building.
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