Friday, April 16, 2010

N for Networking

I was at work the other day when my phone rang. I recognised the number immediately- it was the mother of one of the girls in my younger one's class. The holidays had just started, so it was unlikely she was calling to pass on a message. Maybe she wanted to set up a play date or something. I wanted to ignore the call, but if I did, I would only have to call back later. I groaned inwardly, and took the call. Luckily, she got to the point almost immediately.
"You work for a NGO, don't you?", she asked. "I wonder if you know any organisation that helps cancer patients who cannot afford treatment. You see, my brother-in-law's driver has cancer, and they just cannot afford treatment. I was wondering if there was anyone who could help."
I started telling her that I work for a non-profit that works with children, and we have absolutely nothing in common with organisations in the health sector, but by the time the words formed, what came out was something like, "You could try Cancer Patients Association. They are based in Worli and I know they subsidise treatments for people who cannot afford it. And there is this other lady who is a cancer survivor herself. Her organisation mainly does counselling, but on a case to case basis, they try to raise money for deserving people. And of course, you could always try..."
Ten minutes later, the lady had details of five organisations that she could approach, including one where I knew the founder personally, even though we had been out of touch for nearly six years. She was thrilled to get so many leads, and I was equally happy that I had been able to help someone.

And that got me thinking about Networking. Now there are some people who are born networkers, but I never considered myself one of them. An only child, I was always quite self contained and did not have any great need for personal friendships. I was friendly with people, but never went out of my way to keep in touch. To be perfectly honest, I almost considered "Networking" a bad word. Networking was something people who did not have much to recommend themselves did to advance themselves. In fact, there were times in my life when I actually went out of my way to avoid contact with people who had passed out of my life.

And then I discovered LinkedIn, and Facebook. I discovered people I had even forgotten I knew, and I found that I liked interacting with them outside real time. Without quite realising it, I found myself storing random bits of information in my brain, and pretty soon found myself making connections. The school mate who was looking for an editor, the friend who did freelance editing. The colleague looking to change jobs, a batch-mate who wanted to recruit someone with a similar profile. An NGO desperate for donations, a funder looking for an organisation similar to that. I found myself networking all the time, and I found that I enjoyed it.

All my life, I had known two things about my brain - that it had the capacity to store an almost infinite amount of trivial information, and that my neural pathways were wired in a way that made seemingly random connections between disconnected pieces of information to come up with something almost intuitive. Looked at dispassionately, my brain was hard wired for Networking.

Networking, I now realise, is anything but a dirty word. Networking has the capacity to connect two needs, and come up with a synergistic relationship. Networking creates a cat's cradle out of a tangled mass of wool. And when it is used to do good, there is nothing more fulfilling than that.


Anonymous said...

Well said! I think networking receives bad press at times, in that it often perpetuates privilege and promotes cliques. But networking as facilitation, to help people realize their genuine needs, that's impressive. You're earning some serious good karma, Nutty!

Lisa said...

Very nicely woven together illustration. Networking has truly become a wonderful thing!

dipali said...

You make it sound so good!
I think using your natural flair for it is going to make it even more effective.

Mason Canyon said...

I like your explanation of networking. That's what it should be. As an only child too, I can understand about being self contained. Very inspiring post.

Thoughts in Progress


If networking is used correctly it canbe a God send to many people, It's those people who abuse the rules that give networking a bad name,


slommler said...

Hmmm! You have almost convinced me to start networking myself!! I am not known as a people person either...but you make this seem almost palatable!! Great post

Debby said...

I have been writing about networking for over four years in my blog and I just love your cat's cradle description. Well done!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was great you could help her. Networking is a good thing.
And I tend to store a lot of trivial stuff in my head as well. Sometimes I remember - sometimes I don't!

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm learning that networking is important - and not an evil I once thought. Your post just confirms this more.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm amazed that whatever I think of, I know someone in my network who could help or knows the answer. And that's pretty amazing!

Watery Tart said...

How wonderful to be connecting people who need each other or people to organizations. I think it's really true that some of this happens really naturally when you are just OUT THERE. I haven't done it on the level you have, but within my domains, I seem to do a little of it, and in the writing community, I find myself doing more and more of it. I also thought of it as a dirty word, until I realized it doesn't have to be a cheap, materialistic thing... you can really LIKE the people you network with--make friends and it STILL works. It seemed so "salesmanish' before. Now it seems more like a system of helpers. I'm glad I learned, as I know I need it.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Great post. I love how you made it personal and about life. That is so great that you were able to help her. I will check out Linkd...never heard of it.

Elana Johnson said...

This is so true. It is all about meeting the needs of individuals with the skills of others. Great post!

Carol Fleisher said...

What a great post. I liked how you gave a personal touch to talking about networking. I'm glad that there that the man could get some help. I am just starting to realize how important networking is. Good job! Have a wondeful weekend.

Beth said...

:) Well written enjoyable post! So glad you were able to help the woman who called you for information! Enjoy networking!

Natalie said...

I agree, good things happen to those who network. One of my friends has about 10 agent contacts all because she taken the time to get to know people. She hasn't even queried yet, but when she does she'll have a lot of open doors.

Marjorie said...

Without networking I would never have met you. That would be a real shame, because you are one of my favorite people.

Linda said...

Wow! I too have had negative connotations to the term networking, but your description makes it such a positive thing--after all, we are all networked thru the blogosphere which is a concept that was utterly foreign to me before I decided to pursue a writing career. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration and insight ;-)

Not enough hours! said...

@ Niru - I always thought of it as something perpetuating cliques too, and something I would never condescend to do. But it serves a useful purpose too. And it feels good if you are able to help someone.

@ Lisa - thank you, and it is wonderful, isn't it?

@ Dipali - there is so much potential for good in networking. Not just in the social sector, but everytime you connect demand to supply and create value. Unfortunately, dalal is still a bad word in India.

@ Mason - thank you, and you are great at networking too.

@ Yvonne - I guess it all comes down to why you do it- if you do it because you want to create value, it does. If you do it for personal gain, it does that too.

@ SueAnn - anyone active in blogosphere has already committed herself to networking. You can do a lot of good too, like I am now finding.

@ Debby - thank you. Please free to use it if you want. And I'm following your blog too.

@ Alex - come to think of it, she was networking too. I was someone she knew slightly in a very different capacity, and when she wanted to help someone else, she happened to think of me.

@ Jaydee - it has the potential to do a lot of good, if used well.

@ Diane - that is amazing, isn't it?

@ Tami - you are the queen of networking. Part of the reason I do it so shamelessly these days is because you have inspired me to. You and my current boss.

@ Raquel - thank you. I mainly use LinkedIn for professional contacts, and it is great.

@ Elana - thank you. The little I know of you, you are a pro at Networking yourself.

@ Carol - thank you.

@ Beth - thank you

@ Natalie - that's really awesome

@ Marjorie - so true. We made so many friends on HPANA, didn't we? And it was fabulous we could re-connect on Facebook

@ Linda - yes, the blogosphere is all about networking, or at least about connecting.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Networking and serendipity -- a powerful combination.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Patricia - that is a potent combination. And thanks for giving me my S word!


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