I remember being at an MBAA (Master Brewers Association of America) meeting years ago in beautiful Hood River, Oregon. After the education portion of the event was concluded, we were invited to go for a hike. Knowing the beer community to be a very social one, and that I enjoy hiking, I went along. On the trail, I ended up being the tail end of a long string of fun people out enjoying the fresh air and the day. The person in front of me was very friendly and we ended up chatting about life and sharing stories the whole way up and back. Once we returned to the trailhead and everyone was dispersing, I hugged my new friend goodbye knowing I’d see him again. It’s a small community!
As I buckled up in my car, my fine husband asked me, “Do you know who you were talking with?” “No,” I replied, “and frankly, I didn’t really care. I was simply having fun, connecting.” “That was Don Barkley,” he smiled. (Look him up if that’s a new name to you.)
When we fully realize and respect that connecting one person at a time, one conversation at a time, is what moves the world forward, then we connect authentically. Enjoyably. Meaningfully. Effectively. The days of casual networking are long gone. So are the days of “if you brew it, they will come” and “I want to be in beer, everyone is hiring.” Now is the time for skilling up and taking action. Pandemic or no pandemic, the real rubber of life hits the road when we focus on connecting versus networking to build the career we want and want to love. The first step is to ditch the idea of networking and focus on connecting. What’s the difference, you may ask?
- Connecting is deep, it’s intentional and holds a specific purpose: to serve. It’s an action word. To connect is to link two pieces together. Two people in this case, with the intent that two together are better than separate singles.
- Networking is a noun. It’s a thing. Think of it this way: a network is a skeleton, a structure you build. It’s not the people or the act. Connecting is a verb, an action word. Connecting is the muscle that moves the skeleton with efficacy and impact. It doesn’t work the other way around.
As I lay out in my book, The Connectivity Canon, anyone who wants to learn how to connect, can. There’s a framework – The 7 Elements of Connectivity – that guides our connecting efforts. In fact, the second of those Elements in creating and developing meaningful relationships is Mindset. Said another way, once you decide you want to connect, you can learn how to do so. Set your mind to it and do it! The great news here is that personal descriptors such as introvert and extrovert are irrelevant. Connecting is skills-based. Like all skills we wish to develop, we set our mind: we want to learn, we make a plan, and then we execute. We don’t lean on limiting labels and titles to connect; those are excuses. We fully embrace and understand that energy and effort are required, so we dig in and Do The Work.
The very first Element required is knowing your Why. Why do you want to connect in the first place? (And to whom.) And for what purpose? I’ll tell you right now, that if your intention is anything other than service, your efforts will fall short. Service drives all the very best efforts and resulting momentum, possibilities and opportunities. From choosing a course – to interviewing – to architecting a career we want. When we’re building our careers, and especially when we’re getting into a new industry, connecting is Queen. It’s first and foremost a desire to get to know others and find out what they need. It’s not a push, card-shove or quantity game. It’s genuine, human and happens one person at a time. One conversation at a time. Go for quality, never volume.
After you determine your Why, focus your mindset. Our powers to accomplish what we ‘set our mind’ on doing is more powerful than we realize. Once you’ve set your mind on connecting, then learn best practices to generate real results. The 7 Elements of Connectivity outlines a clear path to get in motion. The 7 Elements I’ve discovered that make a strong effective framework for connecting are as follows:
- The Why
- First Move
- Y in the Road
- Pursue Your Path
- Follow Up
- Follow Through
So, ask yourself: Who do you want to meet on that proverbial hike? Who do you want to serve? Who would you like to sincerely and impactfully connect with? Why?
Start with questions, end with answers. All of it is founded in real human connection. And to that, I say cheers! Now, get connecting!