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Aug 01 2018
Networking - Yeah! or No Way?
April Tanner, CCE, Kimball Equipment

Networking - a word that has some of you are saying YEAH! Others NO WAY! I am here to advise you on the importance of making it a "Yeah" in your life.

Networking is underrated in its value. In my experience and a little bit of study on the subject proves that networking is an essential part of career advancement and achievement. As parents we know this because when our children are in school and preparing for college and adult life we encourage networking (only we don't call it networking). Some scholarships weight the "networking" part of a student's life as important as the grades.

We encourage our children to be in sports, clubs, and special interest groups, being a volunteer and to be socially conscious. We as parents/adults see the value of having well-rounded children. We tell our children that it is not always what you know but who you know. We explain the value of good friends and social groups. Somehow, we have forgotten as adults to continue these same types of networking. Again, according to my experience and the little studying up I have just done, people are most likely to get their next job through someone they know - their network.

I get it, we are all busy. We have children to raise, sometimes adult parents to care for. We have jobs and religious responsibilities and we have WORK. Many of us take time daily to reach out to our friends and family in our social network via email, Facebook, text, Instagram - you get the picture. Take a little of that effort and advance your work network.

In today's world it is difficult to advance our careers with just excellent performance and attendance. We need to socialize with other generations, challenge our thinking, and meet new people. Build relationships and not just with our usual crowd of friends, family and coworkers. Networking can come in many forms: Alumni meetings, company picnics, PTA, sport associations etc. Within NACM it can be as easy as joining a credit group, becoming a member of ICEL or being a volunteer on a committee for NACM or ICEL. These take very little time and money but are priceless.

I have learned so many valuable tidbits for my life and work skills from my networks. I have had job offers from my network. I have achieved goals with the help of mentors - people I value in my network. Sharing my skills with others has advanced my knowledge in many areas. I consider my network of NACM associates as friends and valuable people in my life. Like friends in your social network - you see some all the time, others once in a while but all are important. My networking includes reaching out to people at the local and national credit conferences, being a volunteer for NACM on committees and groups. I take calls from other credit professionals when they have questions and they take calls from me when I need help. They even encourage and entice me to do new things like serve on the NACM Board or teach a class at WRCC this fall. I guarantee if I were not involved in NACM and had this network, I would not be the credit professional I am today and will be in the future.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable and intimidating to meet new people, but it doesn't have to be. Start with something easy and low pressure -something fun. Start by attending the NACM Summer Social on Aug 24th. We are having a low-key Tailgating BBQ. You can meet new people in a social environment. There will be food and bingo. You can wear sports team affiliated gear or come in your work attire, there will be people there in both groups. Introduce yourself to one or two new people. Tell them who you work for or where you live, and the conversation takes off from there - so easy. Introduce yourself to me and I can do most of the talking if you want, so no pressure. Also, if you start broadening your network with something open ended like an after work social you can stay a short time or long time, whatever is comfortable for you at that moment.

Someone recently asked me why it was so easy for me to reach out to new people and wanted me to share some tips. Well, it wasn't and isn't always easy, but I do always have a goal and that helps. It also helps to understand that opening a conversation takes little effort, it is the listening to the other person that takes the effort and is most important. Here are a few tips that I researched and are part of what I do:

     1. Purpose - what is my purpose at this event-all work, all play, some of both? Be ready for what my purpose is. In my case even work things are play things. I can be serious, but I truly love working in credit, so I have fun with it.

     2. Opening Line - what can be said to start a short conversation? Of course it depends on my purpose. For example, if I am going to a group meeting for the first time, my intention would be to learn about my customers from others. I would need to be able to introduce myself and where I work; that should start things out just fine. I would need to be prepared with the group printouts and be willing to listen and ask questions as the new person to the group. On the other hand, at a social event for work, I would start the same way, with who I am and where I work and then ask who they are and where they work. If I am unable to make a connection with that information, I can always go with the question of what area do they live in...I can always find something of interest even if it is just about commute time. 

     3. Keep it Casual - no pressure on either party. If you are worried about taking too much of someone's time or are uncomfortable being the conversation starter say something like "Hey, I just have a minute but wanted to take a minute to say hello, my name is _____________and I really liked {what you said today, or your tie}." If you only get a thanks in reply then it is easy to move on but more than likely this will start a conversation. 

     4. Follow Through - What should I take away from this event? Add contacts to your phone and gather business cards. Make a note of a new thing you learned. Ask yourself "Do I need to share additional information?" If yes, set a reminder in your phone. Most of all, follow through by setting a new goal to attend another event.

See you on August 24th for the NACM BBQ Tailgate social. Remember - networking is valuable and rewarding....and you never know when you are going to need those contacts.