Guest post by Corrie Lee
Networking can often be a drag. You think of it as going to mixers full of people who only care about “rubbing elbows” with the rich and powerful, or big wigs only talking about themselves. Well, this weekend Alison Centofante from Alliance Defending Freedom gave us all a new idea about what it means to network.
Building connections is so important because it helps us become less polarized. As Alison pointed out, craziness loves a vacuum, so we have to understand the value in intellectual diversity. We must build “strategic alliances” that can form from differences of opinion to give both sides an opportunity to thrive and succeed. One example of a “strategic alliance” Alison mentioned was when her organization at the time, Concerned Women for America, partnered with NOW to get the attention of Attorney General DeWine and charge a group of men who sexually assaulted a high school girl.
This played into another one of Alison’s key points: “some alliances are dates, not marriage.” Not every strategic alliance will last forever, but it’s important that you don’t burn a bridge just because you don’t know what’s on the other side. What if Alison had ignored the call from NOW simply because she knew their political affiliation? Justice may never have been served for that young woman. It’s the same in our professional lives. Don’t ignore someone just because you don’t know the doors they can open for you, and don’t assume that every relationship you build has to be indefinite. Some relationships are just for a season.
Next, Alison hit on how important it is to know your “zone of excellence”. This includes the activities you do very well and get a lot of joy from. Not everyone is going to get their first job in their zone of excellence, but if you know where it is, it’s that much easier to get back to.
When networking we often hear the same questions over and over again: “what do you do?” is perhaps the worst offender. Instead of asking someone what they do, try sparking a conversation by asking where they’re from, how they’ve built such a strong network, who they know at the event, or how long they’ve lived in the area. Each of these questions can help spawn a conversation that is much deeper than what job they perform every day, and can help build a deep network.
Young adults often forget that social media is a powerful tool to build a professional network, and Alison hit on some key points with how to build strong alliances online. First, don’t be polarizing or overly offensive. Be approachable and easy to talk to so others are naturally drawn to you. Next, ask questions. Try to figure out why others believe differently from you. Another key to success is reading your post from an outsider’s perspective and considering how you would feel if you scrolled past it. Think once before you write, and three times before you post. Finally, remember the goal. The goal is to build strong alliances. Keep that in mind when you post anything on your social media.
Finally, Alison discussed how to build an alliance with your future boss. Perhaps one of the most important alliances you can build. She gave these helpful hints:
- Ask: What’s your priority? What’s your timeline?
- Be attentive to their needs and think in advance
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
- Ask as many questions as possible
- Watch your neutral face
- Be humble and ready to do any task
All in all, Alison had some wonderful points and provided so many secrets to her success. The overarching point? Think of others first. Whether it’s interactions with your future boss, peers, or others on social media, always keep in mind the image you portray, and how you’re making others feel, and you will succeed.