Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the art of networking

I walked out onto the rooftop deck of the Madison Hotel and gazed at the beautiful serenity of the mighty Mississippi River. There could not possibly be a better view in all of Memphis. As the sun set, I admired the gorgeous landscape of my home state from across the way.

And then I remembered why I was there: to network. I wish John Brown University had taught a class on how to introduce yourself to people you don’t know, specifically high power executives and city leaders. Networking is certainly an art form: effortlessly introducing yourself, landing on just the right topic of chit chat, and - the hardest part of all – finding a gracious exit to the conversation.

Like all things, I am sure it is something that comes naturally with practice, but for an introvert and networking newbie like me, it’s a painful beginning. Like always, I had trouble communicating my name. You would think “Jenny” would be pretty simple and to the point, but I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said “Jeannie?” or “Janine?” or even once “Channing?” I am the girl who can’t say her own name.

Then once introductions were through I had trouble coming up with topics of conversation. After two or three times, I decided, “So how long have you been in Memphis?” was the safest question to ask, and it was {pretty much} seamless from that point on.

But I had the worst time leaving once the conversation had played itself out. I didn’t have a next move, but I also didn’t have anything else to say. So I would borrow a line from my husband, “Welp!” and say it was nice to meet them, wish them a good evening, and wander around aimlessly until I gathered enough courage to talk to the next person.

I’m making myself sound very socially awkward, and I’m really not. I am proud of the way I handled myself tonight. I made lots of great connections and even better conversations. I learned about some amazing companies and received advice from people who moved to Memphis just like me.

And none of that would have ever happened if I stayed inside my shell.

But I have some people to thank for that:

-My friend Creamer for introducing me to the book The Energy Bus right when I needed to hear its message. I started the book Saturday night and finished it Monday morning. I spent all day focusing on what value I bring to my team and why the people at the event would want to meet me. The positive energy was powerful.

-Pastor Jonathan from Christy City Church who taught on The Gospel & My Worry on Sunday morning and made me realize that I was so overly concerned with what people thought about me and how I portray myself that I was causing myself unnecessary stress.

-My mother-in-law for being an awesome example of how to love and connect with people, even ones you don’t know. And providing great advice, which ended up becoming incredibly useful. {She told me to do my research beforehand. Learn the names of the people who will be there. They will be impressed that you know who they are.}

-My bosses for seeing my potential and pushing – or forcing – me out of my shell. And for giving me all these opportunities to grow and learn.

-My husband for providing a very relaxing Sunday and helping me prepare mentally and emotionally for the next day.

-And most of all, my God. For His faithfulness. For being an endless Source of strength. For listening to my doubts and fears and quickly dispelling them. For being a constant Companion. For never leaving my side. For being more than enough.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

So what about you? Does meeting new people come naturally or do you have some helpful tricks up your sleeve?

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