My name is Diane Karchner, and I’m thrilled to be joining Believe.com as a contributor.
A few thoughts to get us started.
Thought 1: If you’re reading this article, there’s a decent chance you’ve jumped over from our sister site, ChristianMingle.com. It doesn’t take my two decades of corporate experience to deduce that this might mean you’re looking for that special someone.
For those who have found your way to this site from somewhere else, welcome. Hopefully we touch on topics that are of interest to you.
Thought 2: Along with my career experience (which often included coaching for optimum results) I have also been married for over half my life.Combining those two thoughts together, is it any surprise that I coach people all the time?
Thought 3: While I’d love to credit my good fortune to my fabulous smarts and wit, I’m going to go with God on this one. Without him in the picture, it would probably be a totally different story to tell. My faith in him forms the basis of my career and my personal relationships.
With those ideas in mind, I tried to identify topics that would span both. I thought of topics like kindness, leadership, confidence, honesty – all good ones, but my head seemed to be screaming at me to start out with how networking – or at least my version of it – fits well with business and personal relationships of all kinds.
Doesn’t sound too sexy, does it? But hang with me for a minute, and you might see it differently.
Strategic networking and why it’s important for your career AND your most important relationships.
In your career, just as in dating, “experts” say that you can’t just show up to events. You have to be strategic, meeting only the people that you know you can extract value from in the future. In business that would be someone who maybe can buy something from you, or provide a connection for your next career move. In the world of dating, you might call it someone with ‘mate potential.’
Sounds cold and calculating to me. But I played the game, for a while. Armed with business cards in tow, I would go to company and industry events, collecting business cards from the targeted lucky ones, giving mine to other fortunate chosen ones who I could ‘extract value’ from over time.
After a mere year of this, it got boring. Real boring. Was it helping my career, the business? I didn’t see it. Was it stressing me out? Oh yeah. I was not a natural networker, at least not as defined by the “experts.”
It might work for some. But for me, it seemed phony and forced. I would often come home empty handed.
This loss of opportunity, as my colleagues called my horrid lack of card collecting, gave me momentary flashes of insecurity. When everyone else touted their card conquests, I had collected nothing tangible. But if I held my insecurity at arm’s length, if I took a moment to focus on the larger worldview of belonging to a really huge God, then it all became really clear.
Let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable in itself alone without resorting to boastful comparison with his neighbor. – Galatians 6:4
Fake it ‘til you make it
Eventually I got braver and chatted up more people. How? I faked it. (Yeah, I know, no authenticity in fakery).
But a funny thing happened on the way to pretend-land.
I started having some fun. A natural introvert, I found that if I didn’t force feed ‘me’ onto people, that they actually wanted to talk. As a result, I was always engaged with someone. We talked about our families, their research, baseball, the meeting, and eventually, sometimes, we’d talk about business. But not always.
For those I took the time to talk to, I learned his name, studied her face, listened to her voice. I remembered what her favorite food was when she traveled to Singapore the last time. I remembered that he gave up the family car with the move to New York City, and never bought another one even though he now lives in Schenectady. Did that matter to my career? Nah. But it mattered to that man, that woman, to me. We connected on a level beyond business. We had the pleasure of knowing and being known.
Why not apply this same principle to dating?
Every person I met did not land me a new job, just like every person you meet will not land you a spouse, or maybe even a date. But why not learn something interesting about someone in the process of the search? It sure makes it more fun.
According to Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief at Huffington Post (Fast Company, 9/25/2013), networking is just not the way to go for her:
“The networker only gets part of the story, she says, since searching out the way that the person you’re talking to can help you advance means missing out on an actual connection. And it’s these actual connections that make your career, sooner or later.”
Any relationships, in a career, in dating, in life, are all about connections.
Connections matter. In business every connection I made provided something. Business, information, access, laughter, friendship. Nothing was wasted.
In the doing – or should I say the not doing – of networking, I took a step closer to the elusive Authentic Diane; to be real; not worrying about what value I could extract over time. Authentic. Not false, not an imitation, not calculated or orchestrated.
I believe, for a Christian there is definite advantage to this strategy. To this way of life. Connections. It is who you are.
And to this day, I still don’t have anyone’s business card.