This week I had an old networking contact, Mary, reconnect with me. She had kept in contact with a mutual friend of ours, and then was perusing Linkedin and saw my name and asked to get back in touch. I love when that happens.
I met Mary in the early 1990s through an organization called Entrenet Brampton. I had joined Entrenet because my boss at the time encouraged me to start networking. At the time, I really didn’t know what networking would mean for me, but I was up for meeting some new people and potentially obtaining my first project on my own. Mary is a technical writer, and I helped point her in the right direction of a few contracts by introducing her to some people, and she did the same for me. We lost touch after both of us changed jobs and were no longer actively pursuing new projects.
Entrenet was a forum which offered an opportunity for business card exchange. There were breakfast meetings with round robins. It was far more than a business card exchange. People really got to know each other. There I learned the importance of the elevator speech, the knowledge that the person you need to meet is likely a contact of someone you know, and that effective networking starts with the phrase, “What can I do for you”. The idea is that helping others, or doing them a favour will create a situation in which at some point in the future, you may be able to ask for a favour. Over a few years, there were about seven of us who worked together for business development and I believe it was a positive experience for all. Some of the other careers in the group included sales trainer, group insurance representative, remote administrative service, chemical engineer, accountant, professional organizer and graphic designer. We were all people who relied upon project work. Ultimately, our success stemmed from the fact that we had come to learn what each other did and could refer on the basis of trust.
I don’t believe Entrenet is in business today. The worlds of linkedin and social networking, and the larger business exchange groups at the Boards of Trade and BNI have replaced them. Still it was an effective learning ground for me. For those of you who are just getting started in networking, you may want to pursue opportunities to network with those both in and out of the profession.