Do you participate in a networking group? If so, how many? What types? Are they virtual, or in person? Why is this important? Isn’t all this networking stuff a waste of time?
Networking groups are critically important. In fact, with precious few exceptions, all advances in my career of 30+ years took place because of my participation in professional gossip. Professional gossip is the term I use to describe the discussions that take place in professional networking groups. In my book, Getting There Volume 2, I describe how I landed my position in Xerox. I heard about the position, which was based in Rochester, NY, from a lady named Martha at a networking group of HR professionals in Princeton, NJ. And this happened a decade before social media was even invented!
Looking at a normal distribution of participants in networking groups, one extreme is zero participation. If you find yourself in this position, make yourself comfortable in your status quo – opportunity will elude you. Others will be gossiping about opportunities, but you won’t hear about them. At the other extreme is participation in an excessive number of networking groups. This results in dilution of your time and resources. In this instance, opportunity will also elude you as it will be missed among many distractions. There is an optimal level of participation where the quality of the professional gossip will contribute to your success.
What’s that, you can’t find an affinity group that shares your interests? That’s actually good, because you can start one! Here are two examples. In the Rochester, NY area there are dozens of professional networking groups. But as I looked around I couldn’t find any who shared my interests in business and entrepreneurial topics at an executive level, so I created GTEN (Getting There Executive Network), a group of six-figure executives and business leaders. As of this date, the group consists of 100 members and has met every Monday morning for 2 years. I also discovered a similar need for human resources professionals. Using the same concept, I asked two friends of mine, Amelia Blake Dowdle and Michelle Pollowchak, to form a networking group of HR professionals. They accepted the challenge and created QUEST. This group, which meets every Wednesday afternoon, has rocketed in attendance to 100 members as well. Why do these participants keep coming back? Because there is value in gossip – professional gossip.
What are the advantages of forming a group? Isn’t that a lot of work? Yes, it’s definitely work. But there are many advantages, for example: by forming your own group you are the narrow point of the hour glass – all inbound and outbound information goes through you, so you’ll be the best informed member of the group. Also, as the leader of the group it naturally gives you a platform, a reason for calling other leaders and exchanging ideas, trends, developments, and gossip.
Got gossip? Join a group. Attend the meetings. Learn and share.