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Heres the rap against Midwest technology networking events: you pay to get in, you pay to park your car and then you spend the evening talking to all the service providers in town.
In other words, corporate folks dont go to these things very often. Why dont they go? Because theyre tired of fending off all the service providers who meet them at networking events, pitch their services and bombard them for weeks afterward with follow-up calls and e-mail messages.
Even if it sounds counterintuitive, its simply essential for corporate insiders to get out to these events from time to time (at least once a quarter). I say this for your own good. Its a very bad thing to get too isolated in your corporate hidey-hole.
I dont mean that you need to network because you could lose your job to a sudden reorganization at any moment. Even if youre the CEOs son-in-law and youre secure as all get out, theres another reason to make the rounds and at least occasionally show up at a networking gathering: your professional connectedness.
When I was a corporate HR person from the tail end of the 1970s through the end of the 1990s, I didnt understand networking. I didnt do it.
I started an HR council for the American Electronics Association (is the AEA still around?) and I knew a few dozen technology HR people. That was it. Apart from the AEA and later the Chicago Software Association, I shied away from networking events.
I thought I knew enough of the right people (my vendors, a few customers and, of course, my employees) so I didnt need to meet any new ones. I had a full Rolodex. I was content.
Ha! If I met 20 people a year for 10 years and if each one of those people introduced me to two new people the following year, by now I would have met, well, a lot more people.
Though I cant do the math, I know its a huge number. I didnt meet those people. I was busy being content in my corporate headquarters. What a waste!
Your business value can only increase as you know more people who know things you dont know. Im talking about contacts, advisors and friends. Im not just talking about people who can connect you with other people.
Your network has an enormous value apart from its ability to help you make deals. Its a wonderful thing to be in a staff meeting while people are puzzling over an issue. Its a wonderful thing to be able to say: Ill ping my buddy, Ahmed, over at Accenture. They do a lot of work in that arena. Hell know the answer.
Your business knowledge wont grow nearly as fast through your internal interactions as it will through varied and stimulating conversations with people in functions and industries different from your own.
When you choose to go to work in the morning, come home at night and meet no one new during the course of a month or a quarter, youre hurting yourself. Sure, networking events can expose you to vendor attacks. Big deal. Its worth it to withstand those in order to meet new and interesting people (including vendors who can be incredible advisors).
Many of us think networking is only useful when youre in a job search or if youre an independent consultant or small businessperson. Au contraire! Everyone should network. Corporate people often dont see this. Its time they wake up and smell the networking coffee: failure to connect is a crime against yourself.
Heres how it works: you can shake off the anti-networking bias any time. You can make up for lost time and get out there on the circuit. You dont have to morph into a networking fiend like some of the types who never miss a meeting. Just put a toe in the water.
Our Midwestern cities are chock full of events that will satisfy your desire to start networking any month of the year. January is a great time to get out there and turn over a new leaf.
If you do start to come out of your corporate shell, how do you avoid being hit on by every vendor in the city? Just say: While Im glad to meet you, Im not the person who purchases those services. If they ask for an introduction inside your company, tell them youll pass their information along. Thats really all a brand-new acquaintance can ask of you.
You should get connected online, too.
, a popular online networking site. Sign up (its free) and then link to me at email@example.com. That will get your started. Also, I have to recommend a site I helped to build: WorldWIT
, which is a network of free, moderated e-mail discussion communities focused on women in business and technology (men are welcome, too).
Between those two resources, youll have a leg up on the online networking thing. Youll thank me later.
Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT
(World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie
every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie
, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.