Networking Passions (Issue 623)

In which we are reminded that building networks is often done best when done around the passions that really arouse us.

Several years ago, almost to this day, I graduated from college with a degree in Economics. (E=MC2, right? Economic energy is a function of mass markets x chocolate consumption squared? Maybe it was GNP = C + I + G. Something like that. It’s all about momentum.)

At the same time, I was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa society. I was delighted – it was a recognition of the work I’d done and a commitment, on my part, to the ideals of a liberal arts education. Each year since my graduation, I have renewed my membership and contributed money.

A special fund raising letter arrived recently. As I scanned it, I learned that the Society is planning a national initiative to raise awareness among legislators, regulators, and policy makers at the State and Federal level about the value of liberal arts education.

Why? Because Federal and (increasingly state) education policies threaten the viability of education programs whose graduates are not immediately employed in jobs related to their fields of study. It’s a long story. The short version is, policies intended to prevent an unscrupulous few schools from ripping off government financial aid money will have unintended (or perhaps, intended) consequences for schools offering liberal arts degrees.

I am significantly irritated by this possibility. So, I called the Secretary of the national Society and said, “I’m aroused, I’d like to help.” Long story short, he said, “OK, we’ll be in touch in a few weeks.” YAY!

Why, “yay?” Because I’ll have a chance to contribute to a cause I believe in, influence one or a few people to support liberal arts education, and (best of all) meet some new people who are similarly energized.

I look forward to meeting new people. I’m not big on blizzards-of-business-cards ‘networking events’ or feeding-times-at-the-zoo societies in which the same people show up to greet, chew, and go home.

Instead, I help with and participate in meetings that attract my clients or potential clients. I go to working meetings or fund raising events with people who are aroused by and working on causes I believe in. And, where ever I am, I greet people and look for ways to be helpful. I share what I’m about. If there’s mutual interest, I make an effort to stay in touch.

Could I do this better than I do? Sure, every year, working to get better at this –  get more involved, be more helpful, stay in touch better.

Is this networking? Well, it’s one my ways. Does this help my business? Yes. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not.

I’m not sure who I’ll meet through the Phi Beta Kappa initiative. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to contribute to them or their families or their businesses beyond that initiative.

I do know that the common bond of a shared passion builds communication and trust that (I believe) will eventually help all of us advance along our chosen paths.

The broader our networks, the more we’re engaged with each other, the better off all of us are. THAT’s networking.

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