Welcome to the last of five posts (here are post one, two, three, and four) about networking (finally!!). It took me a staggering 9 months to write this last post; I was not typing the entire time, I swear. I’m sorry for the delay if you were actually looking forward to this, though I believe that sometimes things happen for a reason. Perhaps some of the experiences of the last month here have been why I didn’t get my act together before now.
Last month, I left my job and decided to be full-time “on my own”. Networking before was an important part of being a professional, but now it is a matter of getting that next project or not…. And if not, then (shudder) getting another job.
For me, networking always seemed to “businessy” and not my style. I’ve always been schmooze-averse, and never really saw myself as being a networker. What I’ve discovered over the last several years is that building relationships is the very best networking you can do. Here’s where I got schooled:
I started teaching for UC Berkeley Extension this past January. My students were from incredibly diverse backgrounds with all sorts of skills and knowledge that will help them stand-out as professionals when they finish their program. One of them, however, is on her second career, having already had a rather accomplished first career. We had lunch earlier this week and chatted about her new job and my going solo. I commented that I had no idea where my next project would come from, that I wasn’t sure I knew how to find clients. What she said was such a ‘oh, DUH’ (she rattled off a list of networking tasks like call people I’ve worked with before, reach out to friends) that I wondered where my brain had been. Seriously.
The point I want to make to you, dear reader, is that “networking” works vertically and horizontally. Where I hope to be helpful to her in her career in Landscape Architecture, she is already helpful to me in getting better at marketing myself and my business. I'm not limiting my network to prospective clients or employers; if I hadn't been having lunch with my student, I wouldn't have benefited from her broader knowledge of marketing tactics. You never know who will be useful to you or you to them, so why not bring it to everyone!?
One more story, then I’ll be quiet:
About a year ago, I participated as a portfolio reviewer for the ASLA NCC. During the event, each of the reviewers was asked to say something to the whole room, to share a lesson learned from the event. At the end of my spiel, I invited people to visit my blog, friend me on Land8Lounge, and so forth. Networking, right?
Take a guess at how many people out of 18 sent friend requests or followed up in their expressed interest. Go ahead, try to guess. Only one person followed-up with me, and she was the woman who had coordinated my participation (rock on, Toni!). Did she follow-up because we had more contact before the event? Were others shy? Did I suck eggs and nobody wants to talk to me? I don’t know. My point is that there are plenty of opportunities to connect, and few people are actually doing it. Are you?
Networking is a bit like making friends, but not always so personal. If someone isn't a good member of your network, move on. Surround yourself with people of all kinds, bosses, students, colleagues, and strangers. Tell everyone what you do ... better yet, tell them why you do it. Landscape Architecture is a seriously fabulous career to have, so keep up the good work!