After National League of Cities conference, where former US President Barack Obama used my personal story to launch the TechHire Initiative. (Photo: Ron Garrow)

Networking Isn’t All About You

I went to a recent Venture Café and ran into a colleague there. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and started conversing, sharing stories, and whatnot.

Earlier in the day, I ran into quite a few folks from the Better Together St. Louis effort. I recognized them for: 1) Being a group of all-black women who were super powerful and fierce with keeping everything in order, and 2) Showing extreme patience to those that were eager to get their voices heard and disseminate (and clarify) the information. You better believe I gave them my card and told them to let me know if they need any help, advice, speaking to the children, etc.

So, with that said, I was hyped. I had such a good time listening to the stories, and hearing what I can only amount to truth-telling, when individuals start discarding of deceptions and misrepresentation and the real story is told, unfiltered. This often leaves one speechless, as it did me in many a recent collective.

I decided to stay and chat, although I did squirrel myself away to a nondescript corner of the evening social gathering because my introvert juices needed to be refilled. The colleague found me there, hunched over, submitting the day’s events to this very platform to boost my brand and — honestly — keep me from forgetting to do it before I got too tired.

What happened next was unexpected. A speaker that looked awfully familiar came by, shook the colleague’s hand, and kept speaking about the day and efforts come and gone. After a while, I noticed that we had met before, and he jogged my memory with the TechJobs tour. I guess I’ve finally gotten to that stage where I’ve met so many people that it takes a moment for me to place them. This was very different less than 3 years ago, when I knew maybe a handful of folks, their names, and often their phone numbers. Now, I’m lucky to remember my partner’s phone number, by heart.

We all talked, and walked, and enjoyed free beer provided by the establishment. I listened and learned and connected with more people, and then it hit me: this isn’t all about me. Some of this, there are people to connect to each other. So, I mentioned some names and went along with trying to get people networked together. Some had already connected, while others were not aware of the other’s existence.

And then, it all came back to me. I had read article after article about people needing to know and have these connections to make things happen for themselves, when really, it was about knowing the right people who will vouch for you, even in situations where you’re nowhere around, having a beer, and a casual conversation. Being top-of-mind with almost everyone you meet, when the right situation comes along.

Building your brand is much more than about putting yourself out there and “first”. It’s about putting your trust in something so much, that when others see an opportunity that fits you, your name pops up. It’s organic. It’s natural. And it shows you’re moving in the right direction.

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