It seems like everyone is talking about networking these days, so let’s talk about it. The word networking often gets a bad rap. It’s not hard visualizing a room full of people dressed to the nines, passing around cards and empty promises to one another. I don’t know about you, but this type of interaction makes me cringe a little. Maybe it’s because this type of exchange has become associated with the “what’s in it for me” mentality where the main focus is receiving and not giving.
Repeat after me: Networking does not have to be scary! Networking is one of my favorite topics, but I often wonder why it’s so stress-inducing. Is it the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger? Or is it asking someone for a favor?
My entire mindset changed when I realized that networking is just a buzzword—and what we should be focusing on is building relationships. Whether you attend a “networking” event or reach out to someone on LinkedIn, you are making a connection with someone, which could eventually turn into a meaningful relationship.
Relationships are the secret salsa!
As I was thinking about this concept earlier this week, something dawned on me that I had never thought of before. We Latinas are natural networkers, meaning we are inherently good at building strong relationships. Our culture is full of people with warm demeanors, storied experiences, and welcoming dispositions. If you come from an immigrant family like mine, you most likely had to adapt and meet people fast! You had to often build relationships with people that didn’t look like you. Was it always easy or pleasant? No, of course not. But you did it. We did it!
When I moved to Nebraska at the age of nine, I was the only child of immigrants in my 4th-grade class. No one looked like me. No one spoke my language. I didn’t have a choice but to smile and adapt. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this experience was helping me develop my relationship-building skills. The people I met that year are still in my life—and many of them are part of my professional network. These are people I met thirty years ago! Last year, my 4th-grade bestie called me to ask if I knew a certified translator for her counseling business. A few weeks later, my mom became a freelancer. Talk about the power of strong and long-lasting relationships!
Many times, we don’t even know we are networking. Sounds crazy, right?
Think about it for a second. Think of a relationship you have formed, either recent or not so recent, and transport yourself to when this person was a complete a stranger. How did you introduce yourself? What was that very first conversation about? What type of connection was there? How did you exchange contact information, and how did the relationship evolve into what it is today?
See, you’ve been networking all along—and you didn’t even know it!
Remember, the power of networking and building relationships is being yourself. The people who value you and see the power within you will want to know more. It never fails! Don’t worry if you don’t connect with everyone (believe me, you don’t want to!). When you are authentically yourself (just like you’ve been in other situations), the right people will gravitate towards you.
These are the types of relationships that matter, after all.