Networking and the Value of Experience

Earlier this week I posted here about how I am seeing more and more convergence or overlap in my networking activities.  I have spent time with many in the AEC world as well as in the Economic Development world.  Our firm has always done work in the Engineering, Construction and Architecture worlds, but we have just recently expanded to add the Economic Development marketplace.  As I suspected, there is tremendous overlap and synergy (I hated to use that word Smile) in these markets.

I’ll spend a few minutes today talk more about how experience plays into networking for me and for you.  I’ll share a few examples and then be off to the other work for the day.

Having just celebrated the 54th anniversary of my Nativity, a phrase I have borrowed from a mentor and friend, the late Dr. Allan Silvio Williams, I see more and more examples every week of how my experience only benefits me as I continue to do my work.  My firm is in the people business and we live and die based on the relationships we have and those we can build.  My career spans over 4 decades now and I have done many things and worked with many people.  I can honestly say that there are only a handful I could not go back to and ask for help.  As Keith Ferrazzi explains so well in his book Never Eat Alone, you should never burn bridges.  I have gone across many bridges in those 4 decades and smile when I think of all the wonderful people I have met and how easily I can call upon them, and them upon me, when we need to help one another.

I had a conversation with a gentleman in Tulsa this past week when I was speaking with and learning from a group of Economic Development professionals.  This gentleman hails from an area I have lived in before and the number of people we knew in common was quite large.  Even more, he is an active volunteer for one of the three universities where I have earned a degree.  He was very helpful and encouraging and I have no doubt that our common linkages would make it easy for either of us to call upon the other.

A few days before this I met one of the other speakers at the same event in Tulsa.  I shared with him where I had been and he remarked that he had also done a lot of work in the AEC world and he was friends with my same contact, the one who helped me obtain the speaking event with this group.  Again, networking and experience pay off.

A third instance occurred in Tulsa.  The SEDC is a group with a long history and many of the past presidents, the chief volunteer officer, were present.  I noticed that one of the past presidents hailed from a city where our firm had completed a successful engagement earlier this year.  When I asked this gentleman if he knew my client, he smiled and remarked that my client was one of his lead volunteers.

In just a three day span I was able to build and fortify several networking bridges that would allow either party to ask the other for help or assistance.  Had I not done the things I have done and have the ability to recall these connections I might have not made these bridges work.

You too can build bridges as you network every day.  Take the time to remember and capture those you know from past experiences and see how they might help you in your current and future ventures.

Don’t lose sight that you are also called upon to help others.  Networking is a two-way street and I would even call it a team sport when done correctly.

Go forth and network.  Build bridges, but make sure they have a firm foundation.

More on building those networking foundations when we talk next.