Last week there were two really cool stories in the news. Both resonated with me because they had to do with a stranger stepping up to help someone in need. Not to feed or clothe or house them, but to help them either secure or maintain employment.
In the first story, a Target employee came across a teenager in the store who looked like he needed help. What are you looking for? A clip on tie. Target doesn’t carry clip-ons…this is where the story gets cool… Instead of blowing him off the way we’ve become accustomed in the big-box, impersonal world we’ve created; the employee went and found another employee who could tie a regular tie. While he was helping the teenager he asked what the tie was for. I have a job interview. Really! Well, here’s some things to keep in mind… As the employee was coaching the young man on his handshake and interviewing a shopper snapped their picture. The picture was posted to Target’s Facebook page and went viral. The employees even went so far as to visit the Chick-fil-a where the teen said he was interviewing to follow up with the manager to see how he did.
In the second story, a man in Detroit has been walking over 20 miles to work each day for the past 10 years. He had a car, but it broke down. He rode the bus, but the routes were cancelled. So to keep a good job he says he liked and live in a good neighborhood he says he liked, he resorted to walking. A journey that on a good day took him two to three hours each way and pretty much limited his daily routine to walk, work, walk, sleep. Those of us suffering through Central Florida’s winter should be reminded that Detroit’s cold snaps are a little more severe! Anyway, after hearing his story a young man stepped up to start a crowd-funding campaign to help the man buy a car. It too went viral. To the point that a local car dealership, Suburban Ford, gave the man a new Ford Taurus.
I like these stories for a few reasons. First, bad news sucks. I for one am tired of just hearing about wars, and politics, and politicians, and enemies. The students in my GEB 3003 class this semester, have been “at war” on some level the entire time that they’ve been in school. Seriously, since before Kindergarten. Second, stupid news sucks. I really don’t care about a celebrity’s leaked naked selfies, or their promoted naked photo shoot. I don’t care about reality TV stars or the hangers on who treat them like celebrities. The person isn’t news, what a person DOES is news. Finally, selfish news sucks. This includes stories about people who want to tell other people how to live their lives; want to steal from other people; or hurt them physically, emotionally, or financially.
But mostly I like these stories because they positively illustrate a basic tenant of networking; stepping up to satisfy the needs of others.
Networking, as my friend Dean Caravelis has taught me, is about needs. Specifically, identifying the needs of others and then helping them satisfy those needs. You do that over and over and eventually your needs are satisfied by those in the circle you’ve created. Students come into our College with a limited circle of connections. This isn’t unexpected. Most of them are 20ish and have been in school all their lives. The only people they know are friends, family, and maybe a couple of supervisors. So their most common question tends to be some version of, “How do I network?”
The first thing to do is put yourself in situations where there are people that you don’t know. This can include meetings of local professional organizations like an industry- or occupation-specific group, a networking group like the Chamber of Commerce, or even an event that draws people in like a speaker or award ceremony. The college sponsors events almost every week and there are tons more in the community.
Second, change your behavior. Learn to look around. Learn to be curious. Learn to start conversations with questions instead of statements. Take a deep breath and walk up to someone you don’t know. Remember, the people at events are expecting to meet new people. If they hide in little cliques or otherwise shut themselves off, then that’s just not someone you’ll meet. Move on. There are plenty of people who’d like to talk to someone with something interesting to say.
Finally, be ready to offer help if you hear about something you can do. You may not get credit. You probably won’t get recognition. And you almost certainly won’t get paid. Do it anyway. And do it well. Because you’ll get something more valuable than a grade, praise or money. You’ll get karma. A positive entry on your ledger. You do that over and over and eventually “equilibrium” takes over and the reward will come back to you as well. Whether you study chemistry, economics, physics, or sociology, systems are believed to naturally move to a state of equilibrium. In other words, the good deeds that you do will be reciprocated by support for you. It won’t always happen immediately, but it will.
Trust the system and good things will happen.