Why Networking Still Matters


How many of you see networking in the title and cringe just a little bit? Does going to a conference and walking up to folks at the cocktail reception make you want to flee the scene?  Does arranging a coffee and conversation make you sweat a bit? I understand—I really do!

Most of you that know me might find this hard to imagine. I can hear you saying, “Jeff, you just won the RBTC Regional Connector Award, how could networking ever be hard for you?!” There are plenty of times that I go to a conference or social event and wonder why am I doing this? I will admit that I love people and I have a general curiosity about what people find interesting. However, there are also times that I find it boring and just want to go back home or my hotel room.

Wow, great start Jeff! Really inspiring me so far! Okay, so why does networking matter? I have had several friends and clients that have recently been laid off from their jobs. They worked so hard and were so committed to their organizations that they never took time to network. All of sudden they need to look for new jobs and they are lost. I also have some clients that are in need of new customers but they spend so much time inwardly focused on their own operations that they do not know how to connect outside of their organization to gain new insights, innovations and potentially new customers. Thus, reasons to network include:

1.     Finding mentors and thinking partners to help you grow in your career

2.     Benchmarking with peers to learn about best practices

3.     Connecting with others to hear about possible new job opportunities

4.     Bouncing product ideas off others to see if you have a good idea

5.     Challenging your thinking

6.     Sanity check on what you are seeing in your organization

7.     Potentially finding new talent for your organization

8.     Developing acquaintances for a future need (like new jobs or clients)


If the benefits are so great, then why do we spend so little time networking? Here are a few reasons I hear:

1.     I am so busy, I do not have time

2.     It makes me nervous

3.     I am not very good at small talk

4.     I do not have anything to offer the other person (or the other person is so important, they would never meet with me)

5.     I am too shy, quiet, boring, scared, etc.

6.     I do not know how to lead a good conversation

Okay, the time one is a choice. We are all busy and we all like to tell everyone that we are busy. Some the of busiest people I know, go out of their way to invest in networking at least weekly if not daily. They see the benefits and make it a priority. The rest of the reasons, I think can be overcome by learning how to be a good networker.

Here are some of my ideas and shared some resources at the end of the blog.

1.     Find someone who is good at networking and ask them to mentor you

2.     Identify 3-5 people that you find interesting—ask one of them to have coffee with you

3.     Bring interesting questions to the conversation; ask the other person about the reasons for their success; leave them with an interesting article to help them grow; ask them about 1-2 other people they admire or appreciate

4.     At a conference, go to the networking event early. Set a goal of x # of people that you want to talk to. Be curious about the other person’s interest, passions and why they do what they do. If you enjoyed the conversation, ask for a business card and follow-up with an email suggesting a phone call or coffee another time.

5.     Introduce someone you respect to another person you respect so they can both learn.

6.     Celebrate when you have tried one of these things. Ex. I go for a run or get a Slurpee.

Here is the link with ideas on how to get better at networking. In the meantime, good luck building your list of influencers, potential clients or future hires. Put some time on the calendar and go do it. Let me know how it goes!

- Jeff Smith



On Monday you go to work, say hi to the same 3-5 people, check your 77 new messages, get a cup of coffee, and head out to the first of five meetings for the day. Repeat this process Tuesday-Friday while throwing in a few emergencies, fire drills, a bit of office politics, a couple of kid’s soccer games at night and bam, it is Friday evening and you wonder what happened to the week! Does this sound familiar? You start to wonder when was the last time you were really challenged or engaged in learning something new? When was the last time your boss gave you a real stretch assignment? If this sounds a bit like your life, you might be in the dreaded ZOMBIE zone, aka the comfort zone.

I call it the Zombie zone because you come in day in and day out and not too much changes.  You can have a new hire, a small new project, or new customer but the days all start to roll by at a similar pace. You find yourself excited that it is Hump Day Wednesday or finally Friday. You might dread Sunday night and the thought of returning to work on Monday. The antidote to the Dreaded Zombie Zone is to learn something new.


I think I had drifted into the comfort zone this past Spring and summer.  The work was still interesting and I loved working with our clients. However, I felt a bit stale at times and did not really feel like I was learning a ton.  I was then called by VoiceAmerica and asked if I would be a Radio Show Host. After some soul searching and a bit of nervous back and forth thinking, I accepted and started planning for the show.  I was very blessed to work with Winston Price who is a talented Executive Producer. We launched “Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership” on September 13th and now my weeks have more pep in them. I look forward to the show and I am constantly thinking about other people to have on the show or new things I want to try.  I have found myself even sketching out thoughts for the show on a Saturday morning.  I am fully in the learning zone and I wanted to share a few observations from trying something new.

1.      It felt weird at first.  It was like using a new muscle. I was so concentrated on hitting the breaks on time, enunciating clearly and following my outline that I did not really connect with the audience.

2.      Learning new language takes a minute. There are executive producers, sound engineers, e-cards, segments, breaks, hard stops, rejoiners, teasers and more. I did not realize how many moving parts there were to a radio show and it felt overwhelming at first. I also felt like a novice because I did not know how to use the right language.

3.      Mentors matter.  Winston has done an awesome job of being patient and has adjusted to my learning style. He broke down what I needed to learn into manageable parts to keep me out of the panic zone. He has also pushed me several times to get into the learning zone and out of my comfort zone. I love the feedback that he has given me and I can see myself growing.

4.      Baby steps are critical. I cannot believe how much I have learned since June. I think if someone had given me a big manual in June of what I needed to know by October, I would have been overwhelmed.  Also, have some patience when asking others to move out of their comfort zone. I have had Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Lee Hubert and Marisa Keegan on the show and while nervous at first, they have all done great. To help ease into becoming more comfortable with the show we have thoughtfully planned our discussion, breaks and questions. These baby steps in the learning process have led to earlier success of our show.

5.      Not everyone will believe in your vision.  Some people raise an eyebrow and look at me funny when I say I am hosting a show.  They ask how this helps my core business. I let them know how it is expanding my presence as a thought leader. Many of them sort of nod their head but do not really see it.  My learning is that I am excited about the path that I am on and not everyone will agree.  Do not let others steal your passion.

I challenge you to look at your daily life and see where you might have gotten into a comfort zone. It might be you are doing the same 3 mile run every day. Maybe you eat at the same 2 restaurants. When was the last time you made a new friend? When was the last time you volunteered to head something up at work? I hope you take on a new challenge and see what you find in the learning zone. I encourage you to sign up for only one or two new things at once as too many might send you into the panic zone.  In the meantime, check out our radio show and send me an email with feedback on how we are doing. We are on VoiceAmerica from 1-2pm Eastern each Tuesday.