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How I Learned To Network by Taylor Vick

Contributor ,


I
grew up in a suburban white community. It was all about the politics – think Real Wives of Dallas. The women who knew how to network the best were the ones who were always featured in the society section, their kids always got the lead roles in the musicals, and their husbands were always invited to the top men’s business associations in town. A powerful net-worker truly cannot be stopped.

I was first introduced to the real power of networking by my Grandmother. She had an author friend in town and I happened to stop by her house for a visit. This woman talked herself into getting me in touch with the National Debutante Cotillion, since she was so impressed with me. (I really only smiled and nodded as any shy 17 year old would do). A few months later, I received a call to join Washington D.C.’s finest for a week of Debutante parties. I was honestly in shock.

[Side note – anyone who knew me at 17 knew I was a total tomboy who only wore jeans, Dr. Marten’s and baggy shirts. Not exactly the “Debutante” or “Sorority” type].

Debutantes to me equaled white dresses, and a parent’s excuse to throw a mini-wedding celebration for the honor of getting a mention in the newspaper. Not my thing at all. I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

The Washington D.C. Debutante Cotillion was about the fabulous dress, but it was also about learning how to network. By watching the other guests, I determined three things: talk to everyone regardless of station, don’t be shy, and start a conversation because no one else will do it for you. Talk about the embodiment of Carpe Diem! This wasn’t your typical event. It was a bunch of politicians, original USA families who could trace their origins back to a founding father, military officials, and me. What did I have to offer?

I blossomed into the best conversationalist I could be. I asked my conversation partner questions about what they did, their interests, their ideas. Never once did I offer a story about myself unless specifically asked. By listening intently, I instantly elevated my position as more than a Debutante. I was a powerhouse of networking!

I knew exactly who to connect to whom. I was able to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and important stories or dates in that person’s life. After the parties were over and life had settled down, I was able to write thank you notes, send birthday cards and otherwise let my new friends know that I was thinking about them.

The result of all of this is that I have a place to stay in most metropolitan areas in the USA, as well as in many European countries. Not only that, but I have a wide variety of connections I can tap for business recommendations, political influence, business ideas, and (my favorite part) friends I can count on for travel.

The biggest lesson I learned for networking is: the more you practice, the better you become at it. Practice really listening and remembering facts, dates, ideas, etc. Practice making social situations about everyone else other than yourself. Be gracious. Don’t interrupt. And more than anything: be there to have fun!



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