Thursday, May 5, 2011

Relationship building rather than networking

We've all heard the old adage, "it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know". There is a little bit of truth to that, but honestly, if what you know isn't much, then who you know really doesn't matter, right?

Conversation card
 For example, a lot of people get jobs, big breaks, maybe even fall in love based upon the connections they've made with other people in their lives. So who you know can make a difference.

But, honestly, anyone can just "get out there" and start meeting people. And I'm pretty sure you know some of those people. The people who have a ton of business cards but not many true friends? The people who literally "collect" facebook friends, but would be hard pressed to tell you how they know each of them? They may think they are doing a good job in the networking department, but they really aren't.

It doesn't matter how popular you are, or how many friends you have on facebook.
Real connections, and ultimately real relationships, are built upon knowing someone, not just superficial acquaintances or brief encounters and handshakes at an event. I know I'd much rather hear a story about someone's life than get their business card. And . . . I'll also be much more likely to remember them. I'd much rather know who a person is, what they stand for, what types of things they feel passionately about, and how they contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

If all you have is WHO you know, and there is no substantive "WHAT" to back it up (i.e., an honest connection, a compatibility, an understanding and respect), then ultimately it is all for naught.

For example, we've all been told about the power of networking. I checked out this word and found this definition:  "the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business." Did you know the word "networking" first appeared about 1967? I'm picturing all those marketing guys in the television show "MadMen" walking around full of self importance while talking about their "networking lunch". This is not what I'd call meaningful.
Salt Lake Country Club: A great venue certainly doesn't hurt

Networking is, on its face, relationship building for a purpose. Therein lies the problem. Ultimately, people realize that they are being "net-worked". I believe that is why both the word and the act of networking have lost their power and their meaning. Superficial connections are just that - superficial.
I've been studying up a bit on this, because in my new role as alumni director I really feel a certain sense of obligation to help our graduates find employment. More importantly, I'd like them all to find employment that they love and that provides meaning and purpose so that they can really enjoy their lives. In this economy, that is a tall order.

Recently we hosted the annual "Cocktails and Connections" event at the Salt Lake Country Club. It was a knock your socks off success. We doubled the number of attendees, and everyone had a great time. Of course, it didn't hurt that it was in a beautiful location, with good food and good wine.

And while some people there networked and were "net-worked", more often some real relationship building was taking place.

Westminster Alumni at "Cocktails and Connections"
The best thing about an alumni network is that everyone starts with common denominators in both the WHO you know and the WHAT you know departments. When one alumnus meets another, they already have a lot of shared experiences, classes, professors, friends, etc. At the Cocktails and Connections event I witnessed people beginning to establish real relationships based upon immediate mutual respect for each other, born of a Westminster education. This is the power of a true alumni organization.

I'm going to work like crazy to bring the power of a real alumni network to as many Westminster alumni as I can. I hope you'll join me. In the meantime, tell me what you think, give me your suggestions, and help me create a robust network that will serve us all well into the future.


  1. Great post Annalisa. I would love to help build up the Bay Area network, as I know there are quite a few Westminster grads in Northern California!

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