Hey MYLP and Bridgers (and anyone else who stumbled onto this blog). I posted up some advice based on conversations I kept having with many of you over and over again. I wanted to share this with all of you and leave it to you to take away what you find of interest. I personally thought Meg was on point!
“Great another networking event!” The fact that being inebriated makes you less conscious of your behavior, thus making the tedious task of “small talk socializing” at the event easier makes for an attractive reason to drink (sip here won’t hurt!). But if you choose to stick to the halal/haram distinction (the sunnah and Quranic mandate) then you can’t get your liquor on.
Being drunk also won’t make the situation easier, nor will it be beneficial to you in your personal life or for you career. I think lots of folks feel that “networking” is just a useless term that lacks any credible real world translation. Its fake, so people there are fake, and the conversations there are shallow and ultimately its what you do if you are in the world of business, of any sorts. Working at a non-profit I got to go to my fair share of these “networking” events. They come in a variety of window dressings but ultimately its a means for people to meet other people and get something out of it.
If you are like me, you probably found yourself going toward the corners of the room and finding a group to “nest” with because its safe. But as the years went on I learned to challenge myself and some of the greatest collaborations I had the opportunity to work on came from meeting people in these situations.
If you don’t believe me then just pick up a networking book, anyone, and the statistics are all laid bare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking. All my internship during college, my college jobs as well as my career at CAIR came through networking.
Okay, so I shouldn’t have to be selling you on networking, if thats the case this blogpost isn’t for, go over to this post at Yale, do some soul searching there. Below is a how to guide to become a better networker.
I learned to network by watching some amazing networkers, then imitating their style and adapting it to work for myself. There are some basic rules you should remember because networking is a tedious task, its not just simply talking to people, its learning to be efficient in what you talk about. You also have to show a little gumption by presenting yourself as composed an interested in what people have to say even though you might not be. Also, you need to come off as being an interesting person yourself. All of that is an sort of craft, call it acting? This means you can’t have emotional meltdowns, you should stick with the solid rule of leaving religion and politics out of the conversation (a bit hard to to do if you follow certain religious etiquette’s and practices, at which point its the big elephant in the room). Finally, you got to look your best, be presentable because first impressions count.
Like any art its something that through practice and some basic foundational understandings you can make your own. One of the ultimate networkers I have met in my time is a guy who goes by the initials O.G. He’s the ultimate social networking guru. If you know him, you probably can drop his name in any new city you happen to be in and people will know him, or know of him. His style is classic, simple and pretty ingenious. He opens with “So, whats your story.” You feel like he’s there to listen to you and through the first five minutes he’ll get all that makes you the person you are- your name, your brief personal history, why you are at the event, where you are from, what you do, and anything else you drop within that time frame. Then he’s on to the other folks in the room and just like that he’s worked the room where he’s met all the faces he hasn’t been introduced to.
Thats the key though, being introduced. You tell yourself someone is going to introduce you to this person, or that person, but that never happens, what then? Try this activity- give yourself 3 minutes of time without any distractions. Write down “What is your story?” and start the timer. See what you write down. If you want further proof, ask two other people to do the same thing. What I notice is that there is a common thread in the responses people put down to that question, but sometimes there are big holes. Like someone might not put down “why they are at an event” because thats outside the context of the conversation, yet that helps establish a point of relations. In the future people will remember that you were at that particular even for that particular purpose.
At the end of the day you want your networking experience to be beneficial, to give it purpose you need to construct some foundation to work off of. I find that there are some really good questions, and I present them in an order that will make sense later:
- What brings you to the event? how are you connected to the organization?
- Whats your name?
- Where are you from? Where do you live?
- Whats your profession?
- When your not working, what do you like to do?
- Where have you travelled? Or do you have any travel plans in the future?
- Ask any question- except for politics and/or religion- unless the other person brings it up.
- Imagine yourself in a stadium full of people (whatever sporting even you fancy);
- See your name written on the field;
- In the corner of the field you see your house;
- Out of the house- door, window, chimney, whatever- you see a briefcase flying out.
- You keep your eyes locked on the briefcase until it gets pierced by a golf club and falls down;
- At this point you begin to see an airplane flying above the stadium;
- You follow the airplane until you notice it has a green light at the front of it.
Now you tell yourself this ridiculous string of images until you begin to associate the line of questioning in which the stadium reflect the question of “why are you here? How are you associated to this event?” The name on the field is your way of introducing yourself to the person your talking to and getting their name. The house in the corner is the question about “where the person lives and whats their background?” (remember their name, if its Indian, well your names sounds like Indian…) The flying briefcase is connected to the question about the persons profession. The golf club is about what the person does outside of work- they might sit on a non-profit board or be interested in the environment and you happen to know someone who shares that interest. The airplane is the question about traveling, and Mr.Vetter basically said that everyone likes to travel so its a neutral safe question to ask in order to get insight into the person your talking to, who knows they might be speaking at a conference that just might be something you would want to go to in order to advance your professional network? Finally the green light is your opportunity to ask any questions that you feel will help you get to know the person.
Thats networking technique in a nutshell. Go to the mosque or some community event and try it. At the end of the day if you won’t take risks and challenge yourself to talk to people you don’t know, no technique is going to help you. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, this technique is a means of managing the anxiety and awkwardness presented in networking situations. Finally, remember don’t stick to one person, the more you move around the room the comfortable the situation gets. At some point people won’t be strangers, you would have met most of the folks present and the networking situation won’t be as intimidating as it would be had you not mingled.
To continue this stream of public out loud political discovery I am coming out and being official about it- progressive. Seems like such a simple word, that could mean so many things.
To me, the current working definition of “progressive” is within the political context, obviously. It has to do with the idea of being utterly dismayed by President Obama and the Democratic party at furthering plans to address America’s challenges and gear us up for the future hurdles. It is not the idea of going back to some romanticized version of America, like that espoused by the Tea Party and it is not like the Republican vision of America in lassies faire conditions (God forbid if Scary Perry becomes the President, corporations will take us back to the 1970′s with his “flexible permitting” for polluters in Texas).
Its not the politics of the Green Party, a party that has no viability in America in my eyes and their agenda is one that is completely off kilter. Nor is it the exclusive Libertarian ideals. I don’t think its with the politics found amongst the labeled “Independent” voting bloc, one which I would certainly lay claim to, but find that it doesn’t quite define my politics well enough since my politics is a bit better defined.
To be a “progressive” is not necessarily to be a Republican or Democrat (even if one were a registered one…). I feel to be progressive is about having an approach to addressing America’s challenges and gearing us for our future hurdles that is innovative, outside the usual two-party rhetorical structure, progressive (yes, I used the word being defined to define that word!). Okay, so defining what “progressive” means is hard. Being an American progressive is probably not a problem, but one who readily accepts the identity as an American Muslim (I can see the searing eyes when I tell people “I am a progressive American Muslim” because of the significant negative connotation “progressive” has come to hold amongst Muslims) is a bit of a far stretch.
But this long introduction was just a means to get to THIS POINT- I was asked by two wonderful people Angelica Ramos and Adel Syed to join the board, as the Selections Committee Chair, for the newly founded New Leaders Council of Orange County. I readily and happily accepted. Adel and Angelica are both fellows of the NLC- LA Institute, so having known them and known a bit about NLC through other past Fellows and the founder- Adam Borelli- I knew Orange County needs NLC.
We need to get young professionals involved in Orange County politics, who do not have to jump through the hurdles of insider party politics- Republican or Democrat. Both parties stifle the desire by young professionals to make an impact in their communities through politics because the old guards serve as an unrelenting gate keeper. I don’t have any false notions of NLC OC changing things up over night, no that is not the mission of NLC. NLC is about creating a community and network of like minded professionals who are trained through the NLC Institute as fellows who go on to work on advancing progressive ideas, if not politics. NLC is not about partisan politics, we are about addressing the challenges America faces today and the future hurdles by getting young professional educated, engaged and familiar with the political process in their local communities.
“Change” and “Hope” don’t come out of nothing, CHANGE happens when concerned citizens actively engage and apply themselves, giving society as a whole HOPE for a brighter and better future. As the NLC OC Selection Committee Chair I invite you (everyone!) to take a look at the Fellowship opportunity and apply for it! You can apply for the OC fellowship if you live in Orange County and meet the requirements, but there are 19 chapters across the country, so apply, nominate and encourage entrepreneurial, young and successful professionals who are change makers in their way that will benefit from the NLC Institute. APPLY NOW!