Social Networking Should Not be About You
Hate to break it to you but social networking is not about you. Instagram, in some peoples perspectives, affirms your worth, or unworth, through the amount of likes and follows you receive. LinkedIn may internally validate your ego in you believing you are more important, or more acknowledged than the day before. Though it is true you may be more acknowledged in that one moment, the question we have to ask ourselves is how real is that connection? When I mean real, I mean, how genuine is that connection… or follow… or like? Though there is beauty in being able to connect with someone instantaneously through social networking platforms, we must question the genuineness in how we take steps to develop our professional network. In order to ask how we are taking steps to expand our professional network, we must understand what professional networking context we are in. I have identified three separate contexts that all have a place for professional networking if done appropriately.
First context where professional networking is appropriate is your intimate, day to day work environment. When you start working side by side with different coworkers, or intermingling with different departments amongst the organization, connecting with someone I work with has been as simple as searching their name in the search bar on LinkedIn and clicking the connect button. Another step I have taken to develop my professional network is staying after hours. My intentions were not to expand my professional network. It was to genuinely get to know the people I work with on a more intimate, personal level. However, it just so happens that doing this can expand my professional network. I have had so many beautiful, unplanned conversations after work. Though a typical work day is from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, I have often stayed til 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. having deep, heartfelt conversations. What is great about sacrificing time to stay later is I get to have conversations with people in different roles in the corporation. As well, I get to see what is going on past hours, which then leads to me meeting people I do not get to typically interact with during the regular workday. Furthermore, another additional way I have taken steps to develop my social network is by bringing creative entrepreneurial thought and action to my workplace. For example, if I take photos of people outside work, I make it a priority to share those photos and videos with the individuals I spent time with.
Second context where professional networking is allowed is in random, sporadic in-person interactions with another. I have realized that developing my professional network does not just mean it has to be in my traditional internship setting. In fact, most of my networking has happened outside the typical scheduled work day. For example, the internship I worked for has a company culture of getting to personally know the members that make up this community. Therefore, there are many opportunities to get to know my coworkers outside the typical work day. I also get the opportunity to meet people not working but affiliated with the organization. Furthermore, I am blessed to meet other individuals at the different locations our organization has. One of the typical social networking opportunities is a young adult nights, known as LYA: Lifesong Young Adults group. Here, the young adults between the age range of 18 to roughly 35 years old can spend time bonding. Just last week, a large group of us went out to eat at a local restaurant after Worship Wednesday- a large event hosted in the beginning of August as one of the apex events for the adults in the congregation. I initially only knew a few of the restaurant goers after being invited to the hangout outing by a trusted friend. Intentionally putting myself in situations, that my be uncomfortable for some, can cause social connections to organically unfold leading to professional networking as well. Moreover, you can connect with individuals professionally when you may meet someone in a totally unexpected way. A moment where this happened to me was when I was working this past summer at my part time job as a bartender. Then, one of the mothers I was serving mentioned how she played softball at Babson College and I was floored. Then, her and I continued in our conversation about where we both lived on campus, and the small, quirky things the Babson student experience is known for. It is great if the topic of work comes up casually in the conversation. Then, you can either ask them if it would be okay if you added them on LinkedIn. However, if it does not come up, you can still try to connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook. To make you stand out even more, you can even send a personal note to them in the attempts of professional networking.
The last context to reach out to someone professionally is through mutual friends. Though this context is the one with least association to true genuine connection, there still is hope. For me, I have connected with mutual friends on LinkedIn and Facebook, but even more so intimately by adding people I have connected with professionally on the YouVersion Bible app. In doing so, it is a great reminder that besides what titles we may hold, ultimately, the importance in our connection is not in whether we can use each other for our personal benefit in the future or who we know but in how we love and serve the communities we are a part of. Through professional networking with mutual friends through LinkedIn, Facebook, and the Bible app, I am very grateful for being reminded that my faith in Jesus Christ is why I reach out to people placed on my path.
Social and professionally networking should consider wearing the mindset of “how can I serve this person” instead of the lustful, narcissistic mentality we can often find ourselves in asking “how can this person serve me?”. Social and professional networking should not be something we stress. Rather, this unique opportunity many people do not get to have. Therefore, we can live out this moment with joy. Think about it- meeting uniquely woven individuals that are placed on your path. You have the chance to change their life just as they have the chance to change yours- for better for worse. If we looked at every interaction we had with the mindset of how can I love this person and help them, instead of our sinful, inherent ways of judging and not even acknowledging another human beings existence, the world would positively flourish in a more loving manner.
Questions to consider in thinking about others more than yourself in professional networking is “how can I intently listen to their needs?” “What are their needs?” “Is there any heartfelt advise I can offer them?”
Networking should not be about the individual because if it is, that is idolatry.