Growing Your Network
Imagine this, you’re at a networking event and you don’t know anyone there. How do you feel? How do you create connections, seemingly, out of thin air? One fundamental piece of leadership is networking, and it is a necessary skill in every leader’s toolkit. There is an exercise called network mapping which can help you address your strengths and weaknesses. I thought I had a strong network here in Arizona, but after completing my own network mapping I learned that wasn’t the case. I realized that I would need to step out of my comfort zone and grow my network to become a truly effective leader.
I quickly set out to grow my network and I’d like to share some helpful ideas that you can put into practice to build your own connections. 1) ask a friend to introduce you to someone, join a facebook group of something you are interested in and connect with people there or on another social media platform; 2) attend upcoming events like pow-wows or cultural gatherings, or reach out to someone via email or telephone. Really, the goal is to see and be seen; 3) When making an introduction remember to keep the language professional and talk about something that person or organization does that inspires you; Lastly, 4) plan ahead by making a list of people you want to connect with and follow through.
I’ve found that, for me, volunteering is a great way to network and it opens so many doors! For example, I used to work for a local school district’s Indian Education program, and I also volunteered for the Indian Education Parent Committee where my daughter went to school (two separate schools). From these experiences, I was able to meet wonderful people, including someone from one of the Indian Education committees who asked me to join the Indian Education Advisory Committee (IEAC) for the state of Arizona. Because I branched out of my comfort zone and actively worked to make new connections, I’ve now been on the IEAC for a few years. Being on the IEAC has allowed me to grow my network even further as I have connected with people involved in Indian Education throughout the state of Arizona.
At some point you will grow your network to the point where you will be asked to connect people and make introductions. When you are asked, remember how you felt taking those first steps to grow your network and make connections. Be gracious, kind, and generous. Who knows where those connections may lead to. Henana, pidamaya ye (that is all, thank you).