3 Networking Lessons From a 2nd Grader (Seriously)

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For me, the end of August in Iowa always ushers in an atmosphere of a fresh beginning as my kids embark on a new school year. The time is preceded by new clothes, new school supplies, new class lists, new schedules… you get the idea.

My oldest son, Parker, is now in the 2nd grade and this year marked his first at a new school. For him, the weeks leading up to the first day were a mixing pot of nervousness, apprehension, and all-around curiosity as he wondered what life would be like in his new digs. Almost daily he asked me specific questions (that I had no answers for) about what he would experience, but all I could do was assure him that everything would work out in the end.

On the evening prior to the big day the school wisely setup an ice-breaker event where students, and their parents, were encouraged to visit the building to drop off school supplies and meet the teachers. It was during this event when all of the uneasiness my son was experiencing jumped out the proverbial window and all that was left, in his mind, was an inspired perspective of newness and camaraderie among him and his classmates.

After that, the kick-off to the year went as smoothly as one could hope, but it really got me thinking about how my son’s sequence of feelings isn’t all that uncommon, even for us “grown-ups”. Some deliberate introspection on the situation lead to what I believe are three things that professionals can learn from his experience, all of them related to expanding our networks.

  1. Apprehension is normal but don’t let it paralyze you.

    What happened to my son during his school’s ice-breaker event is the exact same thing we have all experienced shortly after entering a new environment, and that is the epiphany that there was nothing to be afraid of. Even though everyone knows this feeling, I hear from people fairly consistently that they do not engage in certain events because they probably won’t know anyone, thus causing them to be uncomfortable. The truth is, most of that apprehension is unfounded and whomever you come across at new events is almost always happy to get to know you.

  1. You have more in common with your peers than you think.

    If you can take a moment and view school (at any level) through the lens of being just a giant networking opportunity it is easy to see why someone would be uneasy going into either situation. What my son came to realize, and you should too, is that almost all of his peers were in the same position as him. Very few of them knew each other and there were no secret clubs or niches to be left out of. Many individuals who come to MBI events, whether it be for networking or something else, are new faces who are interested in meeting other new faces. In other words, they are in the exact same spot as you, sometimes uneasy about being there at first but excited to meet new people at the same time.

  1. The benefits outweigh the risks – by a lot.

    In this example ‘risks’ is a fitting but exaggerating word because what are you really risking? Attending a new event, or getting involved with a new group of professional people, has huge upside and very little downside. Worst case scenario is you attend an event, don’t see any value, and never come back. The best case scenario is you meet a new business partner, customer, or friend; or gain information that changes your role or business in a positive way. My son came home from his second day of school and declared that he met his new best friend! After 2 days! Okay, that probably won’t happen in the professional world but you understand what I’m saying.

I bring these points forward not to insult your intelligence, but simply as a reminder of the power of being around other like-minded people. In the busyness of life it can be easy to procrastinate the effort it takes to become involved with others in your industry, but if done right, it will always be worth your while and can even lead to a renewed energy for yourself and your team.

Master Builders of Iowa has dozens of events every year that give you a chance to get involved in Iowa’s commercial construction industry. Our next round of events are our Regional Membership Meetings which take place this year October 2nd-16th at various cities throughout Iowa. These events are open, free of charge, to all employees of MBI member companies. Companies considering membership with MBI can also receive a special invite to these events by contacting me anytime.

Your new best friend could be waiting!