Networking: What is it REALLY!?

I will be the first to admit that I am one of the outliers who truly enjoys networking. Women in Healthcare Management has afforded me this exceptional opportunity, as well as other groups. Most recently, I stepped out of my norm. I am mostly affiliated with professional women networks or those focused around healthcare management and administration. I was afforded the opportunity to try out a group that mixed genders and industries, and I was beyond excited to see what else was happening out in the world!

After showing up at the event and mingling for about twenty minutes, I was starting to doubt all that I ever thought I knew about the “art” of networking. From the start, we were divided by as simple a thing as name tags. They were color coded to the industry we belonged to. This was a tough one for me, as I wear several different hats in several different industries that were listed. Following this, I moved around the room, paying no attention to these colored factions we were classified by, just looking to learn new and innovative topics taking place in the professional world. It soon became clear that participants at this event were not of that same ilk. The insurance folks grouped in one corner, the bankers in another, the realtors remaining in their group at center stage. When introducing myself and all of the different areas I participate in, I could actually see folks rolling their eyes! It came to me within minutes that if I was not a sale to their company, there was no use in having a conversation with me. To say I was disappointed is an understatement at best.

I started to research the true definition of networking, as I thought I had learned it all wrong! Defined, networking is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. Forming relationships, this is what I was out for! I wasn’t basing my introductions on making a certain number of sales, I was happy not mentioning the company names I work for/with, I was happy to talk about what the thirty-thousand foot scope of my work is, what barriers I face in my industry, and I wanted to know about others, what do we share? Have we conquered some of the same, and if so, how?

This was not the forum supported by this particular group, and I am now the wiser. I am proud to be a member within WHCM, and after seeing the “other side” of networking, I am grateful that we are a supportive networking group looking to promote each other, support each other and work collaboratively.

Blog post by WHCM Steering Committee Member Jennifer Pendleton