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In this podcast, SCORE mentors chat with Sara Hand about networking with a purpose.

Dennis Zink:     The definition of networking as I looked up this morning in Webster’s was the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups [00:02:00] or institutions, specifically the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

Sara, I’m going to ask you, what do you think about networking and what is it to you?

Sara Hand:        I think, Dennis that an important concept there is productive relationships. When I talk to people about networking, I refer to maybe their cell phone or their cable network, and we know what that’s like when it goes down, then you see a bunch of people all frustrated, trying to figure out how they’re going to work. For a lot of people, that’s what their personal networking is like. It’s like an attempt to use something that doesn’t work. I think the key there in that definition is productive relationships, things that work.

Dennis Zink:     Okay. Why should someone network?

Sara Hand:        Networking is about increased resources, about connecting to sources of energy, sources of information … I think the exciting thing about the world that we live in today is, having been a research student, somebody who spend hours in the library. When I did that, we used microfiche and card catalogs. The exciting thing about today is that we have this thing called ‘Google’ or ‘Bing’, and you can find just about anything that you want. When you are well connected and you’ve made relevant relationships with people that are productive in business, you have access to resources that can take you forward in a way that Google takes people forward from those old research habits of microfiche and card catalogs.

Dennis Zink:     So interesting you mentioned microfiche, for our younger listeners that is not small fish. You may want to mention that. Is networking really effective or how effective can networking really be?

Sara Hand:        I think for a lot of people, networking is not effective at all. I think one of the most aggravating statements that I hear people say is, “I’m just here to build relationships.” I [00:04:00] personally have great relationships with my family, I have some wonderful friends, I have two lovely daughters at home, and so my life is really busy.

My goal in going out to network is not to just build relationships. My goal is to build relationships with other people that have similarly aligned interest that want to make a difference in their community, that want to grow their business … I’m looking for people that have purpose. Some of those people have become incredible, incredible friends over the last couple of years.

Now, I didn’t go out looking for friends, I went out looking for a specific type of person with an aligned interest and they became friends. I think that for the people that are just running around from event to event, they haven’t really qualified what it is that they’re looking for. For a lot of people that are doing that, it’s kind of like busy work and they don’t develop those productive connections that we talked about at first, so for them, it might be a waste of time.

For me, I found that networking has been one of the most important things that I do. I’ve also had to be very focused in where I choose to network. I’m not going to an event looking to just get a business card from everybody there. It was interesting when I walked in today and saw Fred. I was able to say, “I met you before,” and be able to remember where I met him, when I met him, what we were talking about, and how that relationship came about even though I haven’t seen him in a number of years. That’s because I identified what he did that was important, how that might be the same or different to what I do, and how that might connect to what I do and be a resource for people that I know.

For me, networking is effective because I’m looking for those stories, I’m looking for valuable relationships. I’m not looking [00:06:00] to just get a whole bunch of cards. 

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