Cara North is a learning experience designer at THE Ohio State University and the President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. However, I did not invite her to be a guest on this podcast because of her day job. I invited her to be a guest because, as she says, "I love connecting others to people and opportunities."
She loves networking, making connections, and creating opportunities – and I know that is a big fear for a lot of people, but it’s also a necessary part of being a lifelong learning and, increasingly, growing your career.
As Cara says, “If you work with me, you don't just get me – you get my network.” That's an extremely valuable thing you can offer employers and clients, and it’s a resource that will only get more valuable over time. “We're all in this together, we all want to do better, everybody wants to feel valued, everybody wants to be respected, and I feel like collaboration is the best way to do that.”
So, why do so many people hate the word networking?
I blame it on most people’s mothers, and then most people laugh at me. But what did your mother always tell you? Never talk to strangers! And when most of us think about networking, we think of talking to a group of strangers. But a stranger is somebody with a bottle of Mogen David at the Ohio Stadium looking at a lamp post going, "Oh, you're awfully tall." That's a stranger. But in a business environment, people that we don't know are opportunities.
You don’t even have to get face-to-face with real people to get started! One of Cara’s mentors, Mike Taylor, once said during a presentation that Twitter is the number one professional development tool.
She signed up for Twitter during his presentation and, fast forward to 2019, she uses Twitter daily to talk to people all across the world that do the work and have the same challenges that she does.
“And I feel like, especially since I've been more networked, that my depth of knowledge has expanded more than somebody that has been doing the same old thing for five years or ten years because it's so important to me, and so important for your growth, to constantly be getting feedback.”
People that embrace that growth mindset won’t just have a better network – they’ll be better positioned over the next 10 to 15 years, as our workplaces evolve. “You're going to have to have a growth mindset to stay malleable and employable,” and that’s true in pretty much every industry, but it is especially true for CPAs. As we’ve mentioned before, CPAs will need more than just technical skills to thrive in the coming years.
So what are your next steps in becoming a better networker? Is it changing your mindset? Is it not sitting or standing with your office friends and meeting new people? Is it breaking through your shyness and comfort zone to explore possibilities? What do you need to do? And where could you get out of your comfort zone?
I challenge you to start by just taking 10 minutes, writing down some ideas – But the key here is follow through. Whatever you come up with, just do it!
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