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  • Writer's pictureKim Caldwell

Why I'm preparing you to NetWORKit

Kim and former interns at an office
Unplanned twin day when former interns Ari and Jo came back to visit the office.

In my mid-thirties, I have come to realize that my superpower is connecting with people. I’m an extrovert, I’m a trainer, I’m a consultant, I’m a planner - I am many things that require working with and through people. Working with others makes me feel like me.

My last job was at Annie’s List training women to run for office during the 2018 election cycle - a time distinct for the number of women who ran for office. This put me in the same room with more than a thousand women in less than two years, all of whom were looking to take their leadership to the next level. I loved these formal workshops, but I also loved the basic professional development programs I led through my organization’s intern program. The mostly young women (and a few young men) who came to work with us were passionate, driven and diverse - I easily learned as much from them as they did from me.

In addition to the intern program, I also made it a point to be available to young women interested in politics or the nonprofit sector. A young woman who had volunteered for me a couple of times reached out letting me know that she was in town and wanted to get coffee. I met her at a nearby coffee shop and it turned out that she knew enough about networking to get me there, but not enough to know what to do with me. The experience was frustrating, but ultimately it showed me a new way to help people - teach networking.

Networking is intuitive for me: I like meeting new people, I excel at identifying common interests, and I write a mean thank you note. I have also had really fabulous mentors model good relationship building for me over the last 15 years. This gave me the skills and confidence to be a leader in multiple networking organizations. Networking isn’t intuitive for everyone, but having a clear definition and framework can make it significantly more accessible and successful.

I started coaching the interns at Annie’s List on how to proactively build their network in a way that is strategic and manageable. Then, I started hearing about the results: new relationships, new internships, new jobs. With a little training, some time-tested advice, and a replicable framework, these young people had access to a whole new world of opportunities.

When you are doing it the right way with the right people and the right attitude, networking is really rewarding. It isn’t slapping business cards in the hands of strangers over beers. It isn’t cramming your entire life story into two minutes before the bell dings and you have to move to the next person. And it definitely isn’t adding a stranger on LinkedIn. It is an authentic connection that stretches over time, bringing benefits to everyone involved.

I’m guessing you already have a strong feeling about networking. You love it or you dread it. Either way, you recognize the value that a diverse network brings to us as individuals, organizations and as a larger community or you would be reading something else. Good networking doesn’t require superpowers; mostly it requires being open to new possibilities and doing the work to get yourself in the same space as the right person. So stop putting off the future you want and join me to get the skills you need to NetWORKit!

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