By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor
Networking is like watercolor painting. I dabble in painting – oil and watercolor. Each takes a different mindset.
If you have an exact picture in your head of how the painting should look in the end, then oil is your medium. Oil paint allows you to paint over mistakes or apply solutions to lift the paint.
If you have an idea of the picture in your head, but are open to it looking different than you envisioned, but still beautiful, then watercolor is your medium. Watercolor paper is thick and porous and watercolor paints bleed into the paper and spread in unpredictable ways. It can be messy and frustrating. (Where did that water spot come from?) Watercolor isn’t something you control, it’s something you work with.
Networking can be messy and frustrating. Like watercolors, human beings are unpredictable. Networking might not go as we planned, but we can still emerge with worthwhile connections. The same is true for online networking, like LinkedIn.
It’s easy to talk to friends – we know what to expect. Networking involves talking to people we don’t know – therefore, we don’t know what to expect. Instead of worrying about exactly what to say next, we must allow ourselves to be somewhat clumsy in conversation. Networking is not about perfection, it’s about connection.
Some will be enthusiastic to connect with us. Others not so much. Don’t take it personally. Move on. If one rude or standoffish person makes us quit networking, think of all the brilliant bonding we’ll miss.
Watercolor is a luminous medium – a watercolor should appear to be lit from within. So should we, in networking, have a light from within that radiates positivity and a genuine interest in others. Sometimes it takes a mess to be a success. Like any art, networking is a lifelong practice.
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