What’s all this about networking?

Definition from Investopedia:


„What Is Networking? 

Networking is the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting. Networking often begins with a single point of common ground.

„Networking is used by professionals to expand their circles of acquaintances, to find out about job opportunities in their fields, and to increase their awareness of news and trends in their fields or in the greater world. 

„(The term computer networking refers to linking multiple devices so that they can readily share information and software resources.)“

Interestingly, the idea of „sharing” only appears in relation to hardware rather than human beings, somehow hinting at the one-directional motive behind networking itself? I wonder.

In the days before social media, I remember when business card albums (or albi aka alibi?) were coveted “gifts” at international conferences and trade fairs. Such “gifts” were deposited in the document pigeonholes of heads of delegations, CEOs, heads of Departments and lesser folk, either in the know or in the pocket of one or more of the preceding. Possibly, the thought behind who was to get what was a bit elitist in that it was presumed that any networking could only be on a horizontal and possibly peer level. It would be interesting to know how many of whichever category consulted such albi.

Then there were also the coveted silver-plated business card holders that would enable one to discreetly whip out a card without obstructing the hand with the glass of bubbly served at the networking functions where deals were made and strategies crafted. A mere slide of a thumb could do the trick, although that took a bit of practice.

Enter social media, and the machine/software was able to organize the required categories by area of interest. Here where before, there may have been mentoring in a top-down manner as I was fortunate enough to have experienced, networking became a free for all, in that one could also approach “gurus” in a given field and with a bit of luck, catch their eye, possibly leading to career support of one type or another. Like the business cards to fill the albi of old, people would collect connections, possibly in line with the old Australian theory that if enough shit hits the fan, something was bound to stick. But some were clever, and kept their connections to certain fields, going for “quality” rather than succumbing to procuring followers et al.

So what happened to the “sharing” the hardware knew so much about? Sharing presupposes engaging. Have a look at your “important” connections and see how many really engage with you or with others not just their peers? How many are just broadcasters or PR systems? How many care about you and their touted “mission”?

Now that I enjoy the luxury of no longer needing to impress anyone in order to climb any ladder of what ultimately might, for me, have become discontent, I see that my “best” and most enduring human connections are with folks I could sit down with when we were all , nobodies sharing a beer and spitting into the fire. They come from all parts of the world and very diverse backgrounds, but with the same fires alive into which we used to spit, not to extinguish, but to invigorate them for possible future action, like pouring beer onto the hot coals of a Finnish sauna and getting drunk from the outside in.

The idea of sharing is an important one for me in my story of social media and networking – as is the need for engaging. A wonderful lesson is one I received from the late Canadian writer, Timothy Findley, by whom I was fortunate enough to have been mentored via the Humber School for Writers in Toronto in 2000/2001. When I asked how I might thank him for his support and advice on my then novel-in-progress and now recently published eBook http://eye-books.com/books/all-the-beautiful-liars, he said that I could not, that all I could do was to offer help forward for those engaged in what I loved doing, namely writing.

My stories spun on networking bring me to my relationship with Canadian Humber College Alumnus, Darcie Friesen Hossack who wrote about our meeting before I left social media 6 years ago https://darciefriesenhossack.wordpress.com/tag/sylvia-petter/ and whom I recently found again, leading to my participation in an unexpected and exciting international project created by ZimbabweanPoet in Exile: Mbizo Chirasha

Darcie and I maybe weren´t spitting into too many fires years ago, but we were sure spitting, with Darcie´s short-story collection, Mennonites Don´t Dance being banned from a library in its early months, and the stories in my collection of erotic tales, Consuming the Muse having to appear under a pseudonym when they were first published.

So, going back to the introductory definitions of networking, I prefer the more human sharing of the hardware take than what to me through its marketing spin seems more like exploitative piggybacking, despite the possibility of said exploitation being on the other foot. 

The more we leave the ego at the door, a phrase often trumpeted by a former colleague and mentor, but one that often sadly fell on deaf ears with a, to me, resounding clunk, the better, in the spirit of what we all hold dear, we can move, maybe even without a net, as always,