I’m entering the last month of my internship here with the Storm. Looking back, I can’t believe that I almost didn’t accept this position. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime that has already proven to be a necessary addition to my resume and, more importantly, to my collection of experiences and knowledge.
My technical knowledge has increased tremendously, my basketball knowledge has expanded, my self-confidence has multiplied, and my interpersonal skills have matured.
When I came to Seattle, I thought I was doing pretty well. Here I was 2500 miles from home and I was doing better than just ok. In June, things went downhill in a hurry. And now, at the end of July, I’m a better me than I’ve ever been before.
What happened? Too much. More has transpired here in Seattle than I will ever realize. (1)And it all started in a grocery store parking lot.
I had been on Mercer Island for two days when I went to the grocery store for the first time. I got all the necessities while I was there…chocolate milk, pop tarts, frozen chicken nuggets, fruit snacks, apple sauce, teddy grahams, lunch meat, wheat bread…you know, the diet of a 7 year old (or myself). While I was checking out, a man and his son got in line behind me. He wanted a sticker. He couldn’t decide between Ninja Turtles or a smiley face. Ultimately, he went with Ninja Turtles. I noticed that the boy had Down’s Syndrome (which in my opinion makes for some of the world’s best human beings). They were walking out of the store as I unloaded my cart. I was really missing my kids back home. I was missing them so badly that I did something I would have never believed I would do. I walked up to the man and introduced myself, told him I was new on the island, and that I would babysit if he wanted. His wife called while I was at work the next day. Now, this 9 year old and I are best buddies. We hang out as often as I’m off: go to the dog park, play tag, have rock throwing contests at the lake, eat ice cream, jump on the trampoline, have puppet shows, watch Shrek the Musical, read books (three books, every time), and pass out. That’s how our days together go…every time. NETWORKING.
(2)His mom introduced me to a friend of hers who opened up her home to me. Now, I have a safe place to go when I want a quiet place to read or I need someone to talk to or I have a question or I just want to watch TV, or for no reason at all. NETWORKING.
(3)I get to do a lot of stuff with Synergy at the office. Now, when something isn’t working with Synergy, they ask me. It’s pretty cool…actually, it’s totally amazing. I’ve learned what to do in most situations. And when I’m stumped, I know who to call. I know everyone who answers the phone at Synergy support…pretty sure I’m on a first name basis with all of them. NETWORKING.
(4)I added four lines to my resume and changed one reference. People within the Storm organization are willing to call coaches on my behalf. NETWORKING.
To some of you, these instances may not seem special or may not make you think of networking. If so, I challenge you to redefine “networking”.
Networking is not meeting people. It’s not eye contact or a firm handshake. It’s not being friendly or engaging or being great at conversation. It’s not handing out resumes (or donuts). It’s not job searching. I could go on and on about everything networking is not but I’ll spare you. (It’s also not a rock.)
To me, networking is a form of symbiosis. (That’s a long-term relationship between two different species.) Specifically, it’s mutualism. It’s not just a relationship. It’s a relationship that benefits BOTH parties. Sometimes, this relationship might be obligate and sometimes the relationship can be facultative (not necessary). **PS: Shoutout to Mr. Culp for teaching me biology. I didn’t even have to look this up. Thanks Culp.**
In each of my provided examples, both parties benefit.
- I provide a babysitting service to the parents. They provide a financial payment to me (the unimportant part) and I get to play with one of the greatest kids ever.
- I have a safe place to go and a safe person to talk to. I can help her with her website and other technical questions.
- The Storm organization pays the Synergy support staff. The Synergy support staff helps our organization and helps me do my job better and more efficiently.
- I complete my responsibilities to the Storm as well and as quickly as I can. The people within the organization will call coaches on my behalf.
So what is networking? Networking is helping and being helped. It’s doing as much as you can and going as far as you can, because it all matters. It’s helping as many people as you can, because no one is irrelevant. Networking doesn’t require social skills. It simply requires being willing to help.