I had a networking success moment last week. After returning from the ethics board conference, I started doing the standard follow-ups. One of my follow-up messages was to the director of the Portage network of Canadian institutions whose mission is to promote good data management practices for research institutes. I noticed at the Portage presentation that Ontario Colleges were typically not included in their activities on account of the fact that Colleges are only now making concerted efforts towards research and data. It’s still too early for the Colleges to have caught up with what Universities have been doing all along, so the two organizational structures are out of alignment.
I saw this bit of oversight as a good opportunity to introduce myself and suggest that I could connect Portage with my home institution library if there wasn’t already an existing working relationship. In my follow-up message, I asked for some details for an upcoming event that I could pass along to the director of our library.
I then reached out to our director with the information and filled her in on the details from the conference, and what value a connection with Portage might offer. Keep in mind that I don’t really know a lot about the library, its operations, or its institutional priorities. I was merely offering a potential connection without knowing whether things would be a good fit.
At this point, it’s out of my hands, but I did my part to facilitate the introduction. I think this is the overlooked side of networking. Most of the time, we think of networking as “what can this do for me.” Instead, it might be more useful to flip the question around and ask “how best can I help this person with my network.” You get more value from offering value to others than if you just treat everything as an opportunity to gain for yourself.