Being forced to take the journey into networking on my own behalf, and not for a company, has proved to be very enlightening.
Over the past three years, when I'd meet a new group of people, attend an event, talk on the phone or go to the market and engage in a conversation, I would always think "Is there any way this person may want or need text analytics software?"
Crazy, right? It was my job. I was the evangelist, the motivator and the messenger for the company. I was wired that way.
Now, when I go out, I have to figure out how to engage with people and not wonder about their software needs, but wonder about them. What drives them? Who are they? Do we have common interests? Will I make any sort of impression?
Don't get me wrong, if I met my friends for a happy hour drink I would put the job behind - way behind - in the spirit of socializing. But more often than not, the job would come up in conversation. This weekend was probably the first weekend I attended a social event and DIDN'T talk shop or think about networking. In fact, I listened. And I was so impressed.
My husband's cousin's son (got it?) graduated from college recently so Saturday they had some friends and family over for a traditional Puerto Rican pig roast. Pig lovers, don't worry, I won't go into details other than to say YUMMY! And while there I had two things to overcome: I don't speak Spanish and I'm not 20 something years old.
A lot to handle at one time. Amazingly, neither of those things mattered because what I learned from those 20 something year olds is that they are paying it forward. They are motivated. They are inspired. They wear their causes on their hats, their shirts and their rubber wristbands. They are laughing hard, playing hard, and willing to talk about dreams and goals. I listened to their parents talk about raising children, finding jobs, serving in the military, and overcoming addiction.
I don't think I realized how impressed I was going to be by the conversations I was about to have at that celebration. I sat on a folded chair, in a modest backyard, among 99% Latino men and women playing dominoes and listening to Spanish music among Brazilian neighbors and Caucasian neighbors only a handshake away and I didn't want to leave. No judging. No ego-trips about their job titles or how much revenue their companies made last quarter. Just family, friends and talk about how to make it better for the next generation and wondering if they can make a change.
Such a cultural departure from where I've been. And so damn refreshing.