I wanted to share with you a eureka moment I had recently while running a workshop with a group of speech and drama PhD researchers. It was a full day workshop on career planning and we were reaching the dreaded dead zone (after lunch but before afternoon coffee) and moving into the discussion on networking.
Networking seems to invoke fear in the hearts of many, the idea of self-promotion really does go against all things English (and most other English-based cultures). I got the conversation going by running the following clip:
This clip always leads to great conversations (and usually a lot of laughing) about awkward networking situations that people have experienced.
Going back to this particular group. They had been really interested in discussing general career development theories when we were exploring issues around careers planning earlier in the day, so I attempted to present networking using planned happenstance. This is based on the principle of preparing yourself to take advantage of unexpected learning opportunities.
I presented them with the idea that networking is about putting yourself in a physical location where opportunities may (or may not) exist. Talking to people was how you found out about opportunities. It’s a bit like hunting for crabs at the beach – you have to lift the rock to see if there is something under it, sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t but you’ll never know unless you try! Even if you’re not discussing specific jobs/projects, just talking to different people can spark off new ideas or opportunities.
Putting this into the context of a conference I posed the question: if viewing networking in this way would affect their individual approach to it. There was dead silence. Then one participant spoke up to say that this reasoning really did take all of the fear out of a networking for them. In the past she had always seen networking as selling yourself (being a big load show-off where her exact words) which she never felt comfortable doing. Looking at networking as an exchange, or an information interview put it into a framework that she uses in her current research and made it seem much more practical. Eureka!
We then moved on to the practicalities of networking and it was the best group discussion around this topic I’ve had the privilege to facilitate.
This experience got me thinking, I wonder if sometimes I need to give my audience more of a chance to decipher careers theories for themselves. I often tend to present interpretations of theories (such as models, pictures, diagrams) that I feel will be easier for the audience to understand. Maybe I need to give my audience a little more credit and let them create their own interpretations of theory?
- Have you presented a careers theory within a workshop situation to great success (or failure)?
- Do you think more theories could be explained to clients in their raw form as opposed to the contextual form we often use them in? If so, which ones?