Making Quality Relationships the Highest of Priorities

Report written by Nanditha Iyer

On Thursday March 9th, 2017 the LYAC gathered at Innovation Works in downtown London to discuss the importance of networking and building quality relationships. Zach Anderson, a former LYAC employee and current Executive Director at Twelve Canada lead the conversation by talking about his personal experiences when networking and specific strategies he follows to ensure that he builds meaningful interpersonal connections.

Who should read this?

  • Young people who want to learn how to network effectively and efficiently
  • Individuals looking to enhance communication skills
  • People trying to understand how they can better grasp opportunities they want to explore (ex. volunteering, work experiences, etc)

Opinions about networking

Zach asked what the purpose of networking was to the LYAC councillors. Here are their thoughts:

  • Melissa networks looking for opportunities to extend the LYAC’s reach, to try and improve the organization and enable growth
  • One group member noted that he networks to use the relationships later on.
  • Fawaz networks for personal benefit- for his career, to gain experience, and for personal reasons.
  • Mike: get jobs and find people he could potentially start a business with. He says that the networking he has done thus far has been rather un-intentional.
  • Grace: wants to do non-profit work in China. She networks to look for solutions to problems that she sees, international funding opportunities, and learning opportunities.

There is an overall trend here. The main reasons that youth engage in networking are to cultivate important connections that will help them advance their skillsets, find opportunities that will help with their career aspirations, and to find meaningful experiences in which they can offer their expertise.

Networking is important and we all engage in it for one goal or another. So how exactly do we go about networking in a successful way? Zach Anderson had some great tips for our LYAC council!

Principled Flirting   

Zach introduced himself and what he does. Zach is an executive director for Twelve Canada, a company that supports and creates space for young people looking to create social change across Canada. His aim to to support the work of young people (like the LYAC!) and ensure that youth have access to environments that allow them to develop and grow their ideas.

After his mini introduction, Zach opened the topic of networking by stating: “everything is principles.” His advice was that there are 3 specific guidelines we should adhere to in order to network effectively:

  1. Recruit for Passion & Conviction
  2. Notice Generative and Participatory Spaces
  3. Follow a Design, Planning and Action Process

Recruit for Passion and Conviction

  • Mindset: YOU as an individual have value and something to offer. Although the company/person/organization that you are trying to get to know may seem like they are extremely important and highly affluent – it is vital that you understand your own worth and value. In essence, flip the scenario – pretend that you are the recruiter.
  • Look for passion in other people, so that when you are building a connection with someone, you know your positioning and what you have to offer.

Notice Generative and Participatory Spaces

  • Notice patterns
  • Notice creations – do not look for linear thinkers. Rather, find individuals who are innovating and making things in spaces
  • Notice intergenerational and diverse cultures – people that understand the importance of diversity are important because intergenerational systems are essential for creation.

Follow a Design, Planning & Action Process

  • Tangible Strategy: Twelve Canada’s Three Dates
  • Do not do anything until you have designed and planned your actions
  • Lock in your ideas before implementation, even for networking

“Principled flirting” (following these three principles), will enable individuals to build meaningful connections and grasp opportunities that are valuable to them.

The ‘Threshold’ and how to move forward

The ‘Threshold” refers to asking someone on a ‘first date’. This ‘first date’ could be a coffee chat, a formal meeting or just simply getting to know someone. For many people, it can be the most nerve-wracking part of the dating process! Zach  gave the following advice when asking someone on a ‘date’:

  • Understand that you have a set of skills, motivation and abilities when talking to someone. Part of growing an organization is to find people who care confident in what they are doing, not someone who is selling themselves.
  • At networking events, people are actually paid to go to these events and recruit. So, as much as YOU (the networker) are looking for an opportunity; recruiters are similarly trying to find someone that fits their niche.
  • Ask the question “what are you working on?” Zach has found that this question facilitates space for great discussion.

After you have crossed the threshold and gone on your first date, evaluate the experience and see if your energy matches with the other person. If it does- great! Go on another date and see how else you can mutually benefit from each other. After three dates, you should have a good understanding of whether or not you should be working together. Trust your instincts. If you find that you don’t exactly fit with each other, politely convey this to the other individual so that nobody’s time is wasted–close the loop!

Personal Stories

Zach gave an example of how he landed where he is today- by networking with principles and following his instincts. He showed the LYAC an e-mail that he sent Dr. Marc Langlois early on. He gave us a timeline of his successful interactions with Marc (his now colleague!):

  • He was going to have a two hour meeting with Marc. If it went well, then he would cancel other (job) interviews that he had lined up. However, if it was bad THEN he would interview with other companies.
  • In his e-mail written to Marc, he used many exclamation marks because he had an understanding of who he was. This e-mail screamed excitement and passion. You could tell he was really imminent on having a purposeful conversation with Marc, even just through a couple of words sent on an electronic message.
  • By the third date: they asked “so what?” and “now what?”. Zach said he would volunteer for 3 months to assist Marc in growing his organization.
  • During his time volunteering, Zach knew his own skillset and applied that to Marc’s  needs. Zach was good at project management, finance, website development, etcetera. The key question he asked himself was: what am I willing to offer someone in the hopes that we can build something together?
  • Zach ended up building a team with Marc, because he knew his value and followed his instincts.

Fawaz then shared his own experiences in trying to find opportunities for this summer. He stated that he had just started the process and has been cold-emailing companies. Fawaz explained that he did not care about who accepted him, he really was just looking for an opportunity.

Grace had an interesting question for Zach. She asked “how can you network with people who are not in the same location as you?” She says she emails and calls her mentor who lives in Toronto, and wants to find a way to connect with her better.

  • Zach advised Grace to use new technology! Google hangouts, Skype and other video calls are great mediums that can help you network with someone who isn’t physically present.

Final Thoughts

  • Networking is strategic
  • The best type of networking should never feel like a job interview, it should always feel unintentional, easy, natural
  • Don’t be afraid to say if something is not working
  • Always follow your instincts and your gut
  • Understand that you have value
  • People are social-beings, they want to work with other people
  • Wearing the learning hat is the the best perspective to take on in any position
  • Always ask people “what are you working on?”