Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Casual Networking Musings, 2/9/11.

I have some stationery that depicts two fifties-style ladies chatting, and the tagline reads, "We're not gossiping; we're networking." The image made me think about the various social objectives reached by networking, which is often cast as a means to directly advance career goals.

We know from testimonials that Bookbuilders Casual Networking events have allowed participants to make new job and vendor contacts, and I find that I learn a lot about how some larger companies operate in this candid setting (that piece probably looks like gossiping to the untrained eye). This past Wednesday night, I discovered what was for me a new benefit of networking--I'll call it "re-telling the story."

A common encounter at these events is between two strangers. "What do you do?" is the first question, followed almost always by some version of "How do you like what you do?" In this setting of professionals doing similar work, the "what do you do" question can be answered in somewhat more detail than it would be at, say, a cocktail party or family gathering. The answer may be more thoughtful and less rehearsed than the speaker would supply elsewhere. If the speaker is unemployed, the answer will include some details that point to the type of work desired, or a description of past work.

In either case, I think that something interesting can happen in this supportive but neutral atmosphere of others with related experience.  For the first time in perhaps a while, the networker describes his or her daily experience out loud, in some detail. The process of doing this sometimes informs the answer to the next question: "How do you like what you do?" The audience is still, at this point, fairly anonymous, but also equipped to discuss some of the finer points of creativity vs. rote production, or management vs. direct contribution to an enterprise. In the re-telling of his or her story, the speaker may discover or formulate a new perspective on career goals. Conveniently, there is often a qualified sounding board on the other side of the conversation, with different experience (and maybe leads) to take it further. In any case, the speaker has the basis for a story to re-tell to others that very night, perhaps revised again with new insight.

Do you agree? What have your experiences been at Casual Networking Events? If you haven't been, please join us on March 9 at Vlora Restaurant to draw your own philosophical conclusions.

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