In this world of social media, we are in some ways more connected than ever. But I talk to tech folks all the time that are still feeling isolated and on-their-own. It has also become the norm to use technology to reach out for community, mentorship, and help on Twitter, Facebook, and others. While this may seem to connect us, I actually think it can be more isolating. Social media certainly has its positives, no doubt. But it also can give us a false sense of community while allowing us to hide behind our phones and computers. I am also seeing a trend toward an “echo chamber” affect in online groups across the inter-webs, a phrase often used in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
“An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system.” Wikipedia
Many of the posts in these groups pose great questions, but are sometime answered by people who, in reality, know less than the person asking it. Oftentimes an incorrect answer can be seen as gospel because it is from someone in that group who is a self-proclaimed expert. Crowd sourcing networks have their place, but to get the most out of your network, you really need to curate it.
Why network at all?
Let’s take a step back and look at what we gain from good networking.
Help: Having a good network is a great source of help when you need it, plain and simple.
Wisdom: Networking with those that have gone before you or are further down the road than you can definitely push you further, faster that being alone.
Friendship: Though you may have many friends, having some that are in the trenches with you at other churches is vital to your mental and work health. It’s a good bet they won’t be out on the ledge at the same time as you so they can talk you down.
Encouragement: Having the right people in your network to encourage you is one of the most important things you will benefit from. Everyone needs to be encouraged, and it means so much coming from those that truly understand what you are going through.
Inspiration: Both creative and spiritual inspiration can be found with the right people in your network.
Mentorship: If you are looking for a mentor, and you should be, one might be found as you build your network.
It’s Biblical: There are so many verses in the Bible encouraging us to be in community with others. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to give up meeting together. Ecclesiastes 4 lets us know that our labor is better together and we need others to help us up when we fall. God built us to be together.
Building the right network.
As I mentioned before, you don’t necessarily want to have only a network of like-minded and similarly talented folks in your network.
A good network is filled with both those who pour into you and those you pour into. While it is probably easier to find those to help out, what should be the criteria for finding those who can make you better?
Look at the decision makers.
Those that make the decisions are great people to network with. They have gained not only knowledge to get into that position, but also hopefully wisdom.
Wells of knowledge.
Knowledge is power; those that have the knowledge you want to obtain should be in your network. Vet them by asking around; don’t take their word for it. If they are experts, others will tell the tale. My experience is that those with the most knowledge are usually the most humble anyway.
Those you see championing others are people you want in your network. Being interested in the betterment of others says volumes about people. You want and need to be near that.
There are, more than likely, larger churches in your area that have tech staff. Find out who they are and meet with them. At the least you will now know more techs in your area, but you may find that one or more of them is someone that should be in your network.
So what is your responsibility in this network thing?
It’s as much about you as it is about those you network with. So what makes you someone that others want to network with? Remember it can’t all be about what you get from them, you have to have skin in the game.
No one likes to be used. If someone takes the time to network with you, pour into you, answer your question, or make you better, be grateful. If you go out to lunch, pick up the check. Drive to them and don’t waste their time. Have goals for the meeting and always ask if there is something you can do for them.
Don’t be afraid to look dumb.
What I mean by this is be humble. If you don’t know something, don’t act like you do. We learn more from each other if we are honest about our skill and experience level. Don’t feign humility, have humility.
Pay it forward.
Find other networks to be a part of where you are the more knowledgeable one and help others get where you are today, no matter where that is. Again, be honest about your skill, knowledge, and experience but help those coming after you.
We are all better together. There’s no need to succumb to isolation working in this world.