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Professional Networking: The Monthly Field Trip Approach
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Professional Networking: The Monthly Field Trip Approach- Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Monthly Field Trip Approach

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Monthly Field Trip Approach

It started with one friend asking another for a tour of his workplace, a local television station that had recently upgraded to the latest broadcast and editing equipment. The friend who worked at the station agreed, suggesting, "Why don't you bring a few friends? We can chat over lunch, and then I'll give you the grand tour." The seven guests assembled in a meeting room for quick brown-bag lunches, each invited by one of the instigating friends, getting acquainted with one another before getting some hands-on familiarity with the station's new gear. Most of the visitors were in fields related to technology or new media, but even those who weren't found a lot to absorb.

When it was time for everyone to head back to his or her respective office, someone said to the group, "Hey, I have a friend who manages tech at a local school. They've got a new media center and some interesting curricula to go along with it. Shall I see if we can have a tour in about a month's time?"

The group started an email list so people could discuss ideas for upcoming visits, but the list soon became a network for throwing around ideas about hot topics in technology and new media. Sometimes, when there was a lot to discuss, the group's monthly meeting would be just for lunch and conversation. Other times, when a visit or tour was impractical, guest speakers would informally meet with the group to talk about their latest projects. Although the monthly lunch gatherings were primarily focused on technology and media, the guest speakers were as wide-ranging as hobbyist gear fanatics, directors in state government who were revamping long-outdated logistical systems, or marketers from the tourism authority. The topics or site visits were always interesting, but attendees grew to enjoy each other's company above all else, so that even when nothing special was planned, they still met at a co-working space or a local cafe just to catch up.

Over time, the original seven friends expanded to many more, and unless there was a limit on the number of participants on a field trip, nobody ever knew how many would show up or whom to expect. Each person just knew that the conversation would be lively, topical, and interesting, and that the chances were excellent for meeting someone new, someone with similar interests.

There was never an agenda beyond checking out something interesting that someone had arranged access to. There were more than a few business cards passed around, but the emphasis was always on relationships, and because of the nature of social media, many of these professional acquaintances became real-life friends in relationships that extended far beyond monthly get-togethers.

Networking is about relationships, and relationships can happen any number of ways. In this case, one curious friend and one accommodating friend shared their curiosity and interests with others, spawning a tight-knit but loosely defined community of professionals in far-flung reaches of the networking space. Your interests and experiences may differ, but wherever your heart is, this field trip approach can be a great way to expand your sphere of experience, to see where it intersects with others' spheres, and to strengthen relationships. Start small; arrange a site visit and bring a few friends along for a lunch excursion, and see where things might go from there. Remember always that healthy relationships are bonded by the mutual desire among parties to be of benefit to each other, not the mutual desire to gain something from others, and you're already moving in the right direction.


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Professional Networking: The Monthly Field Trip Approach- Executive Leadership Articles

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