By Krista Gypton
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that I don’t need to know how to do something before giving it a try, or allowing students to have a go at it; I just need to find someone who does. This lesson has freed me from feeling like I had to be the expert in the room at all times. It has freed me from feeling like I had to always be the one in control, and it has allowed all of us to experience and learn new things that I never thought were possible.
The problem is that in order to be freed to those experiences I had to first let go of the fear that was gripping me, and then to reach out to others. I had to let go of the negative “what if” scenarios that played in my head, and see them as the amazing “What IF...” opportunities they really are. On top of that I had to be willing to make myself vulnerable enough to admit what I didn’t know, and ask for help from others, often strangers.
I never imagined that my brief time as a telemarketer would provide me with the perfect skill set in becoming a pretty good networker. But months of cold calling strangers, asking questions, getting hung up on and not taking it personally really prepared me for what I needed to do to start building my network of experts. So many people I talk with, not just teachers, all people, limit themselves in what they can get done because they “don’t know someone who does that.” I say, so what, go find them. So I get online, post on my social media outlets and start sending emails, get on the phone and show up on front doorsteps. Ok, maybe not doorsteps, but I’m not averse to the idea. My good friend Carolyn Hill from the Boomerang Project always says, “If you don’t A-S-K you can’t G-E-T!” So ASK I have. And the amazing part is that the majority of the time I get a positive response. People want to know they are useful. They want to share their story, their skills, their time. I know I was just as shocked as you might be right now, but it’s true. Once I was willing to dive in and make that first call, I started realizing the snowball effect it was having. The more positive responses I received the more confidence I built in asking more people.
When I took on SEED SPOT NEXT this year, a Social Entrepreneurial class for teens that I had absolutely no experience with at all, I was convinced that the students would be at a huge disadvantage because I had absolutely no business background at all. I didn’t know the language; I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just had the foresight to know it was good and the courage to step out of my comfort zone. The wonderful part is that since the beginning of the school year to now we have had a variety of incredible adults step into our classroom to lend a hand. Local entrepreneurs have shared their stories, and business professors have helped understand the lingo. Lawyers have helped us understand the law. Pitch coaches have helped hone students public speaking skills. My students and I went from knowing nothing at all to being surrounded by people willing to help us learn, grow and also support us along the way. My students are now ready to launch their own businesses and I finally understand what they are talking about thanks to dozens of experts who have been willing to teach me.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be hard. And you don’t have to know all the right people to get started. It helps to start with who you know, then discover who they know and move out from there. These easy steps have led to incredible results in my world. First I post on my social media outlets to see who has skills I’m looking for, or knows someone who does. This has been an amazing and fruitful resource. If you are not on social media, don’t fret. Look through your contacts list on your phone and email, send out an SOS there. Next, get online and ask your old friend Google who is in your area with the skills you need. Then kindly call and ask. I promise you will not be disappointed. Some people say no, of course. But the majority of your requests will be met with an enthusiastic “yes!”. So go ahead- go A-S-K and see what you G-E-T.