The Power of Loose Connections in Networking

Do you every think –“I’m really not crazy about going to that networking event. I don’t know any one and don’t need any more cheese in my heavily cheese-dibbled diet?” Me, too!

But, every once in a while, I’m reminded that social media shouldn’t be the end of my introverted networking adventures. I recently attended a great networking event in Portland specifically geared to the athletic and outdoor industry, and came away thinking just the opposite of my usual response. This time I thought, “I should do that more often.”

Here’s the set up.

Prosper Portland is a city-sponsored organization focused on building the Outdoor and Athletic industry in Portland. The Portland metro area already has many legendary brands such as Nike, Adidas, Columbia, and now Under Armour, which just opened their footwear headquarters here. Other well-known brands such as Keen and Nau started in Portland as well. Added to that energy are loads of new and growing startups and dreamers, sometimes comprised of veterans who left the bigger campuses and launched their own endeavors.








Check this cool interactive graphic for a snapshot of the A & O ecosystem.









The group recently hosted a celebration that brought together a group of young entrepreneurs who pitched their product, seeking funding for their dreams. You had to admire their passion and enthusiasm. It easily rubbed off on the 300 or so attendees.

Even with my 16 years at Nike, I was unsure if I would run into anyone I knew. But I was pleasantly surprised to see several familiar faces, and I ended up having a great time. I heard encouraging news from a couple of contacts about interesting work they are doing.

Loose connections in your network are the people that you know, but that you don’t necessarily deal with frequently. You probably have more people who are loose connections than tight connections. Hopefully, they have a positive impression of you and your work. These are the people that you worked with x-number of years ago or that you know from a professional association that you participate in. Loose connections are a great way of finding out about new projects, sharing job leads, and gaining insights you can only get from the inside.

For me, the Prosper A&O event turned out to be a great way to touch base with a few people I have loose connections with. All in all, it was a great chance to reconnect with people and forge some new friendships. Don’t discount the impact of loose networks! You can be a great resource for them and get up to speed on new activities in your industry.

What I learned from running for office

First, I want to tell every one of you who voted “THANKS.” I’ll work hard to make sure the best interests of the association—and  therefore your interests—remain front-and-center. And to those who didn’t vote, well…you get a wag of the finger and a stern look. And a polite, throat-clearing cough.

In many ways, the campaign served to prepare me for office. I’m a different person than the one who started the journey so long ago. (It was a long time ago, because “election months” are like dog years). Before I turn the page and take on this new role, I want to reflect on some things I learned as a candidate. 

I learned to blog. It seems easy enough: write a bit about something that interests you, then post it. The hard part is looking at your interactions and activities as if they are something that someone else should be interested in. My constant debate with myself was whether or not what I thought was intriguing was blog-worthy. Reflecting on issues and events and how to share your thoughts on them is a good tool for your toolbox.  

Be more extroverted than you are. Usually I just let life wash over me, but now I have to pick up the shiny things I see and show them to others. If you’re usually introverted, it takes a real effort to be extroverted. I’m still coming to grips with that, to be honest.

Use Web 2.0 tools. My blog automatically updates to my LinkedIn account and my Twitter account, enabling me to reach a lot of members at the same time. And my Twitter account updates to my Facebook site. Isn’t that cool!?!

Look for the spirit of generosity. I was constantly humbled at the idea of people believing in me enough to donate their time and energy to a fellow member. Our Association runs on good will and generous souls, and I didn’t always see the magnitude of that compassion before the campaign.

 Others can rely on you and you won’t break. You can volunteer to do stuff that benefits others more than yourself and it feels good. It is enlightened self-interest—you get back more than you give. And you will have a new way to define “riches.”

I can rely on others. They won’t break, either. People came through; they care. They want me to carry their concerns forward.

You can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all yourself. Relying on others isn’t always easy. I’ve always been able to meet deadlines and check off tasks on my own. But running for office is not a solo effort. So I learned to collaborate better and to involve others by articulating a simple vision. They, in turn, spread the message further. I think if we can get this concept right, eventually we’ll be able to empower a movement.

 It’s going to be tough. Not everyone agrees on the direction, the vehicle, or the speed we need to travel. Some people don’t think we need to go anywhere and some want to go twice as fast as we can safely manage. Balancing those demands will be tricky. My hope is that if I listen to as many members as I can, I’ll get good guidance about the best path forward. But make no mistake: we are moving forward.

It’s going to be the most fun we’ve had lately. I felt fantastic energy at some of the question-and-answer sessions. Members care deeply about our direction, and when they sense positive change is coming, they feel good about it. Strategizing about the future can be a lot of fun when you believe in the journey.

Business savvy is key. We know our jobs and our tools, and we’re darn good at what we do. We satisfy customers every day, and we push ourselves to do it better. But knowing the ins and outs of the information landscape isn’t enough. For our profession, our association, and our careers, we need to get better at the business of business. Becoming fluent in “business speak” is crucial to making us Future Ready.

Don’t booby-trap yourself. Sometimes the crazy new idea you get late at night isn’t all that great when the sun comes up. My own natural exuberance can be a bit spontaneous. I’ve learned to fit myself with a restrictor valve in order to be critical and cautious. The stakes are higher now. Because of the office that you have entrusted to me, I face more scrutiny, and people will be holding me up to a higher standard.

At the same time, I have to be myself. Go figure!

I don’t know everything—and don’t have to. “WE are the smartest ones in the room,” as the saying goes. Figuring out how to use the strength of others is the hallmark of a leader. A strong rope is made up of many individual strands. My take is that the more voices we hear consistently, the better our Association gets.

I’ve got to go draw a new map now. I think it has your name on it!

Find Cindy @

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Cindy is entrepreneurial, a strategic thinker, and innovative. She feels that positioning ourselves to be (and I’m grabbing the tag line from the Comcast ad) FUTURE READY is vital to our success.

Five minutes

Cindy-mercial: Given five minutes (more or less) to introduce myself to my colleages,  I went with an infomercial theme. 

[slideshare id=1465008&doc=socal5minutes-090520103958-phpapp02]

What other popular icons lend themselves to membership organizations?

cindy dot romaine at romainiacs dot com

Once you choose hope…

poster_05-copy3Some days, hope is what keeps me going. I hope that these tough times will soften and resolve into a market that is more sustainable. I hope that the promises of the green revolution becomes real, soon. And I hope that librarians and information professionals get through this rough patch more robust than ever.

It’s mid-April and the long, cold winter is fading in the rearview mirror. Maybe the coming spring is a metaphor for general business conditions? First the crocus bloom, then the daffodils, and next come the trilliums.

Likewise, the new administration has infused some energy and enthusiasm into Congress and federal stimulus money appears to be trickling out of Washington, D.C. and into the states. Call me a crazy optimist, but maybe the worst is over?

 The English language has many colorful phrases that express our ability to get through a crisis. We find a “safe harbor” or even better, we “ride the storm out.” I always liked that phrase, because it expresses a certain optimism about our expectations for the future. This too shall pass.  

But I’m deliberately not taking a fatalistic approach. Nietzsche was famous for proclaiming “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’m not so sure that’s the right message for today. Business conditions have buffeted our profession to the point where getting stronger isn’t the only answer. We have to get smarter.  

Recently, I talked to a member of the NYC chapter of SLA, where many people have been laid off. In discussing the situation, my colleague said that people had come to the realization that the jobs they lost will not return even when the economy picks up again. Those jobs of the past are gone now and will only reappear when they have morphed into something new.  

All of which brings me to a recent newspaper column. Thomas Friedman, an amazing three-time Pulitzer prize-winning writer, talks about this economy as The Great Disruption:

“I am coming to the conclusion that the market and Mother Nature both hit the wall here in 2008/2009. We need growth, we need ways to raise people’s standards of living, but what will be the new ways we should focus on—post-The Great Disruption—that will allow us to grow people’s living standards in a more sustainable and regenerative way?”

Friedman, while referring to the economy, could have just as easily been referring to the effect that the new wave of social networking tools have had on the information profession.

So here’s my question: Are you feeling the Great Disruption? How are you adapting to it? It takes courage to move forward. How are you doing this? I need to know!

 cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com