I took off work a few days ago to take my mother-in-law to a doctor’s appointment. The appointment went well and after visiting for a while back at her house I headed home. We live about 50 minutes apart and being such a beautiful sunny day I decided to take a different route home. I almost immediately found myself sitting in traffic and thought I had made a big mistake!
A break finally came and I was able to make the last turn that would get me out of town and on the highway heading home. But before I had a chance to even pick up speed I saw several bicycle riders in the road. It was more than the average 2 or 3 riders you might see together. In wonder I watched as dozens and dozens of riders came out of a church parking lot.
Stopped again but this time for the riders, I was amazed to see a hearse come out and pass in front of me to maneuver into the oncoming lane. Like little ants the riders began following the hearse down the road to the cemetery. It was heart warming to see so many people riding in what I assumed was a sign of respect for a fellow rider.
On the way home I kept thinking about the deceased rider. How old was he? What had caused his departure? And most importantly, what had this rider done to deserve such respect? Most riders were in true riding gear but there were some that had older, non-racing bikes and even an older couple riding a tandem bike in dress clothes. It was pretty clear the mourners were following on bikes because of who the person he was and not what he did for a living. It dawned on me that those bikers were his network.
I thought about the job seekers I work with every day that are concerned with finding a new job but are afraid or uncomfortable to do the formal network thing to build their contacts. Often when I talk with them I hear, because of their fear, they’ve done nothing. This man had built a huge following and network through a sport he was obviously passionate about.
Job seekers can do the same. You don’t have to attend formal networking events if they make you too uncomfortable. Networking doesn’t have to be so serious. You can go out and get involved in a sport, hobby, volunteer programs, charities, church activities, town or city event and activities or some other area that interests you.
Make networking fun! When you feel comfortable you can express your passion for your work and the activities you’re committing to and you will shine, be noticed and be remembered. You don’t need to follow a specific script or spout out your elevator speech to everyone you meet. Instead, enjoy who you are with, learn about them. If they ask about you then let them know what you do and your situation without dwelling or putting pressure on others to do something.
The good you do and how you treated others will be remembered much longer than an elevator pitch. Those that remember you because of who you are will go out of their way to help you if they can. Networking is about meeting and helping others and letting others see how great you are as a person.
I’m so thankful I chose to take the alternate route home and got stuck in traffic. I never would have seen such a remarkable procession for someone who was obviously a remarkable person.
Added to this article: I saw a story about this man on the news that night. He was someone who had physical impairments but had used his love of cycling to raise more than $200,000 over the past few years for various charities, while riding with only one arm and one leg. More than 200 riders came from as far away as Kansas (I’m in Michigan) to attend his funeral and ride with the hearse to show respect for their friend who had touched so many lives.