How Networking Saved My Life (Really)

150 150 Ellen Ensher
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8AlexanderI had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer of 2013[1]. I experienced a health crisis which forced me use every ounce of will and skill I possessed in networking to find someone who could help me get better (which thankfully I did).  I was shocked at how hard it was to find the right doctor and how insanely difficult it was to gain access to information and specialists (I should note that I have a premier PPO medical plan and dental insurance, which were woefully inadequate).  The health care system is like a labyrinth and this experience tested me as I was required to draw upon all of my skills in research and networking while experiencing a high level of physical pain. So fast forward to now and it’s a new year and new semester. Once again, I have a new crop of students and I hear myself exhorting my students to network- after all students gotta network right? Students need internships, jobs, and contacts. And for more seasoned professionals, well – they gotta network too as they need new jobs, different skills, and updated abilities. In fact, almost everybody accepts that networking is important and there is a ton of information out there on how to do it.  However, I will share a dirty little secret here. Although I have been teaching networking to professionals and students for 20 years I have sort of felt like maybe networking was something I didn’t really need to worry about too much anymore. After all I am a full professor and love my job so although networking is important for you…. I had grown a bit complacent and thought maybe it was not so important for me anymore. I was WRONG!

How did I use my network this summer?

First of all, I will preserve some measure of decorum and spare you the details but basically the trouble all started in June with a routine root canal that went bad and cascaded into five additional procedures/surgeries, a terrifying misdiagnosis, and a parade of puzzled specialists. My process of networking led me to the right doctor who finally gave me a correct diagnosis and set me on the path to healing. I also employed my network to replace myself for a speaking engagement in China.   I reached out to colleagues and consultants whose work I admire and also specialize in mentoring. What came back to me was kindness and the connection I needed to replace myself in China (a gig I obtained through networking with another colleague).

Here’s what I learned. Life continues to present us with both wanted and unwanted learning experiences, both personally and professionally. Knowing how to network with diligence, professionalism, and gratitude can help you move through these challenges whether it’s about getting a new job, finding a piano teacher for your son, or finding a doctor to save your life.

[1] With respect to Judith Viorst’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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