jim-boehler“It’s about expanding your comfort zone.” says Lakes Community Credit Union Marketing Director, Jim Boehler. “You just have to stop being afraid.”

Jim admits that this was a real challenge for him when he first started networking. Chatting with complete strangers was definitely outside his comfort zone. As a marketing director, though, he had to talk with just about everyone. He needed to connect with the credit union staff to make sure they knew about products, promotions, and services. He needed to be able to inform the community they serve about those same opportunities. He also needed access to members of that community, the front line staff, and the larger industry around him in order to understand how he (and the credit union) could better serve them. He recognized the need, but still found it a challenge.

Then last year he attended a meeting of the Oakland County Chapter of the Michigan Credit Union League. At that meeting they had a speaker who talked about some of the tools of good networking. “I drank the networking Kool-Aid”, he claims. Now, despite being a self-described introvert, he has learned to expand his comfort zone. He realizes that the strangers he meets are just people and probably don’t know anybody either. It’s up to him to take the first step and make them feel comfortable.

Since that time, he has started attending more networking opportunities. He feels much more comfortable striking up conversations with anyone he meets, whether at an industry networking event, or standing in line at the grocery store. In fact, he recently found himself at the center of an impromptu Q and A session regarding the history of the credit card security chip. He’s even joined his alumni association and attends their events regularly.

The biggest mistake he sees people making is not being present in the moment. We’re all time-crunched and busy. We have constant distractions of text messages, phone calls, and social media. Sometimes it’s easier to be distracted than to do the hard task of striking up a conversation with a stranger. Jim thinks you should do it anyway.

“It’s easier than you think.”