Lisa, Kaylie and I flew off to Pennsylvania for a brief family vacation today. We had a bit of a wait for our ride to the hotel. So while Lisa took a much-deserved rest, I was on chase duty, following my adventurous two-year-old around the terminal.

She rapidly discovered the escalators and we spent a good half hour riding up one side and down the other. Now, when she first tried to use one of these devices, she was a bit scared. She had a little bit of a challenge getting her feet and the steps to agree. In fact, at one point early on, she had real difficulty committing to the process and would try to set one foot on the moving treads without immediately stepping on with the other. Fortunately, Daddy was there to set her aright, or my toddler might have been even better at the splits than she already was!

By the time we had been doing our ups and downs for thirty minutes, however, she didn’t really need Daddy at all. She new how and when to step. She knew when to dismount, and she had gotten much better at maintaining her balance despite the movement under her feet.

Isn’t it interesting how learning to network (or even learning to network in a new group) parallels this process?

When we first start out, we’re a little nervous about how this will all work. We know we’re supposed to go, but sometimes it’s hard to get our feet pointed in the right direction. We’re uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the process, which can result in only a half-hearted commitment — one which will lead us into trouble (either by over-extending our activities, or by developing only the weakest connections). Certainly, it would help to have someone there to watch over our efforts, just in case we are about to make a major mis-step.

Then, by the time we’ve been networking for a while, we realize that we’ve got an almost unconscious intuition about how to best make our connections count. We feel like we’ve outgrown the need for our former networking mentors. In fact, there are now others looking to us to set the example.

As adults we often avoid those situations which make us feel even remotely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, networking is full of such moments. Try to approach networking with the same unselfconscious zeal of a child learning about some new aspect of her world. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve by just willing to try and fail.

And next time you’ll remember to get both feet on the up escalator.

Photo credit: Christa Richert