by Luisa Narins
Stranger danger! We have been taught to embrace this phrase since we were children, but how does it affect our relationships as adults? Strangers can be inherently dangerous, and it is difficult to open up and meet new people. I moved to the United States for college with no family around me. I had to rely on meeting strangers and making them friends and maybe even family.
My training in business also enforced networking as a key ingredient to successful leadership. Creating, keeping, and growing relationships is an asset in the business world. This translates to any type of business, including not-for-profit organizations. In order to spread your message, you need to have connections. But where to begin?
Here are five crucial tips for networking at Jewish events and beyond:
- Get your business (cards) in order. Business cards are a fantastic way to reach out to people, as they give your basic contact information, but they can also say more about you. As an actor, I have my headshot on my business card; it is imperative in my business for people to recognize my face. What else can I say about myself in a succinct manner that would open up to a conversation? Have you ever thought of adding the name of your synagogue or your temple sisterhood to your business card? Imagine all the opportunities that small bit of information could open for you.
- Connect online. Once you have made the contacts, how can you make them work for you? I confess, I am horrible with names, so I immediately try to connect through social media. I friend on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s not forget The Tent! I make sure these names are added to lists so I know where these connections come from. I now have a face and a name that I can remember, and so do they.
- Share information. Most of the workshops you go to will be attended by people with similar interests or backgrounds, so you know you already have something in common with them. Whether it validates what you are already doing or opens your mind to a new approach, sharing information is critical to building a relationship with this stranger.
- Follow through with new acquaintances. Attend each other’s programs, and encourage your fellow congregants or sisterhood members to attend, as well. Broaden the circle and create more opportunities for sharing. The stronger our bonds are, the stronger our organizations will be. Remember, relationships don’t happen in a week, so you will have to continue to follow through in order to turn acquaintances into friendships.
- Be open to new people. This year, I attended the WRJ Fried Leadership Conference. No one else from my sisterhood was attending, and I wanted a roommate. I was able to find a woman from Florida; I had never met her, but I took a gamble… and she was wonderful! Now, we keep in touch and are planning to see one another in November at the WRJ Assembly and the URJ Biennial. I also happened to meet a fellow Peruvian at this conference. Yes, I traveled all the way to Austin, TX to meet a brand new Peruvian friend. Had I not reached out to strangers I would’ve missed on both these wonderful friends.
Next time you see a room full of strangers, think of it as a room full of opportunities and a chance to make new friends!
Luisa Narins is the president of Temple Ohev Sholom Sisterhood in Harrisburg, PA. This piece originally appeared in Women of Reform Judaism‘s email blast on June 5, 2015.