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Gathering: Lessons in professional networking from Finland

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Just back from a stimulating weekend in Finland, presenting at the Hanken School of Economics Summer Summit (www.hanken.fi/en). I am always especially pleased to work in Finland. I have personal connections with the country (my mum was Finnish) and have been spending my summer holidays there since I was a small child. But it was more recently, when my ideas on approaches to professional networking were developing, that my Finnish connection came to the fore professionally.

Much (most) of Finland is wild forest. Roaming in that forest is an enormously peaceful occupation…..and it was while gathering bilberries (or it may have been mushrooms) that I realised that there is something liberating and very productive about having no goal or aim. Gathering frees one from the pressure which any ‘hunting’ activity inevitably brings with it… and that, in turn, led me to realise that most people equate networking with hunting. They need something (a job, an introduction, a piece of information) and they go looking for it. The emphasis is entirely on me and my needs.

In contrast, the gatherer (in networking terms) goes out into the world to meet people, and is relaxed enough to wait and see where the conversation leads. The emphasis is on both ‘me’ and ‘you’. Sometimes the encounter is boring, sometimes it is interesting (but still ends up in a dead end) and just occasionally it is interesting and it leads somewhere. By taking the ‘gathering approach’, the pressure button is turned off – and networking is seen as a pleasant activity in itself, which is not necessarily self-seeking or manipulative.

Try it and see for yourself. I have many stores about the benefits of chance conversations, but I’m always happy to hear new ones.

And finally, please don’t think that I’m against ‘hunting’ Without doubt, it has its uses. It just isn’t the be-all and end-all of professional networking.

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Guest Thursday, 17 August 2017

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