In my work with clients, I help people find possibilities where they are stuck, create solutions for growth and change. When I suggest networking as a first step, they get confused. When you aren’t sure where you want to go, getting unstuck can be really hard, and networking seems counterintuitive. Clients think of elevator speeches and business cards. “How can I fit the most relevant information about myself into the fewest words, so I can get something I need?” That’s old school networking.

Old-school “networkers” are transactional. They pursue relationships thinking only about what other people can do for them. It’s not about learning and pursuing new paths, it’s about needing something, like a job or new clients.

Stanford Cognitive Psychologist Hazel Markus had a theory of multiple selves that applies here. We are constantly growing and changing and we don’t have one destination in mind. There is not one static identity but but a bunch of possible iterations in our heads of who we hope to become, think we should become or have no interest in becoming. Building relationships opens doors to possible selves, and gives us clarity. The best way to learn where we want to go at any given time, is through other people. Interactions to help us combine new and old interests and change ways of thinking and make our lives a whole lot more rewarding and inspiring.

Through our kids, we meet tons of new people every day. But it’s easy to overlook all the interesting stuff they have going on and just focus on playground politics. As parents we have tons of opportunities to expand our horizons and we should start making that work for us.

Choose someone to connect with who is out of your social and professional circle, someone who you think you can learn from either professionally. It could be online, in this group, or another parent on the playground. Strike up a conversation with this person. Listen well and offer helpful suggestions. Rinse and Repeat.

A version of this post appeared originally on http://www.rachaelellison.com/blog/.

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ABOUT RACHAEL: Rachael Ellison is an executive coach, organizational-development consultant and work-life advocate. In 2009, she co-authored an internationally distributed paper on work life best practices: “Better Work, Better Life.” The paper launched a campaign to improve work life practices in 100 non-profit organizations.

Since establishing Reworking Parents, she has coached hundreds of mid- and senior-level executives through the transition to working parenthood. Rachael’s coaching sessions, facilitated groups, toolkits, and workshops have yielded measurable results for hundreds of clients across the US and abroad. She is a noted columnist and speaker on the role of work–life programs in organizational development. Her writing has been featured in Forbes, Smartbrief Workforce, and Monsterthinking and she has been repeatedly cited as one of the top work-life experts on Twitter. http://www.rachaelellison.com/

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