I remember it well. It was mid-December and I was at home lying on the couch, laptop in my lap, plowing through tons of emails, drinking hot tea with lemon, and suffering from one of the worst colds I had had in a long time (pre-pandemic). The executive assistant who was helping me support John Chambers, my executive, called me and said: “John is asking about those tickets for the upcoming event taking place in March and I don’t know anything about them, do you?” My blood pressure sky-rocketed to an all-new level at that moment. I didn’t remember John even asking me about obtaining these tickets for him. The “tickets” John was referring to were for a yearly event that is typically sold-out months and months in advance. I was screwed!
That’s when it hit me - I remembered a recent meeting I had attended with a group I belonged to known as the Silicon Valley Catalyst Association, a group of people who support CEOs in the Silicon Valley. One of the members in our meeting mentioned a person by the name of Alex who was very well ‘connected’ in the industry that she sometimes used when she needed tickets or other hard-to-obtain things. I immediately retrieved Alex’s number and called him to make my almost impossible ask. Fingers and toes crossed he could help as otherwise; I knew this could be a career-limiting mistake on my part. (I swear John had never asked me for these, or maybe it was just he was so used to giving me projects and tasks that he thought he had).
In any case, within the week Alex was able to obtain tickets, including transportation and hotel accommodations, and John was none the wiser in terms of my blunder, (phew). This was the power of my network at work. I was thankful for the miracle and the connection to Alex. Candidly, in the early days of my career, I really didn’t understand what networking was, I just knew that I wasn’t interested - Networking was just too much work. Yet, I learned from watching John Chambers. He was a “master” in terms of networking. He attended all kinds of CEO, CIO, and industry leader events. After coming back from an event John would hand me a stack of business cards he had collected to add to his database, with many of them having notes on the back of them about the person he had met. He was building long-lasting relationships around the world, connecting with amazing people, new ideas, and great opportunities.
The benefits of John's network were noticeable. Thriving networks create other networks and are like a ‘vine’ – ever reaching, spreading, and climbing. I realized the value of networking and thus, being a member of the Silicon Valley Catalyst Association saved me on that fateful December day.
As administrative professionals and executive assistants, I think there is unbelievable power in having robust networks. This power is the ability to link us to information, education, best practices, and even opportunities. It is not always “what” you know but “who” you know” as was the case for me those many years ago. That is one of our powers. I know that the Pandemic created some challenges for many of us in terms of growing and maintaining our networks. I have personally been remiss in keeping up with mine, but here’s my plan going forward; I am going to carve out some time on my calendar every couple of months to just reach out to my contacts and check-in.
In summary, the broader our network is, the more powerful we can be. Why not harness your power and look beyond the cube, office, or home office desk? There’s a world of people out there to connect with and who are ready to connect with you.