Take Center Stage
by Jerry Brong
Here you are standing in the corner—the career corner. You see people involved in interesting activities, exchanging ideas and freely moving about. Go from the corner to the center of the room. From this position you can see activities all around you and reach out in every direction. You now have opportunities for communication that can lead to both career and personal enhancement.
Communication is a core skill for all humans, and networking is a focused use of communication skills. Increased effectiveness in true two-way communication and networking can add value to your relationships with others. Skilled communicators can contribute to all types of formal or informal teaching and learning programs, thus increasing their career opportunities.
“All the world’s your stage,” said Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor of Quality Progress, in a recent “Up Front” column.1 Think of your position in the center of the room as your stage. Networking delivers opportunities for you to be on a stage and part of the action, not just a member of the audience. If you are on stage delivering a message about quality as process and result, I promise it will be interesting even to people who aren’t in the quality field.
From your new position, think beyond the grind of your job. Look for and see new horizons, opportunities and areas of interest. Remember, networking is not just a strategy for finding employment. It is communication. Your networking can spread information about quality as well as insights and discoveries about quality tools and resources, communities in which you are involved, your family, opportunities for recreation and anything else important to you and others with whom you communicate.
Your job is to capture ideas important to you as they flow through the network around you. From your center position, reach to the right, left, behind you and to the front. Engage others in your network. People are interested in your ideas and want to share their ideas with you. Your idea might be merged with another, and the new merged idea might be even more valuable.
As information is shared through active communication, building blocks of opportunity are created on networks. Networking is a natural building process that results in strengthened interpersonal and professional relationships. It is also an effective career tool for persons moving up, moving out or working to move into a new position.
Resources exist for people who want to learn about networking. The Graduate Careers Council of Australia explores the what, why and who of effective networking at www.gradlink.edu.au/content/view/full/135. The site describes networking as something you should do throughout your entire working life.
Volunteering and Networking
Members of the ASQ Seattle Section committee that helped ASQ plan and put on the 2005 World Conference on Quality and Improvement were asked why they volunteered. The number one response among the 60 volunteers was, “Because of networking opportunities.”
For ASQ Seattle Section volunteers, establishing network connections was as easy as saying hello, asking questions, answering inquiries and participating in activities involving others. People at the conference had shared interests related to the conference and many other topics.
Conversation started with a volunteer’s comment, “Welcome to the ASQ World Conference. How may I help you?” Ideas were exchanged, questions were asked and answered, and in some cases there were follow-up conversations. Strangers became colleagues and collaboration related to shared interests followed.
Providing information about session content, conference events, convention center services, Seattle weather and other topics led to interesting discussions. Business cards were exchanged, and I would guess one in six of the World Conference contacts resulted in postconference communication.
Establishing network connections is as easy as saying hello, asking questions, sharing information, answering inquiries and participating in activities involving others. So, go to your next ASQ section meeting. While there meet, greet and communicate with others. Set up networks everyone can use.
I am a teacher, and as a teacher I give homework assignments. Are you ready for your assignment? It has three parts:
Look at this issue of Quality Progress. Find one article, report, letter to the editor or advertisement. Contact someone about it. Write the author in care of email@example.com. Ask the advertiser a question. Write a letter to the editor. Or post a comment on the QP discussion board at www.asq.org.
Share an article from QP with someone who’s not an ASQ member. Tell that person why the article is important.
Attend an ASQ section meeting. At that meeting, have conversations with at least three people. See—your network is already growing.
Let these steps be only the beginning of your networking through ASQ. ASQ forums, divisions, technical committees and other ASQ website discussion boards can be added after that initial section meeting. In fact, to earn extra credit on your homework assignment, post a report on the QP discussion board about your networking successes. You might just get a response.
Networks can be mission specific or simply a communications link. As you practice networking, unintended discoveries may result. Be ready to take advantage of these discoveries. Be ready for successes resulting from active communications and networking with colleagues and friends.
- Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, “All the World’s Your Stage,” Quality Progress, April 2005, p. 6.
GERALD R. BRONG is a teacher, writer and speaker in private practice and is an active member of ASQ Seattle Section 606. He has a doctorate in education, specializing in applied education technology and psychology, from Washington State University. He is currently a distance learning professor in the graduate education program of Walden University, Minneapolis, facilitating a collaborative action research course. Through City University in Bellevue, WA, Brong has designed and facilitated the Defining, Planning and Delivering Quality series of courses.