The new year might be time for a new job or a first job in church communication. Our new series focuses on that journey—landing a job. We’ll talk about the process of finding work in a church, what to expect, how to prepare for an interview and more. Today we’ll learn about the importance of networking.
When I was asked to write this post on networking my mind flashed back to some big networking events I attended in the past. The kind of event where everyone’s goal was to get 10 business cards in 15 minutes so they could “make connections.” For a semi-introvert like me, just the word “networking” invoked strong feelings of stress.
My Networking Story
While I haven’t personally gotten great results through traditional networking events, the principle of networking has played a significant role in my career in church communication. When I was starting out I attended the Spur Leadership Conference here in Austin. Throughout the weekend I watched the Twitter feed and followed anyone who posted a memorable quote or had something interesting to say about the conference.
After the conference one of those people kept posting interesting quotes and the occasional good recipe, so I was inclined to retweet her quite a bit. Months later, she sent me a direct message asking if we could meet for lunch. We had never met in person; I didn’t know her at all except as a fellow conference attendee.
She just so happened to be Lori Bailey, the director of communications working remotely for LifeChurch.tv—a church I admire greatly and the inventor of the little thing called the YouVersion Bible app. At this point I had been working no more than three months in church communication and was honored she wanted to meet me. She had my dream job!
We got together for lunch and many subsequent lunches after that. I even took a few days out of the office (thanks to my gracious employer) to work remotely with Lori on occasion. I learned so much in those lunches. It was great to have someone with so much perspective and wisdom to bounce ideas off of and ask questions. Over the next couple of years she became a mentor to me.
When it came time for me to transition to Hill Country Bible Church Austin, where I am currently, Lori was a listening ear through the whole interview process and even a character reference for me. I got a job in communication at a church I absolutely love!
Looking back over the past five years of my experience in church communication, I can say that networking has played a crucial role in my growth—both personally and professionally. I can think of several instances like these where personal connections made all the difference for me.
Here are a few takeaways I’ve picked up from these experiences:
1. Be Genuine
Look for natural ways to get to know people for who they are before thinking of what they can do for you. Invest in relationships with people you genuinely would spend time with even if you didn’t have to. In the long run those are the connections that really matter.
2. Go From Big to Small
Large networking events or conferences can be great to meet a wide variety of people—but to really make the most out of those experiences pick a few people you’d like to invest more time with and invite them to coffee or a one-hour meeting. This isn’t a time for you to give them a sales pitch. Focus on getting to know them.
3. Never Stop Learning
I’ve found that many experts in the field are happy to give advice, especially to people starting out, so don’t be afraid to ask. This is a great way to build relationships and grow your connections.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this for a while, I encourage you to constantly “network”—you never know where those connections will lead.