I’d never considered connections in much detail before. By that I mean human connections. The tangible ones you make in everyday life. Being a professional, in a position of employment, you don’t often appreciate the human connections you have in your vicinity, nor use them to full effect. Only when you’re out in the big wide world as an independent agent, do you really experience the power of human connection, and the art of using it to full effect.
A recent phase of long standing professional connections contacting me for pieces of work, plus new connections offering some exciting opportunities, have caused me to reflect and be grateful for the power of human connections; how they can further our professional development in areas of expertise, or even enable us to grow in areas we hadn’t necessarily considered. Undeniably, working independently has opened my eyes to a world of new connections, some I’d hope to make myself, and achieved, others spontaneous and several through a mutual connection who recognised areas of commonality.
Described as ‘the art of the action of linking one thing with another’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2019), developing human connections certainly are an art, particularly when you want to use them for real impact. The ‘action’ of linking one to another resonates with me as, however new connections have been made, there certainly seems to be an art to it.
These reflections have prompted me to put some thoughts together on making connections and how my scientist brain has had to further develop the ‘art’ of making them. Note, this is not a ‘how to make connections’ list. Merely some personal observations from my recent development in making connections.
As a process, the power of human connection was highlighted initially to me when I started my own business and proactively used my existing connections to help establish contact with people in areas, I knew I needed to develop, or wanted to pursue a new interest in. From here, opportunities and connections escalated. At one point it was too much, a little overwhelming and I had to reign myself in as my ideas from conversations with new connections were taking over my ability to stay focused and prioritise my work flow. I had commitments to deliver pieces of work and didn’t want to be in a situation where these circumstances were compromised by being over committed. In short, I had to understand the art of managing connections, old and new, and how to prioritise new ideas and work flows from such connections.
As I discovered, whilst motivating, it’s also quite exhausting meeting new people a lot of the time. Having focused conversations, listening, responding, reacting to ideas in the moment, all require a certain amount of focused cognition, so I learnt quite quickly to space out new connections. It helped that the new connections I was making weren’t all face to face. A lot of initial conversations were over the phone, so I could take some time to quietly reflect after the meeting.
Of course, there’s always the financial element to consider when making connections. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how kind and accommodating new connections could be when financial gain wasn’t involved. I used this as my gauge. If someone was asking for money from the outset or didn’t seem overly interested in my development, skill set or I didn’t feel they had my best interests at heart, I quickly moved on.
The beauty of the art of making connections is that it is infinite. Where a pursuit of information and knowledge may end when you’ve gleaned sufficient information for your task or project, there is always the next topic to learn or develop and a new connection or contact required. Fundamentally, the need for making new connections or revisiting old ones, never receives closure if you’re motivated to be in a persistent phase of growth and development.
So, what closing messages would I like to convey as to the power of connection? There are a few and I’ll try to be brief!
Accept a link might not work at first, or only for a short period. Some connections are a ‘pilot’ for what’s to come. Learning and being aware of how to gauge what works for you or doesn’t is part of the art of human connections. Accept short and long term connections and be patient and accepting during the process of finding, making and establishing a them. As an example, I knew I needed a new mentor of late and was becoming a little frustrated in how and where to make the right connections. Yet patiently waiting for the ‘right’ connection has enabled me to find someone who very well suited for what I need at this stage in my career. Also, consider the fact that, whilst you may have free time at a particular point, that doesn’t mean the people you’re trying to connect with either know that, nor are they equally available.
Engage with possibilities and keep an open mind. A connection may not seem to be what you’re hoping for, but when you meet and get a dialogue going, there’s typically scope for benefit for both parties. This might not be immediately obvious, but keeping an open mind helps you observe your interaction and reflect on how it may support you.
Be modest. Having humility in your connection’s will help in establishing new relationships and ensure people will want to corroborate you. Being overly confident may persuade new connections that actually, you don’t need any help. Again, the art comes in displaying skills in direction and confidence without overstating yourself too much.
Finally, be grateful for having the time to embrace opportunities to engage with new people and organisations, particularly in areas novel to you. Be thankful for those connections you have made and how they may support you in future endeavours. In short, practise the art of making connections at every opportunity and you never know where it may lead…...
Dr Sarah Gilchrist, 2019