The Problem with Networking

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By Adam Turteltaub

If you talk about networking, there are a lot of people who associate it with sales people handing out business cards and having to introduce yourself to someone who maybe doesn’t want to meet you and will leave you feeling unwanted.

Is it any wonder, then, that many people say, “I’m a horrible networker.”

If you’re one of them, think about it instead as connecting.  If you attend any one of our conferences, whether the upcoming SCCE European Compliance & Ethics Institute in Amsterdam or the HCCA Compliance Institute in Anaheim, you won’t see a lot of networking.  Instead, you’ll see compliance people connecting with each other. You will see them chatting before and after sessions and during the receptions.  You’ll see them grabbing a quiet corner or pulling a colleague into a conversation.

There lies the difference between connecting and networking. Connecting is about finding and embracing what you have in common. It could be the same industry, company size, geography, reactions to the session you both just attended or which vendor has the best giveaways in the exhibit hall.

Most likely, though, it is simply about working in compliance. While the risk profiles of companies all differ, the essence of being a compliance officer doesn’t change. Everyone I have ever met in compliance shares similar challenges: getting the resources they need from management, earning the trust and respect of the business unit, making rules understandable to the workforce, elevating the corporate culture.

They also share the loneliness that can come with the job. Colleagues don’t often stop members of the compliance team to say, “Hey, how are things coming over in compliance?  Got anything new and exciting for us?” Family members don’t either. Trust me. I’ve learned that lesson.

If you’re at a compliance conference, though, everyone does care about what’s new. In fact, they’re excited to hear about it. They want to know how you would handle things, where you are struggling and how they can help. They also want to meet people they can reconnect with during the year when they have questions, or just need a sympathetic ear.

So, just like you can look at a compliance near miss not as an almost disaster but instead as a save to celebrate, when you look at a conference and see “networking reception” don’t think of it as a time when you have to pass out business cards. Instead, think of it as a time to connect with others who share the same challenges and experiences and are eager to meet people like you who know just what they are going through.