It was the last game of the UNI Panther's home schedule and I was working the game, as usual, as a student supervisor and crowd manager. I found myself standing next to an elderly gentleman who seemed to be watching the game alone and also seemed even more captivated by the sport than I was (that's saying something). After a particularly hard tackle, I merely turned to him and said "Wow! That was a big hit!" He chuckled and began talking to me about how football used to be when he played, and then coached. I asked him where he coached, his response? UNI. He had coached with Sheriff, the man the field is named after. From there, I found out, he made his way through college athletics occupying an assortment of positions, even a couple of stints as an athletic director before ending up as the sports information director for the University of Oregon. He eventually pulled out a copy of his book from his coat to show me, and I promised him I would read it someday. To this day I find it hard to believe that I actually met this guy beneath the "Section L" sign in the UNI Dome just because I stopped for a break.
This encounter opened up my mind to people's stories. So, I have begun networking more and more. I have found, much to my surprise, it is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is ask something, really anything, and let the conversation roll from there. Of course, sometimes you may have to steer a conversation in a particular direction if you know the person you're talking to can be of assistance, but that is usually not a problem.
For instance, just this weekend I was working the annual antique show that passes through the Cedar Valley. I had been working for two days alongside the woman in charge of it and her husband but I knew nothing about them. So, during a down moment, I merely asked the her how she got into this business. I won't bore you with the story (not to say it was boring, just not entirely relevant), but I found out that her husband is in the business of Arena management. Well then! Now we're in business.
I strike up a conversation with her husband by asking (already knowing the answer) if this was his full time gig. This got him to tell me who he was and what he does - he is in charge of the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Yeah, turns out this guy runs the Huskers' basketball stadium. (Cha ching!)
I explain to him I'm interested in the field and we continue talking throughout the day. I actually assisted him with clearing up some problems they were having with the televising of the women's basketball game. Before the event ends, he ends up giving me his business card and tells me to shoot him an email when it comes time to look for jobs and he will see what he can do.
Boom, simple as that, and all I did was ask his wife "Why antiques?" By no means am I guaranteed a job now, but I have one more person who knows my name, and that is really what networking is all about.