Networking: Don’t Emulate Others, Inspire Them

“Someone you haven’t even met yet is wondering what it’d be like to know someone like you.” –

Iain Thomas

I recently read several online discussions on networking, which tend to describe its importance

as “critical” for success, especially for career success. Some argue that networking is required to

identify and create relationships with the right people who will professionally help you. Others

characterize networking as a process of emulating successful people in your field. Tony Robbins,

the famous motivational speaker, once said “If you want to be successful, find someone who has

achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”

In May, I had the honor of representing attending two important gatherings of the national

security community. First, I participated in the National Defense University’s annual Weapons of

Mass Destruction (WMD) Symposium. As a participant in this year’s symposium titled

“Countering WMD: A Changing Landscape?” I was able to gain incredible insight into WMD

issues from the various speakers, panels and briefs. More importantly though, I had the ability to

discuss ideas with other representatives from the government, military, academia and industry.

Ambassador Robert Joseph, the keynote speaker, challenged participants to return to our desks,

computers and Post-it notes with a calling. It was at this moment that I realized the purpose of

networking is not to identify people with whom I should emulate. The real purpose is to

exchange ideas and contribute to the greater good. In other words, it is to inspire others with your

thoughts.

After the symposium, I visited the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) headquarters for discussions

on the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) since I missed the 2015 Missile Defense

Forum. This year’s forum focused on “Engineering the BMDS: Building Confidence in the

System,” and discussed ways MDA is enhancing missile defense components to defend the

United States, American deployed forces, friends and allies. This visit was a chance to apply my

newly found realization from Ambassador Joseph. It was an opportunity to help solve problems

and contribute to the greater good. As a former MDA analyst who thinks of missile defense as a

hobby (Kelly, my wife, loves when I talk missile defense at the dinner table!), I discussed the

several challenges facing the BMDS and how the U.S. government and military can move

forward. Though this was a networking experience, it was not the time for emulating those

across the table, it was a time to inspire them with my thoughts.

On the drive back to New Jersey from the National Capital Region (the very long drive in DC

beltway traffic…), I tried to process everything that I had seen and heard. I realized that we as

Prime Meridian employees do not need a keynote speaker challenging us to do great things,

make a difference and inspire. We are already challenged by these principles on a daily basis. So

whether you are thinking about attending a networking event, expanding your certifications or

honing your subject matter expertise, don’t do it to emulate others. Do it to help you do great

things, make a difference, and most of all – inspire others!

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