Dos and Don'ts for Effective Networking

DOS AND DON'TS FOR EFFECTIVE NETWORKING

For most people, the concept of networking still brings to mind business suits, corporate conversation, and job searching. Why then has it become one of the central aspects of the APDA National Young Onset Center's programming efforts? Because, networking is defined as "connecting with people of like interests for the purpose of uncovering opportunities, increasing knowledge, or sharing information." If you have Parkinson's disease, or someone you love has Parkinson's, you probably already know how critical knowledge and support are in battling this disease. It stands to reason then that the more people you know, the more information and support you will have in your life. Simply put, networking is about getting to know people and building relationships.

NETWORKING ALLOWS PEOPLE TO:

  • Share ideas and experiences.
  • Meet inspirational role models.
  • Combat isolation by making new contacts.
  • Increase confidence and self-esteem and build long term relationships.

Networking is one of those things that we can all agree has benefits, and we can all understand how it helps. However, the term networking can stir up feelings of fear and anxiety in so many of us. The truth is, we network every day - with our family, our work colleagues and at social events. Networking not only makes good sense professionally, it can become an important source of support, especially if you find yourself dealing with difficult feelings or circumstances.

People with Parkinson's disease, particularly young onset Parkinson's disease, sometimes tend to shy away from contact with others, become isolated and distance themselves not only from what is happening to their own body but from those around them. Welcoming every opportunity to connect with others can make the difference between just surviving and thriving. In our current technologically-savvy society, we have seen a proliferation of web-based services that allow for what is called "social networking." These online communities that link individuals with similar interests or concerns through instant messaging, message boards, and blogs are making it possible to connect to anyone, anywhere, anytime. For young people with Parkinson's, their spouse, even their children, these kinds of connections are sometimes preferable to more traditional forms of networking. The relative anonymity these kinds of connections can provide often makes reaching out less stressful. It is, of course, very important to adequately research any web-based community you are considering joining, especially one that your child might participate in, and to discontinue any kind of communication that makes you uncomfortable.

Certainly, those who are more extroverted may find it easier to embrace the idea of networking, but even the most introverted have a need for connection with others. The trick is discovering the networking approach that is right for you.

DOS:

  • Do chose events and programs you participate in carefully. Know what you are hoping to accomplish; are you in pursuit of information, support, and/or resources?
  • Do recognize the method of communication that is most comfortable to you but remain open to connecting with others in a variety of ways: in person, by phone, by email, by regular mail (notes, cards).
  • Do introduce yourself to others at events or seminars. If you find it difficult to approach someone you do not know, see if someone you already know could facilitate an introduction.
  • Do get comfortable telling an abbreviated version of "your story."
  • Do suggest a follow-up meeting or conversation, if appropriate.

DON'TS

  • Don't presume you know what others are feeling, even if they have had similar experiences.
  • Don't create limitations by networking only with other people who have PD or only with others who do not.
  • Don't give up if one meeting or event fails to meet your expectations. It can take time to find the type of event and group of people that is right for you.
  • Don't ever stop networking; you can never know too many people.

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