Silicon Valley veteran Karen Wickre is the former Editorial Director at Twitter, where she landed after a decade-long career at Google. An advisor to startups and a lifelong information seeker, she is a member of the Board of Visitors for the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University, and serves on the boards of the International Center for Journalists, the News Literacy Project, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She has been a featured columnist for Wired.com and is a cofounder of Newsgeist, an annual gathering conference fostering new approaches to news and information. She is the author of Taking the Work Out of Networking and lives in San Francisco. Karen is also a Next For Me advisor.
She joined our public event in Denver last year by video. Here are some video excerpts from her interview and the transcript is below.
The book is built around the fact that I happened to have ended up with a great, wonderful network of contacts of all different kinds, from all different corners of life. And I’m not out there working to get contacts. I am not a natural born “work the room” kind of person. People said to me, “You know, you need to talk about how and what are some other ways to do it.” because so many people hate the notion of networking. Even the very word that conjures up all kinds of bad stuff for people.
The book talks about several things. One is just the need for ongoing networking throughout life. Meaning a good connection, something I actually call a brain trust. Make your own brain trust of people you can call on for ideas and introductions and so on, and that’s going to grow and change over time.
One of my favorite quotes about networking is from a guy named Ivan Misner. And he says, “networking is less like hunting and more like farming” and that to me is the essence of it. In other words, you’re not capturing a kill. It’s more about planting and watering and nurturing and also weeding and a new planting, reconfiguring the garden, the plot of land. And that’s how I think making connections works over life and over time.
So the book is about that. And then there’s a lot of tips about how much stuff you can do online to connect with people that you don’t know and maintain relationships online with people you don’t see.
NFM: What should you keep in mind if you’re planning to make a transition to a new career or if you’re reworking your current path?
I’d say a couple things. One is that it always helps to already have a bunch of varied contexts in place. Hopefully not just where you’re working right now, although I would tap those, but you want to start paying attention to “I think this is the thing I’m interested in.” “I think this is the new thing I want to try.” “Who do I know that knows about that?” That could be some people you already know and you have to tell them what you’re interested in, because they don’t know. They don’t associate that with you. So you never know where they may have ideas, “oh, you should talk to my neighbor.” “You should know..”
In addition, follow them on social accounts or do reading about the new thing so that you’re getting up to speed about it. You might set Google alerts for the thing, see what kind of events might be in your area or classes, workshops, that kind of thing. So you start tuning into what is this world about, right? What does it take? What do people who are in it say?
Well, it depends on the way in which they might not be up to speed. If you’re not comfortable online with say, Linkedin, or a Google search, go down the basic track first to get with those. But if you are comfortable with that and with email and so on, then it’s more a matter of making more use of those. There’s a nice thing about all of these digital tools and that is they don’t interrupt you in the middle of dinner, right? A phone call with no voicemail. It’s like you pick it up or not. But these days, so many things in our lives that are more convenient for us are asynchronous. So you can send out your email and check it later.
I would suggest that people like that form of a connection and an initial contact more than making a phone call or looking for a certain, more formal first connect. Because there’s a lot you can do in connecting with people, even the ones who don’t know online. In the book, by the way, I talk about Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram in particular in some detail because these three tools or services are easier and they let you pretty easily, find, discover, and connect with people that you don’t know. And you can make a connection with them as opposed to say, Facebook, which wasn’t really designed for strangers to meet in that way. It happens out of the friends of friends, but not it’s purpose.