From Gardening To Networking


Don’t get me wrong; planning is highly recommended and when it comes to many things – like running a business for example – action without planning is planning to fail.

But sometimes being open to whatever comes your way can have positive results you might otherwise have missed. Let me give you an example of this past weekend and how a day doing something I hadn’t originally anticipated turned out to be a win-win situation.

I love gardening; you have to accept that premise. The home I moved into with my wife four years ago was new and the backyard a quagmire of earth, rocks and contractor fill. For the first summer, I remember digging through that mess and setting aside rocks and bricks from the land. When the sod was laid, I found myself with an emerald canvas upon which to do with as my wife and I chose.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the property is landscaped, water fall and pond, a couple of gazebos’ numerous flower gardens, a patio for eating and one for lounging, a vegetable garden, and a perimeter of emerald cedars, rocks, hanging flower baskets and shrubs. There’s a few trees, a shed, 5 bird feeders, 3 compost bins and 7 rain barrels. There’s a connecting walkway from front to back, armour stone, and more. In short, I’ve really loved the landscaping and gardening, but now; well, it’s just about all done. Aside from the maintenance part, the creation part is pretty much done.

Ah, but the neighbours have a blank canvas and they aren’t really gardeners. So my wife and I have been available to make little suggestions, offers of help and advice and inspiration. These are a nice couple with College/University kids that come and go.

When they first moved in, the guy next door graciously trimmed my two garage doors in metal matching the home. No more painting of wood surfaces – ever! And two years ago when they moved in, I offered gardening help in return. We blow the snow out of each others driveways, and lend a hand as need be.

And so it was that on Sunday morning, the neighbour invited the two of us; my wife and I, out to the garden centre to help pick out some plants. We ended up with bags of soil, peat, plant starter, bushes, flowers, shrubs, and mulch. It took five trips in total to get all the stuff they bought. And there I was, clearing away grass, digging holes, replacing terrible soil with the good stuff, planting shrubs and flowers, watering, transplanting some things, cleaning up and all with a smile on my face.
I loved the work and the creativity, making suggestions and seeing things go from their mind to reality.

I figure in the end they got 8 hours of my time. There was no lunch break. And what did they have to pay for that labour? Nothing. What it did cost them was a juice bottle, a water bottle, and a homemade dinner of filet mignon, potatoes and garden beans and corn. Oops, throw in a can of Coke. And during dinner, I was given a dagger – (no kidding a real dagger) because he had one lying around for years and I had mentioned having a few swords in my possession so he thought I’d like it. And I do.

Now my plans on Sunday morning were to go food shopping and relax a little, play the guitar a little, and unwind. By the end of the afternoon, I was dirty, sweaty, and entirely content working with both my neighbours and having laughs along the way. After we all took a shower (sorry, not together), we were clean, rejuvenated and able to stand back and enjoy looking out on what we had created together. They appreciated our suggestions for plants that were native and would grow in the conditions we have to contend with, and I was grateful for the activity and doing something that made them so happy.

Now what about a job searching connection? Well for starters, both of us (my neighbour and me) can now attest to what the other is like to work with. Our cooperative skills, work ethic, teamwork, listening skills, labour skills, stamina, endurance and creativity are now known to each other bound by the experience, not just the idle claims one makes to another. If he needs a reference, I can attest to what it’s like to both live next door to him and complete a project together.

So here’s how it’s gone: We gave them the history of their home the Real Estate agent hid before they bought. He installed steel flashing around my garage: free. I shovel out his drive and he mine when the chances arise: free. I donate my time helping him with his lawn and landscaping: free. We’ve even gone golfing once this year together, and that reminds me I’m losing one game to nil.

This is how you build relationships and friendships. It’s not so much what can I get out of the guy next door, but rather, what can I do for the guy next door. When you think more about the giving than the getting, the getting usually takes care of itself and you find you both benefit.

Networking works the same way. When you are networking and building relationships in job searching, start with what you offer to others and can do for them. You may find those same people remember you and ask how they can help you out in return.

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