Networking has been around a long time but boy has it changed since I started my career. Part of that is the kind of networking I was doing back then. You know where everyone is in a very conservative suit and all walking around with a drink in their hand trying to look impressive. And part of it is the surge in networking groups geared primarily towards women.
When I was younger the last thing I wanted to do was call attention to the fact that I was a woman. Crazy, right? Kind of hard to hide that fact. However, now I not only don’t care I want to scream from the rooftops that I am a woman, that I have amazing things to offer, and that I am here to get things done. Remember the song by Helen Reddy I am Woman? And the line “I am woman, hear me roar.” Well, that is so true now and the women I meet networking amaze me every day.
And one of the things that amazes me most is the power of women networking to lift one another up and help each other build our businesses. In the summer of 2016, I started attending eWomen Network luncheons here in Atlanta. I was invited by a woman who would become a client of mine to attend when she could not. After that, I have been not only attending but have learned that I really enjoy networking. This summer I attended a networking conference and ventured out to another networking group, What Women Want, to grow my tribe.
In these groups, I have not found another woman that doesn’t want to help. That doesn’t want to provide assistance, encouragement, and connections. I have yet to find a woman who turns away and doesn’t want to lift someone else for fear they will move ahead of them.
And it is through this networking that I am building a business that is growing beyond my wildest dreams and in ways I never before imaged. Here are a few of the things I have learned along the way that have my phone ringing and my inbox filling up with requests and referrals.
Be genuine – People will see right through you if you try to be something you aren’t. I’m not saying that you can’t fake some confidence until you feel it but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be authentic to who you are. I don’t try to be anything other than myself. I am intense, funny, caring, smart, full of ideas, and organized. That is what you get with me and I stopped trying to hide that and instead embrace it. And I notice a difference. People seem drawn to me as much as I am to them.
Listen first – I used to try to get as much in to the conversation as I could so that people walked away “knowing” what I could do. Now I just listen. So that people walk away feeling heard. Then when I follow up they always want to hear more about me.
Put yourself out there – You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You have to walk up to and sit with people you do not know. You have to introduce yourself and ask them about themselves. I have heard some amazing stories and met so many incredible people just by reaching out.
Believe in what you offer – You have a lot to offer and others will embrace that but not until you do. Believe in what you bring to the table and its value.
Find the joy in hearing people’s stories – When you take the time to listen to people they open up. You become a resource, a “friend”, a person they can rely on. You are building that Know Like Trust factor and you haven’t asked for a thing in return.
Don’t go looking for business – Networking isn’t about making deals and booking business at the meeting. It just doesn’t happen that way. However, I have not one single time had to ask for business and all but one of my clients came as a result of networking. If you do the things I talked about above, people will ask to work with you.
If you step back and approach networking as an opportunity to expand your tribe. If you look at it as a way to give your gifts to others and a way to learn from those you meet. You will find yourself walking away not only fulfilled but with an abundance of opportunities and ideas.