So when I was invited onto the panel for a (they said, no-cringe) networking event by Mother’s Meeting my first thought was, I am definitely not qualified for this (the brilliant writer and speaking coach Viv Goskrop says that’s a very common female response to requests to speak in public, go read her book). But this is the kind of opportunity I hoped for when I started Not About The Kids. So I said yes. And being forced to think about how I connect with other people, professionally, made me realise that I can and do do it.
Eighteen months ago I had no professional network whatsoever. I had been at home with my kids for 7 years, and my old job and contacts were a tiny dot on the horizon. But through social media and at real-life events I have constructed the foundation of a new network of friends and collaborators. In the nicest way possible.
The brief for the panel at the Mother’s Meeting was to bring my 5 top tips for how to connect brilliantly. Here’s the advice I shared.
Networking can look however you want it to
Going back to the vomit-inducing cliched networking drinks events for a sec, do those things ever really work? I mean, the odds are not stacked in our favour. How often in life to you walk into a situation cold and meet someone that you have great chemistry with? Who happens to want exactly what we are selling (shudder) at that particular moment? Just, never. At least rarely.
So design your own kind of networking.
Build connections in a way that feels totally comfortable to you. Seek out people you admire on social media and connect with them there. As friends. And if you dread the thought of going to a crowded, busy event, suggest meeting for a coffee instead. Networking shouldn’t feel like speed dating.
Think about creative ways to solidify relationships. Suggest working together on a project. Just asking for advice is enough to get a conversation going. Featuring people on my blog has worked for me. Everyone is flattered to be asked to share their expertise.
Or consider going to a course or workshop where there is a good chance you will meet like-minded people, but it is not the whole point. Pressure off.
Check your story
Before we go any further, what story are you telling yourself about this? My networking story (that it’s something I fundamentally can’t do) on closer examination turned out to be a load of rubbish. Have you decided you are no good at networking too? When did you decide that you suck at this? Maybe, it was in your early 20s when you were basically a kid and knew nothing about anything. Well, I’m 20 years older than that now and it’s time for a different take on things. New story; I can and will build a new network for this phase in life, made up of friends that I like and trust.
Remember, building connections is not gross
Everyone in my new Not About The Kids network is someone I would gleefully have coffee or lunch (or wine) with, or have round to my house. Someone who is a mate. I’m not using them, and I don’t think that they are using me. It’s great to have people that you can chat to about work. When I started this social media journey, I didn’t know anyone who does what I do. I needed to go out and find them. It’s no fun being an island (unless you are a natural born islander). Connections enrich our lives and help us to achieve bigger things, together.
Elevate is my proudest collaboration so far, read about our upcoming events here.
Don’t make networking all about you. Throw compliments around like they are confetti. Tell people about all of the brilliant and talented friends and colleagues you have. Introduce them to one another if you think they will get along. Help other people build their networks. This is how it works, how it can be truly soulful and effective. If you make it about other people, the goodwill comes back around in spades (note, apply this theory to most of life).
It’s a long game
As with ALL OF THE THINGS, patience and consistency are what building a meaningful network will involve. Good relationships flourish over years. So if you meet someone that you like, that share your outlook and ethos and you think yeah, I could work with you then keep in touch. Good luck.
Tell me how you have built your network in the comments box, or if you’d rather…
Click Mother’s Meeting for inspiring events.
Or you could read a little more about me.