Promoting networking is big business for coaches, writers, and leadership development specialists. These professionals offer excellent tips and proven methods for success in networking, often attached to a particular business outcome. Because I feel the definition of ‘success’ is as unique as the person striving for it, I’ve come to believe networking is an art form, requiring thoughtful consideration beyond an allotted x-hours per week.
As a work-at-home entrepreneurial woman, the practice of expanding my existing circle of friends and colleagues is the fuel that not only nurtures me, but ultimately provides the creative spark to keep me pointed in the direction of my envisioned success, day-after-day. The networks of support I’ve endeavored to create in my life have come to mean so much more than meeting, greeting, and collecting business cards.
Here are some ways to network for authentic connection.
What energizes you?
I am a self-described happy extrovert – the commitments of daily dancing, workout class, weekly lunches, monthly telephone gatherings, and out-of-town conferences are a big part of my life. Whether or not these examples fit into your own definition of success, some may help you to link networking with your personal needs. The point is to be discerning about where and with whom you spend your time when you are not working in your home office, consider what will energize you, inspire the next steps in your business, and expand your community in an empowering and transforming way.
What drains your energy?
Begin by considering which people and activities drain you, make you feel uncomfortable, or even cause you to feel some trepidation … as in, ‘I’m not ready for those people/groups, they are so far ahead of me.’ Next, take steps in the direction of excitement and trepidation! It’s been said that if you wish to have more money, spend time with people who have more money. This is true for any form of abundance. If you wish to express more creativity, spend time with creative people, more healthy, more happily married, more philanthropic. You get the picture.
It begins with knowing what you desire to experience more of in your life and business.
And by the way, you come to know this via personal exploration, journaling, heart-to-heart conversations with trusted mentors, coaches, and friends, rather than keeping a list of ‘should’ activities that appear to have worked for others. First, consider the people already in your life who exhibit those qualities and traits you admire, then those people you’d like to know.
One of my favorite places to meet people in Austin is Biz+Balance, a group for mom entrepreneurs. When I attended my first meeting just a couple of years ago, I was a nervous wreck (happy extroverts get nervous too). We begin every meeting with quick introductions; names, names and ages of our children, what we do (30 seconds or less! This is a great brand distilling and communication exercise – I still practice in the car on my way to this meeting).
When I’m standing in front of the room of forty women, I pay attention to how it goes. Not to the reaction, I get from others necessarily, but how I feel expressing who I am. It is a supportive community within which I can test the waters for the most authentic expression of myself and my vision. That first step has yielded friendships, business, insight, collaborators, many surprising gifts in a relatively short time.
There are many more communities of support around us than we realize. If you feel stymied, go back to those same people you feel drawn to. Start with a tweet. Facebook friend them! Invite them to a phone conversation or lunch and learn what they are doing, you will probably receive an invitation to join them, and say yes! You may also want to create your own community based on your needs and desires. I recently started a targeted book circle simply to create a community of practice in my town around the ideas in a favorite book. Amazingly enough, other folks were hungry for the same ideas and connection, and they are happy I got it rolling!
Here are more thoughts about places where you may discover like-minded connections:
- Fitness classes where there is obvious camaraderie and interaction among the participants.
- Meetups in your area on topics that interest you.
- Spiritual communities.
- Professional or industry groups.
- Book clubs and discussions.
- Personal renewal groups.
- School or other charitable fundraising events (consider donating!)
Some of these may not feel right for you, some will yield ideas and authentic connections, and others will give you that energetic ‘hit’ – then you will know you’ve found your people!
What tips do you have for creating authentic connections?