Whether you are a small business owner, freelance guru, corporate team leader or entrepreneur extraordinaire, creating and harnessing a supportive network to shake off the feeling of isolation and the almighty “is it just me” voice, is something each Woman Rising feels called to do at one time on her professional path.
But despite being a member of several Facebook groups and attending a monthly power breakfast for women in business, you still don’t feel like you’re gaining anything from being involved and are starting to question the time and expense invested.
So, where do you go from here?
Before you jump out of the schmoozing pool altogether, here are four tips to help you maximise your online and in-person networking opportunities, to enjoy a more effective networking experience, elevate your ambitions and take your career to the next level:
1. Give More Than You Take
As ambitious and intelligent career women, the power of networking can be maximised if you turn your attention away from ‘What can I get out of this?’ to ‘What can I give?’
This approach works well in private Facebook groups where the sole purpose of the group is generally to share insights, exchange ideas and gain advice.
When a post pops up in your feed from a member asking for feedback or just venting her frustrations, be the friend she’s never met and contribute a response.
Just think, she’s put herself out there in the first place and is looking to connect so it’s perfectly OK for you to show her a sign of solidarity and be an empowering support.
Besides, other members reading the group news feed will see your contributions and you’ll be remembered as a helpful, giving person. This energy will be returned to you ten-fold in the future when you do finally put yourself out there seek advice or support of your own.
In the end, by contributing a positive giving vibe to an online forum will help to elevate the energy of the whole group and create a fun, inspirational and warm environment to ‘hang out’, instead of members using it to take, take, take.
Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
2. Own Your Elevator Pitch
At some point at every business networking event, you are inevitably asked, “So, what do you do?” This is your opportunity to nail what it is you do and why in less than 60 seconds – aka the Elevator Pitch.
It’s important to have one sentence up your sleeve so you are prepared when this question comes up, because it helps to instil a sense of confidence and ownership of where you are now and where you’re going.
For example, when I first left the PR world, I felt like a fraud calling myself a Life Coach, but the more I introduced myself as a Coach and showed up as the woman I was becoming (not the one I left behind), the more confidence I had in my ability to achieve it.
“I’m a Career Coach with an online business called Woman Rising and I work with professional Mums to help them build their own path.”
Short, sweet and to the point. Unless you’re asked for more information, you don’t need to provide your backstory, biz beginner reservations and self-doubts exposed from the get-go. (Tip: Save that for later after you’ve built a rapport.)
If you don’t have an Elevator Pitch, start by considering your 3 essential Ws: Who, What and Why and script it in to a natural sentence that feels right.
Practice in the mirror, and tweak it as you go if necessary, but nothing says power player more than a woman who knows who she is and why she does it…even if you’ve only just begun.
3. Quality Not Quantity
Susan Cain, Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking believes it is more effective to strive for one or two meaningful connections at a networking event rather than trying to meet everyone in the room.
The burden to get to know everyone is unrealistic, so have a think about the types of connections you’d like to make before attending and have two or three questions prepared to trigger conversation.
Then if you still feel overwhelmed or anxious you can take a break with a quick ladies room stop, walk around the room or building, or simply leave early to decompress and replenish your energy levels.
You don’t have to be the last woman standing at these shindigs – in fact, it’s better if you’re not.
4. Be Brave For 5 Minutes Longer
Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett and Panelist on ABC TV’s Gruen once said, “The most spectacular leaders are no different to ordinary people; they’re just brave for 5 minutes longer.”
Essentially, he’s telling us to take a deep breath and be brave for a few minutes in order to take one small step towards the end goal and see what happens.
What I take from his advice is; if we are all afraid of looking bad, stupid or not-good enough, than we need to overcome that fear for a few minutes in order to make progress and get the job done. Little by little.
This advice can be used in networking situations.
You’re not the only one who might feel intimidated or anxious about networking, so be the courageous one and brave for 5 minutes longer to create opportunities you might’ve missed out on otherwise.
Small step taken. Potentially big results achieved. You’re done.
In a networking group that has helped your career or too shy to get involved? Share your experience in the comments below.