The intelligent woman of excellence, dear reader, builds a network. As a child you were probably taught that you needed to make friends, but that’s not necessarily true; even more important to your health and wellbeing is your ability to be smart and build a network.
To clarify before going in depth as to how to develop a network, first it is important to understand what a network is and is not. A network is not the people you would simply consider friends to hang out with casually, go for drinks, or share stories with, though these people might be part of your network. In other words, it is possible for someone to be a part of your network and also simply a friend, but not everyone in your network is necessarily someone you would call a “friend” in the traditional sense and not every friend makes a valuable connection that you would want in your network.
A network is also not the group of people you are connected with on LinkedIn, Facebook, or another other platform, though the same applies – they may exist in those places.
A network is a compilation of contacts that you have collected over time. Many people approach networking with the mentality that you simply reach out to potential employers or potential clients. However, this is far too limited.
The contacts in your network should also include people that may play a part in your life somewhere down the line as employees, investors, advisors, mentors, other networkers or extremely well connected people who can connect you to others.
Everything of worth that has ever been accomplished, dear reader, has been done so through the help and support of many other people. There is no such thing as a “self made man” or a lone success story. The wonderful and progressive accomplishments in life will not happen without a well-developed network.
This is something that has been too misunderstood and mistakenly interpreted in a number of other ways including “social climbing.” Social climbing, for instance, implies that you are seeking out contacts to advance only yourself and that you aren’t really concerned with any larger goals beyond yourself.
That’s not what true networking, good networking looks like. Generally, those intentions come across fairly obviously and tend to block any meaningful connections anyhow. Good networking is done out of the spirit of authenticity – your purpose is greater than yourself; you want to accomplish some larger goal or dream for the good of humanity, and you know there are others out there that will be willing to support that same goal or dream. It may be something you have in mind now, or it could be something you develop in the future. It could be anything from the simple desire to have a particular sort of job so that you can develop your own self and contribute value to a company and the economy, or it could be that you’d like to solve a larger problem for society, perhaps a social issue, or a technological problem, and would like to start a company to do so.
Networking is by far one of the best investments you can make as a feminine woman of excellence; in most cases it is completely free, and it can be a great way to meet and make friends with the high-quality people who care about society and are pushing themselves to grow as well, even if nothing ever comes to fruition with them in a purely business sense. Moreover, you yourself will become a more interesting, engaged, and well-informed person if you do this.
Now to transition into how to network. This is also important because many people get it wrong. Perhaps the one most important thing to understand is that networking is about you learning from others that you meet. It is an opportunity to find out what they do, what sort of business they are in, what motivates them, what key issues they are facing, and any number of other topics. The key is to step back and listen, and to get them talking. Be curious and genuinely interested!
Of course, when asked about your goals, aspirations, and current projects you should be confident and be able to clearly state what defines you, but one of the worst ways to shoot yourself in the foot while networking is to walk into a room full of people and leave with a sore jaw, yet no additional knowledge or real information about the people you’ve met. You must make a meaningful connection. Think of it a bit as you would dating, however here the end goal is not to meet a future spouse but people to do business with and friends.
Some great places to start are your local chamber of commerce, local seminars, conferences, or community and business events. Many events are listed under Eventbrite, as well as your city’s major newspapers and business publications.
Happy networking! (: