I hate networking.
Have you ever thought or said this statement? I’ve lost count of the times I have. Not only have I not enjoyed networking, at times I’ve felt pretty gross doing it.
I used to think this was due to the industry I worked in. I had built a film/TV/video career spanning 12 years and 3 states, and the networking was the same everywhere I went.
Before I’d even get my name out during introductions, the person would be asking “Who have you worked for?” or “What equipment do you use?” or “Where would I have seen your work?” All of this was industry speak for “Who can you connect me to?” or “Is my gear better than yours? or “Are you important enough to have done something I’d know about and therefore worth my time?”
Of course I hated networking. No one cared who I was; they just wanted to know how I could help them get what they wanted.
I bet you can imagine I was pretty bummed out when I left that industry to be an entrepreneur and found networking wasn’t much different here either. I was met again with brash questions determining my worth as a potential source of referrals, connections or money; thereby ignoring my worth as a person.
This furthered my belief that networking was the tenth circle of Hell and best avoided.
But the thing about being an entrepreneur is that ya kind of do need to be out there meeting folks. I had avoided it as long as I could. So I put my businesswoman costume back on and made sure to include armored gloves to protect my hands from the paper cuts that result from the blind slinging of business cards at networking events.
This is when I made 3 important realizations that changed the way I network.
Realization #1: Traditional Networking Began with Men for Men
In fact, business as we know it in the West was developed by men and caters to the masculine. Feminine traits have been seen as wrong or bad in the business realm (and in general, but I’ve already dove into that here), which naturally spilled over into networking.
The “what do you do and how can you help me? Oh, that’s not a useful industry for me and you can’t – ok NEXT!” style of networking may work well for our brothers, but it is not how most women organically communicate. Anytime I step out of my natural state, I feel gross, which explained that slimy sensation I experienced at events.
If I was going to get out of networking Hell, I was going to have to invoke the divine feminine within me and be okay with showing up a differently than others in the room.
But first I was going to have to get through…
Realization #2: My Own Focus Was Skewed
It was easy to recognize how it made me feel when others approached me as a potential source for meeting their needs. It took a little longer to realize how I might be making others feel by doing the exact same thing.
This one was tough for me. I had done a fair amount of research on networking by this point, and been told time and time again by “the experts” that I had to have goals for my networking and use each event to meet them. They instructed going into networking events with my own needs in mind and a plan to meet people who could fill them. It’s what you “should” do if you want to make the best use of the event. Otherwise you’re just socializing, and that’s a waste of time.
Then I took a second look at these “experts”. Can you guess what I discovered?
They were all men. It never occurred to them that women operate differently and might not benefit from this “what can you do for me” approach to networking. Moreover, they saw feminine communication as a “waste of time”.
This realization pulled my focus away from “what do you do and what can you do for me?” and redirected it to “who are you and what do I have that could be helpful to you?”
I had come across the notion of being helpful to others in my research, but it came with strings – “if I help you get what you want, you will help me get what I want.” That focus is still on me and my needs and feels an awful lot like the original focus at the end of the day.
This new focus was about really getting to know someone and happily offering what I already have if it could be beneficial to him/her.
Is this because I’m a saint who has all this extra free time to be in service to others?
No, it’s because I’m a woman, and it is natural for women to connect on a deeper level and seek out ways to help others. When we lean into our nature, we open the natural flow of relationships and abundance, so everyone wins!
This brought me to engaging with others as people not prospects, which led me to…
Realization #3: Who I Am Matters More than What I Do
Once I started to approach networking with the feminine divine and my new focus, something happened that shocked the heck out of me!
I doubt I’ll ever forget it. I met a woman at a traditional networking event. I talked with her as a person not a prospect and learned all sorts of neat stuff about her. She told me about a seminar she was leading the following week and was hoping to have a full house. I marked the time in my calendar and made a point to be there. She was so grateful that I showed up, and so was I because it was a great seminar.
Afterwards she and I chatted outside with a few other people from the event. She immediately started singing my praises and recommending me to everyone. This was lovely but rather surprising for me. She had never engaged with my work and didn’t know anyone who had either, yet she was happy to refer them to work with me.
Why would she recommend me so highly without having worked with me?
Because she had gotten to know me as a person, she trusted my work would follow suit and be high quality. I learned that night that who I am matters more than what I do.
When we connect person-to-person instead of business-to-business, a bond forms, a bond that sticks around a lot longer than your business card in their pocket.
Additionally, there is a natural indebtedness in humans that arises when we support one another – like me showing up for her event. Harkening back to our tribal days, it was essential that people stick together for survival. If you were not part of the community, you were dead by moonrise.
Thankfully, the Intelligent Universe made it really easy on us and built-in this sense of reciprocity for when someone helps you out. It’s not a quid pro quo nor does it require any strings. It’s simply an organic desire to support those who support us.
Again, leaning into our nature opens up the natural flow of community and abundance for all. It’s a beautiful system!
You may be thinking this only works between women, but I have found that is not the case at all.
I have since had similar results with men and women from all industries. The truth is, these realizations helped me stop doing what I was told I should do and start being who I naturally am. This means I don’t have to do anything when I go to these events now. I just have to be myself and watch the rest fall into place.
No stress. No strings. No slime.
In short: Be who you are, help when you can and get to know who people are instead of what they do (that latter will come out naturally anyway).