Week 18: From networking hater to networking embracer: One woman’s journey
When Alli started out as a freelancer in 2014, she didn’t know anything about networking. Generally, she didn’t want to and didn’t know how to talk to people. Her way of showing support for the organizations she worked with was to hold down her corner of the room by herself.
Alli’s approach to networking was what she calls “textbook”. She showed up in a suit (not her style); she put on a façade (this was painful), and she measured her success through the number of people she talked to, number of cards she collected, and the number of clients she landed. This was, after all, what society and stock photos told her to do. The result was that Alli hated networking. It was exhausting. It felt like a chore.
It was at one of these events when Alli met “Big Change” coach Tracy Oswald. There was something about Tracy – her energy, her passion – that drew Alli to her at the end of the event. That was the start of an amazing journey.
Here are 5 ways that coaching helped Alli see that there was another way to view networking.
- She started showing up as herself. For her, that meant trading the suit jacket and heels for artsy jewelry and boots. It meant infusing more of her into the dialogue. As a follow on to the question of what she does, she now says “I’m a content creator, and I’m also a comedic rapper.” Who wouldn’t want to ask a follow-up question to that introduction?
The result: She feels less pressure because the burden to be someone who she isn’t has fallen away.
- She focuses on relationships, not results. In her previous mindset, she didn’t see that networking is first and foremost about relationships. She didn’t understand that we work with people we can learn from and grow with. Once she dropped the mindset that “success” at networking meant the number of contacts she made, the process became more exciting. She approached networking as an opportunity to expand her thinking.
The result: Connections are coming out of nowhere. People started gaining interest in her work more easily – and in many cases – when she wasn’t looking.
- She’s finding her tribe. A crucial component to coaching with Tracy was for Alli to understand her values. Because she is honoring these values, she is attracting people with similar values. Now that she has built a tribe through networking events, she utilizes these organized activities not only to grow her tribe, but also to strengthen existing relationships.
The result: Her tribe is growing, both in strength of existing relationship and in numbers of new people she is meeting with shared values.
- She starts from a place of curiosity: Alli is ready to experiment when she attends networking events. She views meeting someone new as going on a journey with them. Without an expectation of a business card or client sign-up, this allows her to be open to the dialogue and go with the flow of conversation.
The result: Networking feels much more natural and is more exciting because Alli never knows where a conversation will lead.
- She doesn’t give up. Networking is still hard. At a recent networking event, Alli entered the event and was surrounded by unfamiliar people in business suits. As she circled the room, she was thinking, “I just want to go home, this is hard.” As she was preparing to make her exit, she ran into someone she knows from another networking group. Speaking with him made her warm up and feel comfortable enough to embark on conversations with new and old friends for the rest of the night.
The result: The world gets to experience Alli as she was meant to be. She will continue to be her weird, artsy, comedic self.
Alli went from networking hater to network embracer in less than six months. That’s the power of coaching, and doing all of the hard work that comes in between coaching sessions.
If you want some ah-ha moments like Alli, reach out to a coach today!
If you’d like to take me up on this offer, reach out to me. I’d be happy to spend 30 minutes discussing your experience and help you uncover even more opportunity with your network.
Want to make 52 Weeks of Meaningful Connections a weekly habit? Sign up HERE to get the articles and extra resources delivered directly to your inbox, PLUS kickstart your networking efforts with a fun week-long challenge. Think about how far you can go in one year and GET STARTED today!
52 Weeks of Meaningful Connections is offered by Small Town Leadership. If you would like to see how much progress you can make toward making our big world feel like a smaller place, SIGN UP to receive these articles on a weekly basis.