New Leaf Blog
Networking really is FUN.
Yes, really it is, if you do it right. And it is one of the most useful things a career changer can do – whether you be researching new possible jobs, investigating business or charity start up options or finding customers or employers that would suit you.
Some of you reading this may already be natural networkers. If that is you – great news! You have one of the most valuable career enhancing tools naturally in your toolkit. You may find additional tips in this article to help you make the most of it, but you are already well-equipped.
For the rest of you, who like me, find the idea of networking makes you cringe, I have a new perspective that may help you. Honestly, I have discovered the benefits and the enjoyment that took the fear away, even though I have in the past dreaded networking for days beforehand.
Here are my top tips for a successful networking experience:
1. Networking is not selling. Be generous.
One big problem that you may have with the idea of networking arises if, like many people, you have confounded networking with selling. And selling feels like forcing people to have something they don’t want or need. What a horror, being faced with a room full of people who you need to speak to one at a time and sell again and again!
True networking is not selling at all. A great networker will spend time finding out about who you are and what would most help you. Then they come up with ideas and connections that might do just that. So networking is a generous act, not a sales-y one. To be truly generous, networking is about making a real connection with people, getting an insight into who they are and what they need.
2. Prepare what you are asking for.
What is it you want from the networking event? Perhaps the answer to that is a job or, if you run a business, more customers. It is possible that the people you networking with don’t have a job to offer you or are not a suitable customer themselves, but they might know people who are. So think about what you can ask them for before you get there. Do they have contacts or connections that could help you? Do they have advice? Do they have other events that they recommend?
3. Don’t shut down a connection because it is not immediately fruitful.
If the person you have spoken to doesn’t immediately have ideas or help for you, don’t worry. Give them your contact details (on a card of you have one) and see what help you can offer them. Great networkers may come back with an idea or contact months later that could change everything.
4. Go to the right events.
Yes, this one seems obvious but you’d be amazed how easy it is to get not quite right. Think about this… where will my ideal employer / customer / contact (delete as appropriate) tend to hang out? Where will they go to look for the sort of thing I have to offer? Know the answer? If you don’t, you need to either define the person more clearly, or do more research. Once you do, then go there.
5. Network everywhere you go.
Yes, your best efforts may be at formal business networking events, careers fairs or training courses. But honestly, you can build personal connections, ask for help and be generous with your advice and contacts everywhere you go. Remember you are not selling. But being enthusiastic about what you are great at is fascinating to others.
6. Include social networking in your efforts.
It may be a cliché – but as with many of the best clichés it works as long as you do it right. Keep your Facebook and LinkedIn statuses up to date with what you are seeking. Just as with face to face networking ask for advice and offer help whenever you can. Remember, you are building connections and reputation as well as getting help from others.
7. Seek out great networkers.
Some people are natural networkers. Seek them out. If anyone is likely to connect you to the people you need, it is one of them. How can you recognise them? They are interested in you no matter who you are, know everyone and go to lots of places where they meet people. Even if you don’t go to a networking event, chances are you have one or more of these people in your life already. Take them to lunch and tell them what you need and you might just find they know someone who can help.
8. Give it time.
Sometimes the payoff from a networking event is immediate and obvious. Sometimes it is a slower burn. As you practise the benefits tend to come quicker as you learn what to say to who to get and give what you need.
9. Follow Up
At an event you are likely to meet a lot of people. Afterwards most of them will lose your card and forget your face. Keep yourself in the forefront of their mind by sending them an email or phoning them. It needn’t be a long conversation, just ‘we met at xxx event. I wanted to keep in touch because I found our conversation about yyy very interesting. Perhaps we can meet up some time to discuss other ways we might help each other out.’
When I was new to networking, I had someone contact me like this. I didn’t think I could ever buy her product, which was a competitor to my husband’s employer, so I said no to her advances. Luckily for me she was persistent and said she didn’t want to sell to me, just get to know me. So we had coffee and I learned so much about how to network successfully and ended up going to several free events as a result.
10. Be yourself and enjoy yourself!
Remember, you are making personal connections and you will do that best if you are having fun and being yourself. The last event I went to I met some potential competitors, but because we liked each other so much we spend the whole time (and some time on the phone and email since) finding ways to help each other out and perhaps work together. I also spoke to some potential collaborators and customers. And the best thing I got from a recent networking opportunity? A wonderful and free ten minute massage. I kept the contact details of the masseuse with a view to recommending her to others whenever I can. If anyone lives in or near Hampton near London and wants a great massage – get in touch!
This topic is coming up powerfully this week for me, my clients and the people who commented on this blog, so what better to write about this week.
Although I have done coaching and consultancy as an employee, doing this work in my own business is relatively new, so early on I pursued many ideas and options. And guess what, a lot of them are coming to fruition around now. So, what I am faced with now is having to say no to things I like and have put effort into creating.
It is hard enough saying no to things we don’t like
That is a lesson I have had to learn already. And it was a lesson centred around choosing what mattered to me versus what I thought I should be doing. I had to work on disentangling the things that truly brought me joy from the life long training I’d had in being a good girl and doing what was expected. I am mostly getting there – though I often have to spot myself falling into those old patterns and extract myself from them yet again.
This current situation has many parallels. There are lots of ‘shoulds’ for me – primarily around the feeling that I should finish what I have started. Although why this should be if something is no longer useful and letting it go would bring me freedom, I don’t know.
And there is also a feeling of commitment to others.
Keeping my promises is important to me. It is part of my sense of integrity.
Yet sometimes what that commitment actually is, is not completely clear. Have you made a promise? If so, what is it? Sometimes clarifying each parties’ expectations gives you the opportunity to understand what you are really committing to and to say no at an appropriate time.
Sometimes it even makes the problem go away. For example, one possible joint venture I am pursuing involves two other people, but we haven’t yet sat down and talked through the details. One of those people mentioned to me that she would see our pilot project launching in January. Suddenly my time feels freed up. Although we will need to plan and market the product, and that will take time around now – the implementation will not take place until a time when I know one of my current big commitments will be coming to a close.
Ultimately, though, I will need to choose.
This is a powerful lesson for me. And the choices I make are going to be based on one major factor – what do I want most of all. Now I have a fulfilling work life, how can I make it even better by only pursuing the most exciting options. By saying thanks but no thanks to the ones that are good but not great, or even – can it be true? – great but not wonderful.
Saying no starts from getting clear about what you want most – what you most want to say yes to. So, how about you start here too. What is missing from your life that you want most? How committed are you to it?
Now, that you have connected to that, what do you need to say no to, to make that Yes a powerful and realistic one.
Write or leave a comment below and tell me what you decided. Knowing this makes a difference to real people is what makes writing this worthwhile.
Busy busy busy. Is that what you are all the time? Our culture praises those of us who are busy and tells us that we will be rewarded for our hard work. Yet, that level of busy-ness alienates us from the most important things in our lives. We all know it in our heads, but the allure of workaholism is strong.
Why we need to give ourselves space
Our internal voice – the quiet one that knows what we really want, not the incessant nagging, negative one that keeps us small – needs space to be heard. Our spiritual side, whether you believe in a god or not, requires peace and space to connect with our soul. Our families and friends – children, partners, parents, best mates and others – all need spaces to fit into our lives.
For those of us without space, building it into our lives is a real challenge. Notice I said ‘building’ and not ‘finding’ space. Like anything else in life you have to choose to have space. You have to make a commitment to it. With that commitment comes the ability to notice when you sabotage your own efforts – fill space with clutter and lower priorities.
The spaces I have made give me connection to myself in the most important ways. Giving myself space tells me that I am important – that what I care about is worth investing in and prioritising. Space allows me to hear my own voice, even the quiet one that has been smothered under the demands I make of myself and others make of me to live up to their expectations.
The biggest challenge in giving myself space is how ready I am to sabotage it.
There seems to be some powerful fear of what I might find there. What am I scared of? My own power? That I have wasted my life by going down the wrong path? That I will discover that I am wanting or a failure in some way?
All of these are things I have discovered in silence and space before, and dealt with. The failures are either not so terrible – or really not to do with me at all. The power is worth having and starts to feel like it fits once I allow myself to wear it. In fact, owning my power allows it to come out in generous and charismatic ways, rather than being distorted by fear and neediness. The wrong path – yes, I have definitely been there and learned a lot on the way. Life is a balance of such learning and those easy times when you are in the flow. I will have wrong turnings again.
And often I will have to learn the same lessons again. But giving myself space allows those lessons to be learned at a deeper more transformational level. A level where, in the meantime, I get to live a more fulfilling life, connected to the things I value most and being myself.
So, here I am again, seeking space to give myself the next set of learning.
I find myself resisting and yearning in equal measure. I build in what support systems and commitments I can to make the space real. I will write freely whatever comes into my head every day. I go for regular walks and get coached by insightful women who see me as I am. I will not work at my computer after dinner (this one helps me to calm down and sleep well). I am clearing clutter from my house to give myself beauty and space to be in. And sometimes, well sometimes I even allow myself to do nothing at all.
I invite you to look at the ways you shut space out of your lives and what that costs you personally.
What is the payoff for having no space?
Now make a commitment to yourself. List ten ways you could build space and self-care back into your life. Try doing three of them this week.
Perfectionism is a powerful driver for me and many of my clients. And yet most of my insight and creativity comes from situations that are far from ideal. Those situations that call on my creativity and determination to get what I want. I have two things I have learned from this:
- Don’t wait for the perfect time, it will never come. The imperfect times are better.
- It is the imperfections that make us human, give us insight, experience and something to teach others. Despite the pain, this is where your riches lie.
Let me illustrate that. After I had my second child and my first started attending school, I spent some time railing against the impossibility of the situation I found myself in. How could I do my consultancy work between school drop off and pick up times, with my clients in London an hour or two away?
I felt really stuck.
Not only did it impact my work, but my feelings of being able to determine my own life. I felt dependent on my husband, bored and lonely. I felt like I losing myself under the pile of laundry and paperwork that kept me at home. I tried to tell myself I could put my own needs on hold until the children were older. I told myself that others worked and had kids and what was wrong with me? And I told myself that if I worked I would not be giving my children enough of my attention and I would be a bad mother. So whichever path I took I would a failure or worse – a bad person.
Finding inspiration in adversity
Out of that misery came clarity. My business encompasses both coaching and consultancy for charities and social enterprises. I love both aspects, but I had recently taken on mostly consulting work. The fact that those doors were harder to open helped me to remember how I love coaching, and that it is not limited by time or location. I love how it how it brings me alive to connect with another human being. I love being on a journey to someone’s most fulfilling life. And I love to be the magician helping others see the wonderful truth about themselves.
Playing a bigger game
And the truth about me was that I could do what I wanted. Not, as it turns out, in the way that I expected. Actually it is much better than that. Not only can I work in a flexible way, with the hours I want and no commuting, but with phone or Skype coaching I can have clients anywhere in the world. Subscribers to this newsletter come from the UK, the US, India, Ghana… I run teleseminars and group coaching courses. I am planning a telesummit with an international cast of speakers. I have two books being developed. I have harnessed the power of the internet.
And most importantly, I have discovered my own powerful voice. A voice that has more insightful things to say because it has lived a real life, not a perfect one. Out of the pain came real learning about who I am, how I had limited myself all my life by feeling responsible, not just for my children and what I actually cared about.
Don’t wait for the perfect time – it will never come
Life is like that – there is always some reason not to do what you really want. So next time you think you can’t, because you haven’t got time / tidied the house / got fit / earned enough money / got the right qualification / add your own reason here…, ask yourself – “what could I do right now, even though that is still true?”
If it is too hard to write one answer (perfectionism might demand that it is the ‘right’ one) try writing 30 answers. Then pick one, two or three and pursue them a little. Notice what possibilities open up for you.
Then think about something that is bringing you pain and limitation. Somewhere you feel stuck. What does this situation have to teach you about yourself and what matters to you?
And, please, post a comment at the end of this blog sharing what you have realised you could do, when before you saw only limits.
Talk about synchronicity… Someone just sent the this quotation from Thomas Edison, right after I wrote this article:
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.”