The Word Networking Makes Me Cringe

Something I get asked a lot is how to network. But first, I have a confession: I hate that word. It makes me cringe because it’s so impersonal and cold, as though the goal is simply to add names to the list of people you know professionally, just the same way you drop coins into a coin jar. I see what I do not as networking but as building relationships and being authentically curious about people. It’s exciting to connect with people, get to know them personally and professionally, and then pay it forward by introducing people to each other and seeing those relationships blossom.

How To Build Authentic Relationships and Connections

So #movementmakertribe, I want to share some tips on how to build connections because every single person that becomes part of your circle, part of your movement, has the potential to have a huge impact, often in the most unexpected ways.  If, like I did at the beginning of my career, you’re struggling with the whole concept of networking, or if you’re tired of relying on LinkedIn and professional conferences (though those can be good strategies, too!) I hope the tips I share here will help you break through whatever barrier you’re facing.

Years back, I was part of a leadership program in Lafayette, Louisiana and an alumna wrote me a note of congratulations for being selected to the program. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness that ever since I’ve written a note to every incoming cohort of leadership programs I’ve been part of. The value of a handwritten note should not be underestimated. Who in your professional circle has a birthday coming up or is celebrating a major milestone, either personal or professional? One of the best investments you can make is in stationary and stamps. Send them a note.

But don’t limit yourself to the people you already know. I’m an avid reader of the Austin Business Journal because it’s a great resource for learning about inspiring business and community leaders. There’s so much great work going on, and if I read about someone I don’t know, I’ll write them a note celebrating an accomplishment or telling them I admire their work. You’d be surprised by how many people write back and want to get coffee or have lunch. I have met some really amazing people that way.

Networking is Being Thoughtful

So networking is really about showing up for people in thoughtful ways, in many of the same ways that you do for friends and family. But I also recognize that thoughtfulness takes time, and you may be wondering how on earth to add one more ball to the others you’re already juggling. After all, movement building is time-consuming and exhausting. Trust me, I’ve been there—I’m still there! But we all have “dead time,” that time when you’re standing in line at a checkout or when you’re waiting on someone. For me, it’s every Saturday morning at 7 am when I get my weekly blowout. I’m in the salon for a couple hours, and I use that time to text people and write notes. Even if you have just 10 minutes, use that time to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

So #movementmakertribe, this week I want you to set aside 10 minutes a day to reach out to someone you want to get to know better professionally. Although I’m a big fan of the handwritten note, it can be by text or email or social media. Think of whatever platform(s) that person uses and would find meaningful. One person’s Instagram shout out is another’s phone call. And for those of you up for the challenge, reach out to at least one person you don’t already know professionally but would like to, and let me know when they write you back!

If you’re looking for other workplace tips check out this article that I wrote about overcoming failure.  I want to hear from you! Comment below on how you foster relationships with those you meet.

PS. And, I must give a shout out to Heidi at Blo Hair Salon in the Domain. She’s always fitting me in on weekdays at 7 am and Annie Cokley is my steady on Saturday mornings at 7 am (and has been for nearly ten years). They put up with my silence and fast typing when I’m in their styling chairs.

#MovementMakerTribe #Networking #Authentic #Building Relationships #Connections

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