Networking is like learning to ride a bike; it's awkward at first, you're wobbly and uncomfortable and not really sure how you're going to master it. Then, somewhere after fall number 6,7,8 -- you hit your stride and your world is never the same again. You can breeze through the neighborhood, take in the sights and sounds and go to places before unknown. Networking is a lot like this because it pushes your comfort zones and forces you to share what's important to you and listen to what others are up to, and see how together, you two might create a new relationship. Most importantly, networking is PRACTICE and PATIENCE. I often hear that people are unsure how to get started with networking, because let's be honest - it's really intimidating! But time and time again, leaders of business, the movers and shakers of our society and those who get their ideas' out of their heads and into the world all come back to one tried and true practice: become a master of networking.
Why is networking important? Because it's all about how well you can sell yourself and your ideas, and how you can connect the dots to support others' shared goals and interests. If you're going into a networking event purely with self-centered reasons, well, you'll come home with just about as many business cards as you came with. Networking depends upon how well you can connect with others and light a spark of interest in their mind that says "Hm...this person has some good ideas, I'd like to talk more." That's all your goal is at these events: to keep the conversation going.
There are tons of sites that can give you the mechanics behind networking, but I care more about the attitude and beliefs you may be carrying around with you. We set up blocks that hinder us from ever reaching our potentials, and here are some common myths that stop people from connecting with others and letting their ideas come alive.
Myth #1: To network well, I have to already have my business up & running. If this were the case, then networking events would be empty and filled with sales people who have only their agenda in mind. Most networkers are in the process of building their ideas into something tangible and are seeking the counsel and support of like-minded people. In my experience, the best relationships I've created from networking events were people just getting started, and like myself, wanted to make some entrepreneurial friends and business connections along the way. These are social events, not booths at a convention.
Myth #2: I can't go to one of these because I'm just no good at networking. Ahem -- where you born good at addition? Born good at playing Super Mario Brothers for the first time? What's underlying this statement is a belief that you're just not worthy enough to have your ideas heard. When I began talking about Undercurrent to people, I was terrified because the chorus of "people aren't going to understand wtf you're talking about..." kept going round and round. And guess what? Some people didn't get it. And guess what? LOTS did. The more I talked about my ideas, the more people supported and responded positively to them. A circle of confidence is soon generated and it enhances ourselves, our ideas and our ability to articulate our awesomeness -- so don't let that very overcome-able fear hold you back. Start small with close friends and family, then the next time you're striking up a random conversation, share what you're interested in and the positive encouragement will astound you.
Myth #3: Networking is a waste of time -- everyone knows that success is all about who you know. Again, there's an underlying belief here that is telling you it's pointless to try and also, that there's a limited number of success out there in the world but it's not for you. How do you think will-be successful people met each-other in the first place? What are you defining as "successful?" If this believe sounds familiar to you, I encourage you to reevaluate whose definition of success you're living by. Understanding this could be the difference between creating a life YOU want or a life OTHERS want.
Networking serves two functions: it helps you get clear and confident about your ideas and helps you develop relationships with others who can assist you along the way. A good leader doesn't live in a vacuum; they rely upon others input, experiences and ideas to better inform what action they can take. Networking is all about practicing the art of self-confidence and teaches us that other's ideas aren't threats or competition, but opportunities to find support and advice on how to make our own ideas reality.
Ready to start networking? Find a group here and get practicing!