Now in business for more than 20 years , I’ve lost count of how many early mornings and evenings I’ve spent in the presence of other women in business.
Over those many years, I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to many groups of women (professional groups, corporate groups, personal growth conferences, wellness conferences, etc.) and engage with them, post presentation.
I’ve belonged to a wide range of women’s groups, originally local in nature and then eventually, with the advent of technology, ‘virtual’ in their reach.
I’m not who I used to be and, truth is, I’m grateful for that. Along the way, I’ve discovered, evolved and become much more an expression of what is meaningful to me rather than seek to be what is familiar to or comfortable for another.
I’ve changed my mind about what I hold as meaningful about this notion of ‘networking’. Call it experience, wisdom or the simple passage of time, I know that my world is mine to create as I see fit. The outcome of this shift in my own perspective now translates to a different set of perceptual filters in place when I consider what calls to me to engage. I share these with you that you might reconsider the possibilities for yourself. Here are five simple thoughts I keep in mind when making the meaningful choices for myself, around networking.
* Go to give – not to get. The ‘getting’ will happen all by itself.
Rather than playing the ‘business card shuffle’ or looking outside myself for the next client or the next sale, I focus on looking inside myself and ask: what can I bring to the party? When I look back at the end of the evening, how will my having been there make a difference in the world that I care about?
* Go to listen – not to talk.
In hearing others, I come to discover more of myself. What better way to discover my personal biases, limitations, judgements or filters, than to expose myself to all that moves inside ME, in the presence of others. As I listen and engage, I stay mindful of what’s happening inside of ME rather than detach from myself and seek to consider how I am being perceived/evaluated/judged by others: “Do I look good? Am I doing it right? Are they impressed with me? Do I stand out as a cut-above my competition? ”
* It’s not a numbers game.
How many groups I sign up for is not a measure of my ability to be successful at my job/business/life. I am selective about where I want to spend my precious time. I talk to people who already attend; look back over their events list and then, I look around and ask: Is this who I want to become? Does this collective represent that which I aspire to express in my world? Not good/bad, right/wrong… just a deeply personal and relevant enquiry. Then, I choose and engage.
* Listen for those who are searching.
I don’t need to have the answers – I just need to be willing to stay in the discomfort of the questions, as those around me slowly (and often, cautiously) reveal the places where their challenges lie. For most of us, we know we’re capable – we just don’t always want to have to go it alone.
* If I’m not eager to be there, don’t go!
I don’t sign up until I’ve been on the floor a couple of times for the dance. There’s nothing worse than being part of a group because I think it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; or because I’ve already paid and ‘want my money’s worth’. If I’m not looking forward to each opportunity to engage, I’m in the wrong place. I walk away when it does not call to me , no matter how many others are going there. I seek to be myself, and choose accordingly.
I no longer go to ‘network’ – I go to enrich my life; to be in the good company of other women who share a passion for the underlying values of ‘being’, recognizing work/business as a natural conduit for its expression. I seek to engage with others in discovering just how good our lives can be. In that shared exploration, I get to meet and spend time with so many different women, each of whom contributes greatly to my own evolution – as a person, as an entrepreneur and as a woman. From that natural order of connection and rapport, all else falls into place.
For myself, I discovered the Company of Women (Ottawa Chapter) three years ago and have slowly inched my way into engaging regularly and meaningfully with this growing collective. I know the power of women in collective – I’ve been working with women for more than 20 years. And beyond that, I am coming to know – personally, viscerally and unapologetically – the power of women in a non-competitive business collective; creating a low-to-the-ground web of interconnecting points of light, recognizing that when the web vibrates, we all awaken to the ‘more’ of us that awaits!
I eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to connect! And when I get into my car and head out to a dinner or a breakfast meeting, I look forward to being there… and when I arrive, I quickly recognize in the faces of others, so are they. In that moment, I know I’ve chosen well.