Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Embrace ALL the Changes
We’re all going so much change at this time. Most of us have been social distancing for several weeks now. Embracing the change - staying open, being vulnerable and having a positive attitude - these are things we can do to strengthen our own resilience. There’s so much uncertainty we’re facing individually - the state of our finances, work, health and our families’ well being. But we are human and we need other people -- especially now!
The most important factor in difficult times? The support of others. Our relationships and our networks.
Don’t “Go Dark” - Keep Connecting!
We’ve been getting used to staying connected with colleagues, friends and family virtually. But what about growing our professional networks? Working from home doesn’t provide many organic opportunities for meeting new people or for building your current relationships. But..it doesn’t have to be that way!
Linda and I were making headway nurturing new business relationships for Evolve and about to launch our first Collective when the outbreak occurred. We’ve had to model resilience ourselves - finding other ways to bring women together (virtually), continuing to build on ideas in the works with new partners and re-examining our business model.
Over the last several weeks, women entrepreneurs have been supporting each other and we’ve seen the power of continuing to build connections virtually. Whether it’s been friendly emails to check in, proposals to lead virtual events together or review colleague’s online courses -- women have been there for each other.
Think about yourself on the other side of the health crisis - who do you want to draw into your “net”? Who do you consider to be in your network now? Who else would you like to include? How can you take this time to reflect and build a community to support and inspire you?
Wait - Isn’t Networking a Dirty Word?
For many women, networking in the conventional sense seems “cringey”. Hearing the word networking evokes images of people (mostly men in suits) trading business cards with each other that get cast aside once you leave the event. The word networking can convey people who want to sell themselves and “take take take”. Women often think that networking is “braggy” and don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves. And often we don’t want to ask for help or be vulnerable for fear that showing what we don’t know may make us appear less than.
We’ve Got This! Networking is Give & Take
In our work with women-led companies, we see women leaders reframing networking to be about collaboration, connection and sharing resources. A woman in one of our meetups this week nailed it when she said, “networking doesn’t have to be about “work”, it can be fun and about relationship curation.”
And we’ve found that women’s professional networking groups provide a safe and brave space for women to share their stories and be vulnerable. Rather than selling yourself to a group of strangers, women centric networking tends to be more supportive, where women can learn from each other and offer resources.
Here’s the shift we’re seeing:
Women Reframe Networking
Transactional > Relational
Broad & Dispersed > Inner circle
One-Way > Reciprocal/Exchange/Collaboration
Selling yourself > Helping others
Quantity > Quality
Short-term > Relationships for long-term
At the heart of networking is connections. And what are connections, really? The energy exchanged between two people for mutual benefit. Networking at its best is about the “give” and the “get”.
When you approach meeting new people with the mindset of “what do I have to give”, it takes the pressure off feeling like you are asking for something because you’re sharing your value first and how you can help.
Understand how you can fill the other person’s gaps and offer support. For the “get”, be direct about what you need - give someone else an opportunity to have a positive impact. That also makes them feel more confident as a result. It’s a win-win!
Tips for Virtual Networking
1. Capture 3x Connections
Successful women have an inner circle. The best inner circles for women are those in which the women were closely connected to each other but had minimal contacts in common. Contacts in the second and third layer of your network are the most productive when it comes to making new relationships.
While having an inner circle of women is important, people tend to associate with those like them, so diversity in your network will make it stronger: diversity of thought, background and skills. We love the idea of curating a network with varied expertise and backgrounds. Check out one of our favorite articles on how to do this: 25 people you need in your network.
2. Connecting Remotely? Be Proactive!
There are a number of ways to be proactive and reach out to others remotely. Which ones feel comfortable and familiar to you? Which feel like a stretch? Challenge yourself to try one way you haven’t done before:
Social media (post, comment, join professional groups)
Webinars and Virtual meetups (zoom, google hangouts)
Slack instant messaging community
Online professional/industry groups
Online groups for your passions/hobbies
Courses (Edx, Coursera etc)
Informational interviews on zoom
Interview others for your own articles/podcasts
3. Growing Your Network
Initiating: New Contacts
Ask friends & colleagues for introductions to people they respect
Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn
Create more visibility for yourself -- post your own thoughts (articles, podcasts)
Building: Current Contacts
Ask for contact’s point of view
Request a check in: ask for 15 minute phone call or (even better) virtual chat
Build a personal board of directors
Reviving: Dormant contacts
4. Pay it Forward!
Be a connector -- introduce your contacts to others
Add value = your superpowers + the other person’s ask
Offer and ask for Linkedin recommendations
Share articles and resources
4. It’s Your Turn: Practice Email Template
Here’s a simple email template to reach out to your colleagues (current and future). Be sensitive to how people are feeling and open with good wishes for health and safety.
Subject: Emails that work for virtual networking
Sample intro: Who you are, why you know them, what you are interested in
Sample give: Make an offering of what value you can add. That was a great article you shared about x…I like the way you...Here’s a related resource you might find interesting.
Sample ask: Let people know what you need: I want to learn about x. I want to make connections in x field.
Be Direct: Do you have 15 minutes next week to jump on a zoom call? I’d love to hear your take on x.
Follow-up: Close with gratitude and express thanks even if the person cannot help you