Networking - a how-to for those who weren't the popular kids at school
Isn’t it funny how when we’re at school, being in the popular group feels like EVERYTHING? Then, the second we leave and enter the real world, we realise that nobody gives two shits about our social standing at school. If anything, the nerds often end up becoming the game-changers and trailblazers (and quite hot - looking at your Longbottom), while the ‘cool kids’ peaked in high school.
But if you were one of those who got pushed around by the alphas at school, well, that can stay with you forever — lurking under your composed and confident surface. So, even if you’re a kicking it in your business now, part of you may feel like you’re still not ‘cool’ enough to hang in certain circles. For many solopreneurs, this feeling is strongest when it comes to networking events.
If you struggle with the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’, consider yourself socially awkward or are just on the introverted side, networking can cause wiping-with-sandpaper-levels of discomfort. Unfortunately for you (and me), networking also happens to be incredibly important when it comes to growing your business - not just from the inception stage, but even when you are ready to up-level and are seeking expansive growth. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways you can make networking bearable.
1. Pump yourself up
Now, this tip isn’t just about sipping champagne or gin cocktails before you head out to your networking event (although — if that works for you then bottoms up!). It’s all about challenging those deep-seated, negative beliefs about yourself and reminding yourself what a badass are you are. While some business/life coaches recommend saying positive affirmations in the mirror, I take a slightly different approach. Before you leave home, spend some time revisiting some of your career highlights on your Linkedin profile or positive client testimonials or reviews. Remember what makes you unique and your brand authentic. Know your elevator pitch (we’ve got a handy blog on that too). Not only will this help prepare you to chat to prospective customers, it’ll give you a nice little confidence boost. (Rap and hip hop circa 2000 has also been found to be helpful)
2. Take it online
One of the great things about the internet (apart from funny cat videos and online shopping, obvs) is the amazing networking Facebook groups out there, like Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, Launching Legends, Create Your Laptop Life and Bucketlist Bombshells. While I’m not suggesting you do all of your networking online (you do have to put pants on from time to time - it’s part of being an adult) it’s a great way to connect with like-minded people in your industry and suss out who’s going to upcoming networking events. Which brings me to my next point...
3. Find a crew
Who says you have to brave networking events alone? Having a group of wing-women (whether it’s friends or other business owners you’ve connected with online) by your side can help make the experience much less daunting.
But in saying that, it defeats the purpose if you stick together Mean Girls style. Be aware that when you are in a pack - sorry, squad - it makes it daunting for other to try and come to you. So keep your body language open and make eye contact with passersby. And when you are ready split up and chat to potential clients, peers and maybe even mentors. Then reconvene the gang for a debrief, and to calm any nerved - this way, it is so much more fun and comfortable.
In a world where you need to stand out amongst an incredible amount of noise, it is so important for you to make a connection. Equally, in a world where there are so many people doing amazing things, go out there and meet them - find out what they are up to and how they are doing what they are doing. Some of my dearest business buddies came from the networks I mentioned above and they are an invaluable source of knowledge, guidance and GIF induced laughter.
Want to practice a bit of networking and get your business out there more? Get interviewed by me for our business blog - contact me to find out how.