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How to Network: Making Meaningful Connections

What do you dread about networking? The fear of the unknown? The vulnerability of putting yourself out there for judgment or acceptance? Do you view it as a chore?

If you are a professional woman that struggles with networking, you are not alone.

BY Carolyn Lawrence

In a focus group conducted by Women of Influence, a group of emerging women in business were asked what they thought about networking. Only a few of them used it as a tool for career development, despite their understanding that meeting new people and forming strategic professional alliances are essential to professional advancement.

Surprisingly, many also stated that they enjoyed connecting with like-minded individuals to discuss career goals, and help each other achieve success. What did this seeming contradiction tell us? The issue wasn’t the act of networking, it was their mindset.

If your view of networking is one of discomfort – standing at a corporate function waiting for some nice stranger to pass you a crudité – then a simple shift of perspective could change your results.

Let’s start with the word itself. I prefer to use “connecting.” This implies a deeper relationship, and a meaningful activity. Plus, it’s simple, as long as you’re ready to embrace meeting new people. Use the opportunities that present themselves to you daily, and start creating your own by adding connecting activities to your weekly routine.

What is a connecting activity? It can range from a one-time event to long-term community involvement. But the purpose is to go with the intention and mindset of making a connection; with one person, or five people, or make a connection to the cause, just choose something. Then once you’ve achieved your intention, you are free to go, or simply sit back and enjoy (but I’d bet once you see how fulfilling it is to make a connection, you’ll find yourself on a roll and wanting more).

And you can do this anytime; attend a charity fundraiser, speaker events, tradeshows, or gala’s. Our luncheon and evening events and professional advancement courses offer great opportunities to meet mentors and like-minded professionals in the Women of Influence community. (Be sure to read my strategies for making connections at a sit-down event before you go.)

One of the most effective connecting activities is getting involved. And yes, you have time. Joining committees has been an incredibly rewarding and inspiring experience for me, and it can do the same for you. Seek out opportunities in your area with:

• Local arts and culture boards
• Athletic groups
• Social committees for your corporation
Charity fundraisers
• Industry related clubs and associations

So, do I network for business? Sure, but what I really do is meet new people and develop meaningful relationships whenever I can. As a result, I grow, I get inspired, I give back, and we all end up further ahead.

Looking for further insight? We offer consulting services that range from one-on-one executive coaching to gender diversity and inclusion programming tailored to your organization. Request a complimentary consultation to learn more.