Women in my community have talked a lot about networking – and it’s not always positive. In fact, they’re finding that networking events lack focus. Instead of bringing together a group of people that can support and uplift each other, they’re casting a wide, unfocused net. But in the attempt to bring more people together, they’re ultimately just capturing a disparate group of people who lack a common purpose and goals.
What does this tell us? That the importance of networking isn’t in the event itself. It’s in the opportunity to connect which gives us the chance to build authentic connections and mutually beneficial relationships. And that is achievable only when we’re networking with purpose.
The importance of networking
Like it or not, networking can be key to your professional success. In a perfect world, networking is interacting and communicating with people who share common ground, to build relationships that will be of mutual benefit to their business or professional practice. We sometimes refer to this as ‘professional relationship building’.
It works too. In fact, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. And for some people, networking is their primary means of finding a job!
So why is it that our community struggles with networking events? They find them overly salesy with everyone attending out to make a buck, rather than make a connection. Yet, we feel compelled to attend. That’s because we believe we can make the ‘right’ strategic connections for your business’ growth if only we can network with the ‘right’ people.
But let’s be honest. A network’s true value lies in its people and the authenticity of their connection. Genuine, beneficial networks take time, focus and attention to build. It’s important that the interactions you have and the relationships you build are authentic.
This is networking with purpose. And when we can do that, we lose the overtly salesy approach, the awkward hustle and the general ‘ick’ factor that so many of us dislike about networking events.
To create and build the deep mutually beneficial networks that will help your business to thrive (without the ‘ick’ factor) means networking with purpose for connection. This is particularly important for women, who traditionally network to build a close network of trusted people that they can rely on.
Networking with purpose
So, how do we do that?
How to network with purpose
I’ve talked recently about the importance of having a game plan for each networking event. Let’s break down this idea to focus on networking with purpose:
One – Know your purpose for attending or joining
Knowing ‘why’ you want to attend a networking event or join a networking group is key. You can choose to attend or join for endless reasons. The goal is to be walking to your car with one or two new connections that you really felt aligned with at the end of every event. And not walking to your car clutching a fistful of business cards with names you already can’t put a face to.
Worse – you don’t want someone to have your business card but have already forgotten you. That’s why genuine connection must be the most vital component of your purpose for attending any networking event.
Creating connections, however, works better when your purpose for attending aligns with your business. So you may want to attend events that focus on:
- Learning something to enhance your skillset.
- Engaging and practicing your speaking skills.
- Connecting with a specific person in your industry or profession.
- Finding and giving support through a like-minded ‘tribe’.
- Enjoying a lovely evening of drinks, chit chat and nibbles – it’s more than OK if taking a little break from the stresses of your business is your purpose!
Two – Be authentic
Whatever you do and whatever event you attend, be yourself. Building genuine relationships from connections made at a networking event involve honesty and trust. Don’t misrepresent yourself to feel or seem more important – and it’s easy to be pulled into that kind of conversation at the more salesy networking events. Do your best to fight off imposter syndrome and be fully present and authentically human.
Three – Focus on others
With every person you talk with at a networking event, focus on getting to know them. Be curious, ask questions and listen to what they’re saying. And try not to focus on just work. This can lead to those feelings of ‘ick’. Instead, ask questions to find out more about them as a person beyond their job or role.
When the time is right, be ready to share your own experiences, make suggestions or introduce someone as a referral. Do this in a way that can add value to someone you meet. And that will make you memorable to them once the event is over.
Networking events with purpose
I recently conducted a survey of the women present at my last Business with the Queen virtual networking event. 90% of attendees agreed that they benefitted more from networking opportunities that had a clear purpose.
As we learned above, your purpose can be many and varied. And not every industry event has a defined purpose – they can simply be a ‘meet and greet’. But seeing each event or group as an opportunity to connect with others will help you approach them in a fresh way.
Try a Go-Getter Day!
If you’d like to meet like-minded women, make authentic connections and network with purpose, come along to our Go-Getter Day. Here you can certainly experience the importance of networking with purpose, while you build your own supportive network.