My new year’s resolution was to network. A psychic told me that’s what I needed to do, and I’m not one to ignore the advice of psychics! I actually love networking, which I understand sets me apart from most people. I love arriving to an event full of strangers and leaving with a contact or two (or more!) I love hearing about other people’s interests and jobs, and I don’t mind talking about myself (hence this column.)
The challenge? I’m a stay-at-home-ish mom of two young boys, I work part time, and I’m actively training in a Thai Kickboxing school 3 nights a week. My crazy schedule doesn’t exactly allow for going out to networking events. Luckily there are online options that are flexible enough for busy people like me
Lioness hosts an eight week Mastermind group for a mere $99. I first learned about Mastermind groups when I read a Napoleon Hill book, back in 2004. My boyfriend (now husband) lent it to me, and since then we’ve lost it. It was a collection of his books in one huge tome, and I took copious notes and outlines, and of course I’ve lost those too. The information, thankfully, is not lost from my mind despite copious amounts of whiskey.
Mastermind groups meet regularly to talk about their personal business goals. The members help one another to achieve their goals, talk about their challenges, or tip each other off with connections. That doesn’t mean that the members will go into business together, though some might. In Mastermind groups, each member learns something from one another’s struggles. The goal is for the members to support one another in achieving their goals, no matter where they are in their career. While it’s not technically networking, it is a great way to build relationships with like minded entrepreneurs.
Hearing about that program, I decided to do some of my own Masterminding. I looked at my schedule, or rather, I stared at it in dull fascination. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have time, because we make time for the things we really want. I didn’t want to have to meet a whole new set of people before I started living my dreams. I didn’t want to have to walk into a room full of strangers and make them like me.
What I wanted, was for the people who already like me, to want to do business with me. I thought about what I might offer people. I’m good with social media. I write. I organize. How could I mastermind with people about this stuff? I didn’t write anything down, but I simply thought of the people I see at each place. Who are the people in my life that I respect and would like to work with? I imagined us all at a networking event. What groups would I want to introduce? Who are the people that I would be dying to talk to?
With my perspective properly shifted, when I saw those people in real life I channeled my inner Napoleon Hill and made an effort to take time and talk. When I saw someone in the hallway, instead of just passing pleasantries and moving along, I made it a point to stop and chat for a moment.
Through active listening, I learned about the challenges that my peers were facing. That was all. I simply took a moment out of my day to take an interest in what someone was doing and I found myself wanting to help. I thought about the ways I would help if I could, so that I would have something to offer that person at our next encounter.
When I was at my part time secretarial gig, I made it a point to stop and chat with the building owner. At first we just exchanged pleasantries, but by our third chat, he was just asking me for my opinion on how to attract more millennials to his health food store. It just so happens that I had an opinion, and one worth sharing! We set up a formal meeting to talk about it.
At my Muay Thai class I discovered that the teacher wanted to host a Martial Arts expo. He’s one man in a one man crew, and he’s trying to run a small business while working on this! I volunteered to help, and now I’m one of the lead planners. Now I get to run off to meetings, like I’ve always dreamed!
While I was working the In Real Life angle, I decided to try the same technique in the digital world. It was my birthday and you know what that means, 15 minutes of Facebook fame. I typically try to Like everyone’s birthday post, but this year instead I took the time to write down a quick thoughtful thank you to each person.
It took about an hour, but it was absolutely worth it because I reconnected with some people who I had been drifting away from. One of those revitalized relationships resulted in being offered a spot in a short story collection of Wizard of Oz spin-offs.
Networking doesn’t have to be something you do with a small, select, group of people at a specified event. In fact, I’ve never got a gig from a networking-specific-event. The people that I’ve worked with are people that I’ve met at playgroups, through friendly hallway chit chats, and mostly by simple stupid luck.
The most important lesson that I learned wasn’t about the value of Masterminding. Seriously. The most important lesson I learned was to be my self! Because the whole mastermind thing doesn’t actually work if you are being the least bit fake. At. All.
It’s during these chance meetings that being my complete and authentic self is my biggest asset. When I’m being honest about what I have to offer and what I need in exchange, people feel comfortable being honest with me about their needs and offers. And the next thing you know, we’re doing business!
If you can’t join a Mastermind group (which you really should try to do), then try applying the Mastermind technique in your everyday life.
- Cultivate relationships through active listening and genuine compassion.
- Reach out and talk to people, online and In Real Life.
- Offer to help (but only if you really want to and are able to.)
Photo courtesy of WOCinTech Chat [FLICKR]