Best Way to Build a Network
Maria knew she needed to do more networking but there were so many reasons she didn’t.
Some of the reasons included that it was not culturally appropriate for her to ask the influential male business leader she wanted to get to know to meet with her; she couldn’t socialize with male industry peers outside of work; she didn’t have a lot of time to go to networking events after work and lastly, she didn’t enjoy approaching people at large group events.
Can you relate?
Women and men all over the world, in both advanced and developing countries, share Maria’s feelings. But many women working in emerging economies identify with Maria’s predicament because they face the additional and often insurmountable challenge of cultural disapproval when it comes to meetings between men and women outside of work.
So, Maria found an alternative. Among Maria’s interests are art and entrepreneurship. First, Maria reached out to a museum in her community and volunteered to work on a large event the museum was planning. Then, Maria identified a couple of organizations that work to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in her city and offered her time and expertise. She made time to volunteer by identifying and eliminating things that she had been spending time on or attending that was less meaningful and less productive – yes, even “networking events.”
SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE
When you shift your perspective from networking to building a network, and from networking events to engaging in activities of mutual interest, you’ll open up opportunities to connect with people in new and more meaningful ways. Plus, you’ll enjoy yourself and feel more fulfilled by the experience.
Maria’s volunteer experiences allowed her to interact with people who share similar interests but who don’t work at her company. Because she volunteered over a period of time and worked alongside the people she met, they got to know her, her skill sets and how she worked. She also had the opportunity to get to know them. Because she engaged with her new broader network around their mutual volunteer efforts in mixed gender group settings, she minimized societal disapproval.
The best network is one comprised of deep connections with people who have both similar and different ideas, interests, experiences and influence as you do. And the best way to build a network is to engage with people in meaningful ways where you can get to know each other.
Next steps for you:
- What organizations, causes or events are of interest to you?
- Of those areas of interest, which would offer you the best opportunities to expand your network.
- What expertise and how much time are you willing to share?
- How can you start getting involved?
When you engage by giving of yourself, expecting only to help a cause or organization, both your community and you will be enriched!