I remember when I used to hear the word “networking” as a young professional. I pictured finger-food, loud events with powerful people. . . not me.
I was perfectly happy to keep my head down, designing, writing and cranking out strategic, quality work, and know that when I worked hard enough … people would notice. I always valued deep relationships, but my professional relationship building energy was typically focused on my internal team. Little did I know how important “networking” would turn out to be in my career …
So this post is for all the creatives, natural introverts, or people who believe they truly don’t enjoy networking. Maybe a bit of my story will help you reconsider!
1. Remember, networking is just relationship building
This mindset shift is key. Relationships, relational communication, and uncovering people’s stories are all core values of mine. I care and am curious.
When I shifted my focus to relationship building, I had less anxiety. I tend to ask authentic questions and try to get beyond “surface level” as soon as possible. (Surface level is not my comfort zone!) The other day, a leader who I really admire mentioned that she sees me as a “relational communicator” rather than a “transactional communicator.” I nearly teared up.
You can’t go wrong with showing up as your authentic self in every space you enter. Be confident in you. Be kind. People will notice.
2. Network outside of your organization.
I had the honor of serving as the Marketing Director for Central Exchange, a women’s leadership organization, before transitioning to Flourish full time. At CX, I learned the power of moving beyond your own team and industry.
I cannot believe that I really didn’t do much intentional networking in my earlier years of my career. In college, I was involved in several (probably too many!) teams, groups, orgs, etc. But when I started my career, it kind of came to a halt. I certainly didn’t have a strategy.
Since then, I’ve witnessed and experienced the power of networking externally. I’ve met interesting, passionate people. And now, I get to partner with them. I encourage you to get involved. Which brings me to my next point. . .
3. Network where you’re involved.
If you volunteer, attend a community group or church, or even are a part of a membership organization through your company — connect with people there. Take the chance to reach out following a meeting or event. You already have a point of connection, and it deepens your relationship further. For example, I do my best to try to get one-on-one time outside of meetings with fellow board members on the boards I serve. This usually takes a while to do, and it can be a struggle to coordinate, but it is so worth it in the end.
4. And finally — network beyond your role and/or generation.
I get it — it’s typically more comfortable to build relationships with people like you. Your involvement may even center around your specific role (marketers!) or generation (young professionals!) or any other number of identity markers.
Be intentional about expanding beyond your comfort zone. If you know of a leader you admire, reach out and ask to meet them for 30 minutes. It might seem intimidating to speak with CEOs, VPs, etc., but I have almost always found them more than willing to share their time. Most (good) leaders value sharing their wisdom, experiences, and lessons learned with others.
And if you happen to be a more “senior” / executive leader reading this — reach out to the young people who inspire you! You have just as much to learn from young professionals as they do from you, I promise. 🖤
For all you creatives, nonprofit communicators & purpose-driven brand builders — I promise you, networking is worth the work. Thriving, flourishing brands are built by humans connecting with humans. Your brand and craft can only grow by expanding your network.
And side note: For the event creators and network builders, consider how your groups can be inclusive of those different from your group. Little things like nametags, conversation starters, etc. go a long way.
What is your networking story? I’d love to hear it below. 👇
And speaking of networking, let’s chat. Here’s my calendar >>