I’ve never been a fan of local networking. I’m an introvert. In fact, I’m probably one of the most introverted introverts you’ve ever met. I thoroughly enjoy my own company. I thrive when working on my own and it bewilders me when people say they get bored when they’re alone. You can see why networking might not come naturally to me.
In July 2018, I left my day job and start working in my career coaching practice full-time. I’d been side hustling for a few years prior and it got to a point where my work-life balance was non-existent, yet I was unable to grow my business any further without investing more time. I knew I had to take the leap and quit my day job. The idea of being “employee of the month” every month in my team of one sounded perfect, but I was scared I’d become a full-time hermit instead of just a full-time business-woman.
In order to combat this very real fear, I looked for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. I started attending local networking events – I did it with gritted teeth, all the while thinking “I hate networking; I hate networking”. But over time that hatred dissolved and I realised there were a lot of learnings in my networking journey. I also realised that local networking had made a significant positive impact on the growth of my business. Here’s what I learned:
1. Local networking isn’t just about finding leads
I used to network religiously when I began my career in agency recruitment. And it was all about finding new clients. If I didn’t generate any leads at an event, I considered it a dud.
Since going all-in with Pop Your Career and networking on my own terms, I’ve met some wonderful new clients. But networking and building genuine connections has also led to referrals, speaking opportunities, collaborations, a mentor and some stellar friends.
Sometimes we get caught up in measuring our success at networking events by how many leads we get, but I’ve found that this doesn’t even scratch the surface. There is so much more to gain through local networking than just sales opportunities.
2. Quality is far better than quantity
Another way that I find people measure their networking success is by the quantity of people they meet. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me, but that just doesn’t sound appealing. What I’ve learned is that it also isn’t necessary.
Spending your time at an event connecting with a handful of people is more likely to leave a lasting impression than if you’re racing around trying to fill your bag with business cards. I’ve also found that by gamifying networking in a tactful way, I am able to improve the quality of the connections I make. For example, it is now my goal at every event I attend, to meet one new person and to build a relationship with them. It’s a game for me to seek out the person I know I am destined to meet at each event!
3. Not all events are created equal
You might be thinking that it doesn’t matter which networking event you attend, as long as you’re putting yourself out there. Well, that’s not exactly true. Having attended a few events now, I know that there are definitely some that are more suited to me and my situation.
Personally, I look for events that encourage innovation, collaboration and truth. But you do you. Shop around and find a tribe where you can be yourself and meet people who have similar interests, goals and values.
I have found a couple of networking groups that I have committed to and have purchased memberships with. This isn’t essential, but it’s a great way to support the organisation and as a member you usually get discounted tickets.
4. Local networking is a great way to learn
Most of the local networking events I attend have speakers who share their insights on certain topics. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Through chatting with other like-minded individuals who you might not ordinarily meet, you can learn so much. Other attendees may talk about what’s worked and what’s not worked for them. I love listening to people talk about their areas of expertise, or sharing parts of their stories.
This type of learning has made a huge impact on my business. As I have become more of a regular at some events and other attendees have developed a stronger understanding of my brand and business, I’ve also been fortunate to receive specific, constructive feedback about how I can improve.
5. I’m not so bad at networking after all
Small-talk still makes me cringe, but I get pretty excited when talking about topics I’m interested in! The beauty of networking events is that they’re usually created around a specific theme or type of person, which means that the other people in attendance are like-minded and easy to gel with.
I have founded that networking is a little like exercising a muscle. My networking muscle is getting far stronger and healthier as I become more and more comfortable attending events and stepping into situations that may create some initial discomfort.
Overall, local networking has made a significant impact on my business. My confidence in my own relationship building abilities has improved, but so has the way I talk about Pop Your Career in a public setting. I am no longer shy or guarded about mentioning my business or promoting what it is that I do.
The opportunities that have come my way through local networking are also endless. I admit, I do attend quite a few events these days, but when people question the effort I put into my networking, I am always open and honest about what I have gained, and the doors that continue to open for me and my business.