By J. Kelly Hoey
I’ll admit it. I am a reluctant networker. Reluctant in the sense that I cringe at the thought of exchanging business cards and handshakes with someone while simultaneously trying to balance a cocktail. We are repulsed by the traditional smarmy networking scene and the idea that we need something from someone higher up. That, to me, is not networking.
Networking is every single human interaction. Whether it be an email signature line, a headshot on social media, or a business card. Every time we interact with someone else, that is networking. The real question is, how can you do it better?
In 2002, when I looked to make a career change, I realized I did not have a network in place. I was looking for an opportunity that was only going to be discovered by word-of-mouth and strong personal relationships. I knew I could never put myself in that position again. You don’t know where your next opportunity is going to come from.
Building strong relationships is what changes your trajectory. Regardless of social media and technology, we are all human beings. You cannot hack relationships.
I will share some of my thoughts on networking and how women can be better at it during SCORE Bucks County’s second annual Women Building Businesses event on June 20. For starters, women should not be afraid to say no. How we decline says as much about us as how we show up. A lot of times women feel like they have to say yes to everything. If it’s not going to help you or further your business, say no. Don’t give a half-hearted yes.
If you’re looking for a place to start building your network, look to your right and left. The other women in that room may be your best network. People oftentimes overlook the importance of peer networks. Referring work to and sharing advice with peers is a powerful component of network-building. Help and support each other. I’ve seen too many women pay lip service to supporting other women.
Network building is really about community development and relationship building. How do you get things done? You get them done with the help of other people. If you can’t call on a network, you probably have a low return on generosity. Are you considerate of someone else’s time when you ask for advice? Instead of asking your entire network for help finding a job, for example, do the research and find a small group of people within your network. Don’t make your network do the work for you. Be specific about the goal you have in mind.
In short, networking is how you choose to interact with people every day. Take the time to be more deliberate, considerate and focused.
Register for SCORE’s Women Building Businesses event by June 1 and save $10! The event will be held at Parx Casino East, 2999 Street Road in Bensalem, on June 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register here: https://form.jotform.com/81203601211941. To learn more about SCORE Bucks County visit: https://buckscounty.score.org/.
Kelly Hoey is an acclaimed business columnist, networking expert and author of “Build Your Dream Network.”