I started the year vowing to make new personal connections, and told others to do the same. It’s now March and I am just getting my teeth stuck into the year. In January I sat on the starting blocks, February I got to my feet and now I’m ready to find my stride. But that’s not to say that my year to date has been uneventful, in gearing up to the path ahead, I have found the preparation almost as rewarding as the journey that awaits.
“Go out there and meet people!”
How often have we heard this? How often do we reach an obstacle and know that to overcome it, we need to connect with someone who we can share with, gain insight from and boost our confidence. Whenever I mention the merits of networking to clients, they’re never too shy to say they hate it. Strong word but yes, they ‘hate’ it. Networking strikes fears of judgement, lack of confidence, isolation, abandonment and self-worth. So let’s not pretend it’s not a big deal. This is exactly why sitting on the starting blocks is important.
Just because you’re not yet leaping into action doesn’t mean that you are being passive. When you’re gearing up to step outside your comfort zone, it helps to actively reflect on all you have learned and experienced to get you to this point. Using this time to reflect builds self-worth and confidence. Take time to think about the plethora of experiences you’ve had; big and small. What solutions have you played a part in? What skills do you bring to work? What communities have you seen? Places visited? What do you do, in a way that is unlike most others? What are your interests, priorities and goals? What gets you excited? All this is your social capital.
When you have realized what a rich, complex person you are, it’s easy to see all the many things that may help you connect with someone else. Like a song you haven’t heard for 15 years yet you know all the words to, much of the knowledge we hold lays dormant, hidden beneath the daily experiences and exchanges we have. Bringing it to the surface is the catalyst to get off the starting blocks and spring into action. For me, February was been spent researching different places I can go to connect with like minds. A Creative Happy Hour, Women’s networking group, a workshop on intersectionality, a running club and a Trapeze taster class (don’t ask!) are all on my hit list. And I feel energized. I know that within these groups I will be able to connect with confidence.
As the season turns and you find your stride this year, turn your knowledge into power by aligning your interests and motivations with those of others. When you attend a new group, start by asking questions and listening for points of connection. The more you engage with active listening and probing questions, the more easily you find these nuggets; points of commonality and experiences to build upon. Power comes alive when the dialogue is mutual and in flow. You start to work out what each person needs or is looking for and whether your connection with each other is worth real investment and follow-up.
Not every connection will land you a job, idea or client, but having made a positive connection will leave a lasting impression that may be relevant in the future. Your knowledge and experience hold power, but not if you don’t know how to unlock it. When you bond with people that understand how your joint social capital can be leveraged for mutual benefit, that’s when you know you’re off to the races.