A couple of months back I was asked to be a guest on the Dare 2 Care Podcast with Susan Judd. Susan is hosting a series with Women in Leadership aimed at speaking to young women entering the workforce. At the end of the interview, Susan asked me about the best advice I could give to young women and one of my three pieces of advice was to build a strong network.
As recently as eight years ago, I failed to appreciate the value of a strong professional network outside of my friends and the people I worked directly with. If someone extended an invitation to a networking event, I went out of my way to actively avoid it at all costs. “I dont’t need to schmooze with strangers and engage in small talk” I told myself “I have great friends and fabulous work connections; I’m connected to everyone I need to be connected to.” Basically, when it came to networking, I was the equivalent to Ebenezer Scrooge at Christmas.
I look back now and wonder how many fabulous opportunities I missed with that mindset. I can’t even tell you why I took that view, I mean on Gallup Strengths Finder, after my #7 strength of “Relator” my #8 strength is “WOO” which stands for “Winning Others Over” so I should love connecting with people and slowly working my way around a room.
In 2013, I opened my consulting business and I purchased a license with HR Coach to help launch my business. That’s where I met Peter McCleary. Peter is a savvy and successful business owner who ran his own consulting business in addition to running HR Coach. During the accreditation process he said to me “Nicole, you need to network. Start out simple – choose one network and do that one well. And if I was you, I would join a women’s network, the good all-female networks are as strong as hell.”
As much as I hated to admit it at the time, I knew Peter was right, so I did some research, asked around and a couple of weeks later I was a Business Chicks premium member.
Now, Business Chicks are well known for their incredible events with phenomenal guest speakers but the first available event in Sydney after I had joined was a networking night. Arrrghhh my inner networking Scrooge was not happy at all!
By the time the date rolled around, I think I had been in business all of 6-weeks. Just before I walked into the building, I took a call from a prospective client who told me my proposal had been approved. This was my second ever client and I literally danced on the footpath when he told me.
I walked out of that elevator and into my first ever networking event with a spring in my step, I probably had a smile on my face from ear to ear after taking that call. I collected my name tag and I had only taken a few steps when I met my first person. “Hi Nic (she read my name tag) I’m Emma, how’s your day been?” I thought I recognised her but before I could process that fact I blurted out “My day has been awesome. I just took a phone call before working in here and I officially have my second ever client! So yeah, it’s been a great day. How about you?”
I think I clicked that I was speaking with Emma Isaacs (the founder and Global CEO of Business Chicks) about 5 seconds later. I remember she spoke to me like I was the only person in the room and had one of the broadest smiles I had ever seen – I felt a genuine connection to her. We chatted for a few minutes before she introduced me to someone else in her team and the night went on from there.
Listening to Peter McCleary. Joining Business Chicks. That networking event. Meeting Emma Isaacs. This chain of events changed my life.
I’ve signed on countless clients that can all be traced back to being part of the Business Chicks network, including Facebook, VISA and even Business Chicks themselves have been a client for over 5 years.
I’ve been on incredible adventures, from the Leadership Gathering on Necker Island, a Leadership Immersion program with the Hunger Project to Malawi and a Knowledge and Study Tour in Los Angles.
I’ve met and hung out with people like Brené Brown, Richard Branson, Marianne Williamson and Jane Wurwond.
I’ve built a killer network of female business owners – seriously my little black book (aka my contacts in my iPhone) is one kick arse list. Every single one of these women are guns at what they do and will do anything to support each other in business and in life.
I’ve learnt countless business and life lessons from speakers, mentors and peers that I’ve been able to apply to all aspects of my life and pass on to my kids – concepts, tools and advice I never would have had access to otherwise.
And I’ve made lifelong friends. Yep. thanks to networking, I’ve got some of the most beautiful, incredible humans in my life who I now simply could not imagine my world without. And through one of these friends, I even happened to meet my now wife.
When I look back at my negative attitude towards networking, I realise what I was actually undervaluing was human connection. Having a strong network and nurturing that network is about connecting with like-hearted human beings. I love supporting the people in my network in any way I that I can and a bi product of that is that is that I literally have hundreds of people in my corner supporting me too.
So suffice to say there’s definitely no more bah humbugs from me when it comes to networking. Just gratitude for the fact that I finally caught on to how important it is to connect and broaden my connections any chance I get.