Networking is a Dirty Word

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There I said it!

In a recent blog post (here) I shared some random thoughts about networking which is just a term that our society has adopted. None of us like the term and usually we immediately conjure up visions of walking into a crowded room filled with a bunch of men in suits all talking to one another like they are old chums.

Really what networking is is relationship building but in the business world, “relationship building” just isn’t an easy or smooth way to identify it. Here at Women Inspiring Women, we use the term “schmoozing” because that is way cooler and much more fun. We also want to convey that we are different. People refer to us as the largest women’s “networking group” in New Hampshire. That title makes us happy on the one hand but on the other hand really doesn’t capture the essence of who we are. Hopefully one day someone will create a new term that becomes mainstream and widely used because “networking” just isn’t cutting it! I know you know what I’m talking about, right sista?

What does all this have to do with you?  I know that many of you avoid “networking” at all costs because of the above scenario of men in suits, all talking to each other, and you left wondering what you could possibly have in common and how you will interject yourself into these conversations. You go to a networking event and are irritated because you carved out the time, paid the registration fee, gathered up your marketing materials, put on a kick ass outfit, quelled the nervous butterflies in your stomach and now you have major regret and want to turn on your heels and get the heck out of there.

I challenge you to look at it differently. First and foremost, look at it as an opportunity to be yourself and build relationships, to perhaps even hone your communication skills.  Don’t over-analyze it. Just remind yourself that you are there to work, be authentic and develop relationships as if you were at a party. Everyone else is there to do the same thing. They are there to meet you. So stop thinking of the dirty “networking” word and think of it as just an opportunity to meet other people who are dying to meet you!

And if you have changed your mindset and still not getting a good vibe from the places you usually network, then change locations. Maybe you are going to places where “your people” aren’t congregating. In the early days, we need to try out all different types of networking events. But eventually we can be strategic based on who our people are, what format works for us, the kind of atmosphere that resonates with us and the return on our investment. For example, I stay far away from stuffy events that are filled with men. I love men but in terms of business, they aren’t my people. My people are progressive, enthusiastic women who are committed to their personal and professional development. So I go to where they are. And I host events, such as Speed Schmoozing, that are filled with those types of women and completely different than traditional networking.

So let’s look past the dirty, nasty term “networking” and get out there and build those relationships with the right people in the right place. Please know that you will always have a home with Women Inspiring Women, too, as it is where the most awesome women go to meet one another! And we are the opposite of stuffy!

Leslie Sturgeon is the founder of Women Inspiring Women and a lifelong entrepreneur. She embraces her imperfections while learning about herself and others, supporting the fabulous women in the WIW community, journeying through life with optimism, and laughing so hard she snorts or pees (sometimes both simultaneously).

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