3 Real Life Networking Lessons To Always Remember
I actually wrote this entire blog post a week ago, then deleted the whole thing. I realized I didn’t want to give you a step-by-step “how to network” post because I’m no expert and honestly that’s way too boring. Rather, I want to give you three honest, real life accounts of what’s worked very well for me so far when it comes to expanding my professional and personal circle. Because I strive to provide my clients and Art of the Journey women with experiences that are unique, I work hard to establish connections with businesses/people/places around DC that are just as excited to help my vision come to life as I am. I also work for new clients, of course. My favorite part is that throughout this process, I often make incredible new friendships that blossom naturally! My hope is that you can take away new ideas, confidence, and resources of how to invest one of the most important things in life - relationships.
Disclaimer: To build meaningful connections with people, your intentions must be true. No one likes a social climber, nor wants to feel like one. Do not try to get in touch with someone just because they have a huge Instagram following or because you’re looking for a transactional handout of some sort. My rule of thumb is connect with people who genuinely inspire you - whether that be because you’re deeply interested in their work, you’re motivated by their message/journey, or you have a gut feeling y’all would be besties. This was my method for reaching out to and securing AOTJ Summer Soiree special guests. Thus story number one!
Three out of the five special guests were completely “cold” outreach, but it felt anything but. Instagram has been the most powerful networking tool for me thus far. Thanks to Instagram, I had followed Nicole Ellis, Vina Sananikone, and Liz Calka for some time and was completely inspired by each of their online auras (this is a thing, I swear!). They seemed authentic, funny, and I knew people would love a chance to learn from them. When I sent my emails, I was open and honest - letting them know I followed them in IG, loved what they were about, and what I had in mind. Still grateful they all said yes. The take away: Instagram is a valid networking tool. Use it and be proud!
My second networking story is one of the most transformative in my business journey so far. Early summer of 2017, I got an email from Elise Gallagher of the awesome Ringlet Studio inviting me to her client’s book launch. I was not sure who the client was, but I did some research and figured I had nothing to lose. After all, it was on the rooftop of the Apollo! Damnit, I love a rooftop. The launch was for MagWorld written by Emilia Ferrara, who also happened to become the fearless Editor-in-Chief of Capitally Magazine. The event was beautiful, Emilia was incredibly inspiring, and I went home thinking, “Wow, that was pretty cool. Glad I went.”
After a few months of friendly Instagram interactions, I decided to ask Emilia to coffee. I had no intentions, just wanted to learn more about her. Our introductory La Colombe date went from 0 to 100 real quick. Within 45 minutes, I was in the Capitally office discussing the life-changing contract that would allow me to take the plunge into full-time business ownership. The take away: say yes to invitations and don't hesitate to ask people to coffee. You never know what can come out of it.
Last but certainly not least, I want to share the networking story that led me to sign my biggest contract to date. A few days after I left my full-time job at GWU, I got an email from a former colleague. This wasn’t a colleague I had kitchen small-talk with or even saw on a weekly basis. This was a colleague who worked in another office and, I assume, just had a positive impression of me from the occasional interactions we had. The gist of the email was, “Congratulations…. I have a lead for a project…. Are you interested?” I followed up immediately. I didn’t hear back for about two weeks, so I sent another email. Turns out my first email got lost in his spam inbox. Long story short, I’m now in the midst of working on an international higher-ed university conference! The take away: send follow-up emails if something seems like it's taking too long and always be professional and kind. You never know who is taking notice.
I know this was a longer post, but I hope it’s been interesting, helpful, and inspires you to be mindful in your networking. At the end of the day, have fun with it and dig into your confidence! People are wonderful and would love to meet other wonderful people like yourself. Let me know below what networking tricks have worked for you or what you’d like to improve upon.
(Last tip: Listen to Season 2 of the Community Made podcast. Prepare to be amazed and learn about building relationships like you never knew was possible. You’re welcome. Thank you Jesse (co-founder of the delicious Swizzler food trucks… how I met him is a story for another day!) for putting me onto this powerful networking secret weapon.)