It may sound odd coming from someone who loves people, but I am rather shy. Networking just throws me for a loop. That's why it's a surprise to share with you that one of the highlights of last week was attending Romana Mirza and Studio Pinpoint's networking party to celebrate the accomplishments of women. Romana's unique approach made this a welcoming and friendly event.
I had a wonderful time and realized that over the past year, I have actually come up with an approach to networking that feels joyful and authentic to me. If you want to expand your circle, try these out.
1. Don't network. Meet interesting, wonderful people (or whatever adjectives you prefer)
About a year ago I decided that I simply wasn't going to network but that I wanted to meet interesting, wonderful people. If I came across someone online, in a class (anywhere really) and they seemed interesting to me, I'd reach out and send them an email or invite them for coffee. That decision has changed my life. I have met so many beautiful, good, fabulous people that I adore, people that have expanded my life and my heart in so many ways.
2. Some people are your tribe. Others are not. And that's perfectly okay.
At the party, I immediately hit it off with some people. We talked easily. We were sincerely curious about each other. Awesome. And then sometimes I'd meet someone and rather quickly we'd both notice, "Oh, we're not each other's people." In fact, I met one group of women that looked at me rather like I was an alien, none of us quite knowing what to say next. And guess what? It was absolutely fine. For the first time in my life I didn't hold a judgment about myself or about them. I didn't rethink what I was wearing or replay in my mind what I had said. I didn't think, "Snobs!" about them. I just noticed, "Wow, we don't relate to each other. Fascinating!" and moved on. How liberating!
3. I bring my welcome mat wherever I go.
This last revelation came to me just as I was arriving at the party. One of the things I notice about my shyness is that it mostly disappears when I am welcoming someone into my space. If it's my Nia class or my house or my project, I confidently invite people in. When I'm entering someone else's space, I'm far more tentative.
And then it hit me. Every time I encounter someone I have an opportunity to set a boundary or to put out the welcome mat. It doesn't matter where I actually am; I am always carrying around my own space. And so at the party if I made eye contact or saw someone looking a bit tentative, I reached out my hand, shared a big smile and simply said, "Hi, I'm Jamie" (subtext, "You're welcome here).
Who are you going to welcome into your life?
Hon. Elinor Caplan, Romana Mirza and Me.
It was fun to share with the esteemed Elinor Caplan that years ago, while she was campaigning, she shook my hand at a bus stop.