Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I've learned about networking

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.


Elli said...

What a great post! I have the same thoughts about "networking". I went to a conference for work recently and I have to admit I mostly felt out of place, but after reading this post I'm going to examine my experience a little differently. I'll take your info with me for future "networking" functions.
Thanks :)

Jenn said...

That is such a great post about meeting new people. Thank you for all the great advice. I'm definitely going to save this article for the next time I have a 'networking' event to go to.

Sacred Suzie said...

Very cool! It's so true too. You are your setting. I'm glad you can throw out the welcome mat and be OK with whatever happens Jamie. So many people are also shy and look forward to meeting someone who really sees them and puts them at ease in friendship. This is so inspiring!

I may be going to a pagan group this weekend if all goes well. I really need to meet my people and maybe there will be some of them there?

daisies said...

oh this is really helpful to me ... i can be incredibly shy and find it all so difficult in large groups but i love how you've outlined it here because i too notice that i am much better welcoming people and making them feel comfortable (like when i'm photographing someone) ... its a good way of looking at it ...

and i love the perspective that some people are your tribe and some are not and hey that is okay ... :)


Romana Mirza said...

Jamie, thank you for sharing your learnings and insights. I love the welcome mat! I'm starting to carry a lot of things around with me, and now I have another item to add to it! The other insight for me is to realize so strongly that the concept or format of the event was helpful but that really it's the person attending that really makes it work, or not. I do think that it helped that everyone in the room was separated by one or two degrees and that fact lent itself well to throwing out the welcome mat. I hope at future events we have the close connections and many more mats! You taught me the tribe thing a few months ago and I've been living the truth of that ever since!

Melba said...

Everything you have said in this post resonated with me;
especially that you love people, but are shy. Me too!

Jessie said...

i love your approach to networking, jamie. it is so much more authentic and because of this i do not doubt that your energy will reach so much further.

i, too, have been learning a lot about myself and what it means to network in a way that really works for me.

i loved reading this!

love you,

Crayons said...

This is such a rich insight. I, too, am an introverted extrovert. People come to me easily, but I get shy. I've always avoided networking events because they remind me of scarf sales in Filene's Basement (a Boston discount store). I don't want people to meet me and then discard me. I like your idea of putting out your welcome mat wherever you go.

mermaid musings said...

Wonderful post!
Hard for me to see you as a shy person. You seem so confident and ready to share your life and knowledge.
I thank you for sharing your truth and this post.
I ab-SOUL-tely believe in networking, oh yes!
I love two pictures, the one of you and your husband , you two look so young looking and of course the picture of you with your new boots dancing in the rain ;-)
Now you make wish to get my own pair of boots.
Again, Thank you!!!

nicole said...

Wise words... thank you! I am too shy so find networking events rather daunting. I'll look at them in a new light thanks to you. Blessings!

Loes said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jamie! The word 'networking' always had a negative sound for me, as I associated it with getting to know people for what they are instead of who they are. Your post gives me a whole new perspective: instead of networking I'll be making meeting inspiring people from now on!

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely great advice!
Thank you!