Networking used to scare me to death. I hated networking in my traditional job. I always felt dumb introducing myself to someone who clearly only wanted my client list or to sleep with my boss (another post altogether!). I wasn’t sure what to say or how until I finally wrote my spiel out one night:
“Hello, my name is Sandra Beck and I am Executive Director of Crap-Co that sells Crap, buys Crap, and distributes Crap. We are based in Crap-ville and here’s the cell phone number of my boss – she’s as easy as she looks.” (Please note that all references to Crap-Co and Crap-Co bosses are purely for entertainment purposes and no one at Crap-Co needs to feel the finger pointed!)
Needless to say, I wasn’t very good at networking. When I left Crap-Co to start my business from home, everyone laughed at me, like somehow the hermit executive of Crap-ville could somehow be successful. I knew I had to network to build my own business, but I wasn’t sure how.
I went to Dictionary.com and I looked up networking: "A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. Working mothers in the community use networking to help themselves manage successfully."
First of all, I thought it was cool that they referenced working mothers as a group, but then I realized that it is a supportive system – something that is already in place – so where do you begin? How do you break into a network or start one where one doesn't already exist to serve your needs. I thought a lot about this and came up with my Seven Savvy Strategies for Networking Moms.
#1. Embrace the goofiness
Everyone feels dumb at the beginning. I think back to my mom and what she taught me in Kindergarten. Just stick your hand out, say “Hi, I’m San – do you want to go on the swings with me?” That still holds true today. Just say hello. The good thing it’s much harder to laugh at you and roll their eyes on the internet.
#2. Ask a lot of questions
Begin with easy ones: what do you do, where do you live, how many kids do you have, can I see your bank statement? You don’t want to sound like a stalker, but people do like to talk about themselves and it relieves you of having to come up with something witty to say.
#3. Be an expert
One of the things I found that I struggled with the most was being an expert. Who, me? I’d look around and point at the next person as the expert. We are all experts in something. Talk about something you know quite a bit about. I was just in a group the other day that was talking about bathing suits (hating them that is) and one gal came forward about great places to find suits for busty mommies. Being a B myself, I was stumped, but the expert was so helpful that I immediately liked her and sharing. So whatever your expertise – boobs, babies, or boys – let it shine!
#4. Share the wealth
If you know someone in the group is an expert, direct people to her and praise her. I am ready to recommend Ally and her busty bathing suit savvy to others. It is nice to say nice truths about people – it makes you look good, feel good, and is helpful.
#5. Give it away for free
Nope, not that... your expertise. Offer to write articles on what you know. And get your stuff posted on other blogs, around the web, in different groups. Plaster the world with your thoughts, ideas, and strategies. And, if someone asks, "What makes you the expert on busy bathing suits?" you can point to the article on Work It, Mom and say “There, that does!” See! I am famous!
#6. Relax and have some fun
Don’t worry about what everyone thinks about your post or article. My first one was “Gee I hope they like it.” My next ones were filled with hope and all that goes with public service. Recently I am like “Read it or die, I really don’t care” but, I secretly do.
#7. Network with the intent to help
I really do want to help moms build better businesses. Even though my mug is on all these postings and I love people to read my blogs. People know when you are just promoting yourself because your sister was the pretty one!