The benefits of networking for women in business
I’m part of a seriously badass women’s only network which has (and I don’t want to be too dramatic here) totally changed my life over the last six months.
The type of networking I’m talking about is not to be confused with selling. I spent years in the corporate world where I was obligated to attend various stuffy networking events, and God how I hated them! I’d show up in my suit and heels and go through the rigmarole of trying to find my name badge on the welcome table, as nine times out of ten my name would be spelled incorrectly (you wouldn’t think it would be that hard, printing name tags, but clearly it is).
Yes, there’s been many an event where the sticker on my left boob has in fact read FRANK, instead of Fran, and each time I was more than a bit tempted to grab a marker pen and draw a big black tash above my top lip and deepen my voice just for a laugh, but the type of people at these events often took themselves way too seriously, and were more than a bit prim.
They wholly, unequivocally, got right on my tits - the people, and the events themselves. I found the whole charade excruciating (forcing a smile and making small talk with jumped up sales guys who enjoyed the sound of their own voices way too much) and ultimately pointless - these events never proved beneficial for me, or the company I worked for. It was just a room full of wankers blowing smoke up each others arses. Needless to say I ditched ‘networking’ completely when I ventured out on my own in business.
It was just a room full of wankers blowing smoke up each others arses.
So imagine how excited I was, all these years later, to discover a totally different kind of networking! A network that’s collaborative, fun and friendly, inclusive, supportive, genuine, and effective! No suits needed, no name labels positioned as such that you've got a constant flow of people staring at your tit at each introduction, and no standing around in heels making polite conversation with other women who are just as bored as you - a network of altruistic women with similar interests and similar goals. Jackpot.
I’ve worked for myself since 2008 running IT recruitment businesses, until recently when I took a leap of faith, left that world behind me and started the blog - BossingIt! For the last 8 years I’ve juggled raising a family (3 young boys) and building my businesses. I’ve experienced the highs and lows of working for myself, the twists and turns, the joys and the heartaches, the big wins and the crushing losses. I’ve loved it, hated it, loved it again... and as I’ve worked primarily from home throughout this time, I’ve felt an array of emotions - freedom followed by isolation, confidence followed by anxiety, elation, fear, pride, imposter syndrome... All I can say is I wish I’d found my tribe years ago.
So whether you work for yourself already or if you’re thinking of taking the leap and starting out on your own, read on to uncover the benefits of networking, and finding your tribe
Like minded people. Meeting people who are on the same path as you - the believers, the go-getters, the dreamers, the champions, the ones who dared to break away from the comfortable 9-5 to create the life they truly want to live. There's nothing better or more interesting than hobnobbing with people who dare to grab life by the goolies!
A different perspective. Mingling with a gang of motivated and ambitious women enables you to generate fresh ideas amongst yourselves and bounce off each other. Think of the shared knowledge you can benefit from - many of them will have been there and done that, and can give you some great pointers (factors for success) as well as advising you on how to avoid the pitfalls.
Inspiration, Motivation, Confidence, Self belief, Support. It can be tough starting out on your own, and when the initial adrenaline and excitement wears off it can be even tougher to keep going, throughout the hard times as well as the everyday minutiae of running a biz. It can also feel pretty lonely if your immediate friends and family are not overly supportive or don’t fully understand what you’re doing or what it’s like. Being part of a tribe of positive, motivated, inspirational women who are routing for you, and who will spur you on and lift you up when you need it, is invaluable. When your tribe’s got your back - you’re ready to take on anything!
Elevate your profile and build your status. Allow yourself to be seen and heard - you need to be visible and amplified in such a competitive market! Word of mouth is undoubtedly still one of the best forms of advertising, and being part of a collective means you’ve got dozens (if not hundreds) of people shouting out about you, recommending you, sharing your social media posts etc… Priceless!
Create new business opportunities. Through meeting new people and making new connections, you’re opening up doors to so many new possibilities - think referrals, collaborations, joint ventures, partnerships. Introductions to other people via these contacts and invitations to additional events, can lead you down avenues you may never have considered, or provide you with opportunities and options you’d otherwise never have had.
Advice. The depth of knowledge in the right network can be whopping. You're running your own business so you clearly have superhero strengths in certain areas, but you could be falling short in other areas i.e. accounting/finance, legal/legislation matters, marketing, social media management. You can’t possibly know everything. Imagine being able to tap into the knowledge of a vast resource pool, and getting an answer to every question? Amazing! Access to this info is not only available at the monthly meet-ups (or however frequent the get-togethers), as part of a successful networking group you are likely to be part of a private / closed group on social media channels where you can ask a quick question and receive an instant answer from an industry expert! Woop!
Personal growth and boosting self esteem. Meeting new people in new places and introducing yourself and your business can be more daunting than it seems. Opening up and discussing your business, your strengths, your weaknesses, your ambitions and your fears, can be challenging but also cathartic, and as it forces you to be brutally honest about things it can ultimately lead to enormous personal growth. The knowledge you can glean from your network can be infinite - I can honestly say I’ve learned more in the last 6 months from my network than I’ve learned during the last 10 years in business (and from a 4 year business degree). It’s surprising how, when working on your own / from home, you can so quickly fall out of of the loop when it comes to market trends, current industry legislation or social media concepts.
Make friends. Yes you’ve probably got loads of pals already, but when you’re meeting people regularly and bonding over shared dreams or comparing difficulties, it’s a given that natural friendships will form. When starting out on your own (or no matter how long you’ve been running your own business), it’s not uncommon to feel like your regular friends and family don’t get you, or don’t truly understand what you do or why you’re doing it (or maybe they’re just completely over you talking about your new venture / empire). So it’s great to be around people who really get where you’re coming from and who will more than happily talk shop. On another note, if you work from home it’s not unusual (are you singing Tom Jones?) to miss the banter and rapport you used to enjoy with your old workmates.
Satisfaction of helping others. There’s no better feeling than helping other people - for no other reason than you genuinely want to help, and you enjoy the feeling it brings. Remember however that networking is a constant (there’s little point in short, sporadic bursts), and you should genuinely want to put in as much as you take out. What goes around comes around!
Building a business can be tough, and of course you CAN build your business alone, but it will be a whole lot harder, a whole lot lonelier, and a lot less fun!
If you want to check out the Network I joined, visit www.girltribegang.co.uk
Much love, Fran xxx
Are you part of a network? What are the main benefits for you? Maybe you've been put off by the archaic, old school style of networking? I'd love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!
ABOUT BOSSING IT!
BossingIt! aims to empower and inspire women to be strong and independent, and to illustrate that life is there for the taking and that YOU are in control of it. I want to encourage you to realise your potential, so you can grab life by the balls and carve out the life you wholeheartedly want to live, so you can feel joy and gratitude each and every day, and ultimately be the very best version of yourself. I want to share the belief that if you’re not 100% happy with any aspect of your life, be it work, relationships, parenting, health & fitness, or life in general, it’s never too late to change things or even start anew completely. Every day is a new opportunity to start over, to be who you want to be, and YOU get to write and rewrite your story!