5 ways to network with soul, by Helen Perry @notaboutthekids

5 ways to network with soul

Sorry to bring up the networking word. Horrible isn’t it? It makes people screw up their face and physically try and put distance between them and it. Literally, run for the door. I’m a decent human. I don’t walk into a room with a plan to find and befriend the most strategically useful person there. Nor am I interested in leaving the comfort of home just to cynically boost my contacts book. Or in looking over a person’s shoulder to see if there is someone better to talk to, or have anyone look over mine. I don’t do networking.

So when I was invited onto the panel for a (they said, no-cringe) networking event by Mother’s Meeting my first thought was, I am definitely not qualified for this (the brilliant writer and speaking coach Viv Goskrop says that’s a very common female response to requests to speak in public, go read her book). But this is the kind of opportunity I hoped for when I started Not About The Kids. So I said yes. And being forced to think about how I connect with other people, professionally, made me realise that I can and do do it.

Eighteen months ago I had no professional network whatsoever. I had been at home with my kids for 7 years, and my old job and contacts were a tiny dot on the horizon. But through social media and at real-life events I have constructed the foundation of a new network of friends and collaborators. In the nicest way possible.

The brief for the panel at the Mother’s Meeting was to bring my 5 top tips for how to connect brilliantly. Here’s the advice I shared.

Networking can look however you want it to

Going back to the vomit-inducing cliched networking drinks events for a sec, do those things ever really work? I mean, the odds are not stacked in our favour. How often in life to you walk into a situation cold and meet someone that you have great chemistry with? Who happens to want exactly what we are selling (shudder) at that particular moment? Just, never. At least rarely.

So design your own kind of networking.

Build connections in a way that feels totally comfortable to you. Seek out people you admire on social media and connect with them there. As friends. And if you dread the thought of going to a crowded, busy event, suggest meeting for a coffee instead. Networking shouldn’t feel like speed dating.  

Think about creative ways to solidify relationships. Suggest working together on a project. Just asking for advice is enough to get a conversation going. Featuring people on my blog has worked for me. Everyone is flattered to be asked to share their expertise.

Or consider going to a course or workshop where there is a good chance you will meet like-minded people, but it is not the whole point. Pressure off.

Check your story

Before we go any further, what story are you telling yourself about this? My networking story (that it’s something I fundamentally can’t do) on closer examination turned out to be a load of rubbish. Have you decided you are no good at networking too? When did you decide that you suck at this? Maybe, it was in your early 20s when you were basically a kid and knew nothing about anything. Well, I’m 20 years older than that now and it’s time for a different take on things. New story; I can and will build a new network for this phase in life, made up of friends that I like and trust. 

Remember, building connections is not gross

Everyone in my new Not About The Kids network is someone I would gleefully have coffee or lunch (or wine) with, or have round to my house. Someone who is a mate. I’m not using them, and I don’t think that they are using me. It’s great to have people that you can chat to about work. When I started this social media journey, I didn’t know anyone who does what I do. I needed to go out and find them. It’s no fun being an island (unless you are a natural born islander). Connections enrich our lives and help us to achieve bigger things, together. 

Elevate is my proudest collaboration so far, read about our upcoming events here.

Network generously

Don’t make networking all about you. Throw compliments around like they are confetti. Tell people about all of the brilliant and talented friends and colleagues you have. Introduce them to one another if you think they will get along. Help other people build their networks. This is how it works, how it can be truly soulful and effective. If you make it about other people, the goodwill comes back around in spades (note, apply this theory to most of life).

It’s a long game

As with ALL OF THE THINGS, patience and consistency are what building a meaningful network will involve. Good relationships flourish over years. So if you meet someone that you like, that share your outlook and ethos and you think yeah, I could work with you then keep in touch. Good luck.

Tell me how you have built your network in the comments box, or if you’d rather

Click Mother’s Meeting for inspiring events. 

Or you could read a little more about me.

What's your View?

13 comments on “5 ways to network with soul

  1. Kate on

    Another brilliant post, thank you!
    I hated the idea of networking when I started out on my own little journey a few years ago. Being a bit of a natural wallflower I had to take several big breaths (and several attempts!) before I could walk into a room full of people I didn’t know.
    But the more I did it the more I realised there are a lot of very lovely people out there with similar interests and goals. There’s nothing like common ground to help forge new working relationships and even friendships.
    But the wallflower in me still loves being able sit by the fire in my PJs and network using social media too! 😊

    Reply
    • Helen on

      Thank you for reading Kate. I agree that social media is a great place for introverts to do their networking. It’s a clear bonus that you can do it in your pjs. In real life, it’s a joy to meet people who love the same things as we do. It means we don’t need to bore our friends with it all 😉 x

      Reply
  2. Ian on

    Love the picture of you and the other panel members. Kudos to anyone who can pic up a mic and deliver to an audience that includes free range toddlers. Tough audience!

    Reply
    • Helen on

      Haha, it was a flash bag to the days of never being able to sit still because of the adventures of a toddler! Thanks for reading Gup, I managed to resize that image in the end ;).

      Reply
  3. Melissa Jolly on

    Love this – the thought of the type of networking events where you sign up and all have to try and get each other work fills me with dread. And even when I go to an industry event I’m pretty hopeless at just going and chatting (unless I know them…then I can chat away quite happily)! But you are so right about seeking out like minded people and then amazingly it seems easy to get on with them and form meaningful relationships (both business and personal) – still something I need to work much harder at – apparently it’s a learn-able skill… here’s to learning!

    Reply
    • Helen on

      Hi Mel 👋 Toni and I see our events as sort of ‘soft networking’ where part of the benefit is to meet some life-minded people. What I’ve got out of meeting people in real life can be support, encouragement and ideas as much as anything else. It’s all learnable….well that’s the attitude I’m going to take until I discover something unlearnable 😆. Helen x

      Reply
    • Helen on

      No thank you for reading 😊! Building a support network is brilliant, I should have included that point in the post. That you’re as much finding cheerleaders and mentors when you make new connections…

      Reply
  4. Honor on

    I used to be a networking queen but since moving to France and changing my business I lost my confidence and also feel so old compared to everyone else. Also it’s difficult because I can’t get to RL events so (as you know) I am trying to bring them here. Just feeling a little worried that I left it too late… and if I’ll ever get to tipping point

    Reply
    • Helen on

      Your situation is pretty unique Honor! I’m trying to think of it creatively…social media is the obvious thing that is open to you and it is where you are reaching out to make new connections. The struggle when you are remote is to make those connections a bit more real. Nothing is easy is it? You must not think you are too old though…that’s the dreaded inner critic!!!!!!

      Reply
  5. Mostlyfoodandtravel on

    Great information here Helen- one of the main reasons I started blogging was to meet more people. I find it hard to network but keep reaching out to others and yes I try and find out more about then and talk less about me. I think attending socials and setting up my own social events in Leicester is helping build that confidence

    Reply
    • Helen on

      There are so many of us blogging, and food blogging is a lovely, specific niche. Do you have a gang of you locally? Well done for organising get togethers, I keep meaning I do that where I live!

      Reply

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