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!