Networking, for many it’s a dirty word. It often brings up feelings of anxiety and thoughts of sleazy salespeople. I use to feel that way too. I didn’t want to introduce myself to strangers. I didn’t want to feel like I was trying to “get” something from them. I also didn’t feel I had anything to offer in return. Granted I formed these opinions when I was fresh out of college trying to get a job in publishing and I didn’t know anyone who knew anyone.
I now have a totally different take on the subject of networking and as you can probably guess, I kind of like it. It’s still extremely hard for me to introduce myself to strangers and I often still feel I don’t have anything to offer, but deep down I know the later isn’t true which makes the former a little easier. Sometimes.
What changed my mind? Having the coin flipped. I’m no longer that kid fresh out of college desperate for a job and a little lost. I now have quite a bit of knowledge to share and connections of my own. I have learned that generally people like to help if they can. I have also been approached by fresh-faced kids who didn’t know what to say or ask, but knew that I might be able to help them. And you know what, I wasn’t bothered by them, I didn’t look down on them, and I certainly wasn’t weighing how much they could help me with what I was willing to share. I just wanted to help, because I know how hard it can be. I have a feeling most of the people I was brave enough to talk to felt pretty much the same way and the ones I didn’t talk to would have.
I still cringe when I walk into an event and only know the person I came with. I still have to psych myself up to talk to those one or two people I want to make connections with. I still don’t know what to say most of the time. But it almost always turns out well, sometimes even better than well. I can also honestly say it’s never turned out bad.
I’m sharing all this because lately networking seems to be all I’m doing in building my business. At first I felt like it was taking away from what I really wanted to be doing, that it was distracting me from the tasks that “needed” to get done, and it also felt like nothing was happening. I was reaching out to people trying to get advice, make connections and tell them all about Lightbox SF. I had some great meetings, I had some so-so meetings and I had a lot of unanswered emails. Then suddenly people started to reach out to us, they wanted to know how we might collaborate, and they wanted to know more about what we were doing. They had heard about us and were curious. How cool is that?
The other thing about all my recent networking was that none of it really had much of an agenda. I just wanted to tell people what we were doing, partially for practice and partially so that they had heard of us. However, many of my meetings ended up with plans to collaborate on an event or an offer to introduce me to someone I really wanted to know.
So I want to reintroduce you to networking because it can:
- Spread the word about your business
- Introduce you to people to collaborate with
- Provide you with resources to help you grow
- Lead you to new opportunities and friends
Set small goals at first to get yourself more comfortable. Try something like attending one industry related event a week, or handing your card to 5 new people a week, or book one networking meeting a month. Tell people what you do as often as you can, get excited about it and they will too. And most importantly don’t expect anything from them except an ear to listen. Instead think of what you can offer, what your goal is and go with that. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Now for the self-promotional plug, Lightbox SF is hosting a Holiday Mixer. We want artists and those who work with artists to get out and socialize with each other. So we’re asking you all to join us at Heart Wine Bar, 1270 Valencia St. @ 24th on Wednesday, December 1st from 6-9pm for a glass of wine, a little nibble, and some old-fashioned networking.
I encourage comments directly to this post, but also feel free to email me directly with questions, reactions, struggles, etc. firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!