One of the core activities as a job seeker, entre/solopreneur, and business owner is getting in touch with other people. Networking makes you noticeable and is an interesting avenue for exchanging ideas, new opportunities, getting support, building valuable relations, and creating growth. I felt lost and uncomfortable at the beginning of my career when going to business-related network meetings, but over time I really learned how to enjoy those gatherings and see the value of networking with like-minded people. You need to learn more about yourself first, what you need, and expect, and which networks suit your style and character best.
In the last couple of years, especially when moving places across borders, women’s networking groups have brought me so much value in terms of connecting with interesting people, sharing knowledge, and new workload. Some might find it discussable why women-only networking groups exist, at least in the light of diversity and inclusion, but the thing is that women-only networking groups don’t exist to be exclusive:
They strive for inclusivity by offering women safe spaces to develop skills, strengthen their voices, and access opportunities — making a more balanced society a reality.
A safe place to connect with like-minded people
As a member of these women-only networks, you can openly discuss work-life balance, a subject that worries many women. And figuring out how to be a good spouse or partner, mother, caretaker, and professional. Women are under a lot of pressure from society to “do it all” and live up to the norms set by social media. Here you can be open and be yourself in these networking groups.
Women like yourself embrace chances to reject the standards and stereotypes that have kept you behind. It is not only crucial but also necessary, to have secure, encouraging spaces where you can reflect on your experiences and make goals for the future.
It is not about excluding men; rather, it is about finding a community of peers who share the same or comparable experiences.
You are not alone
Once you are part of the community, you’ll no longer see yourself as the “only one” as you realize other women feel, think, and experience the same things in their own lives. Our personal and professional experiences are normalized when participating in same-sex networking groups. You can talk about fears and negative experiences in environments that are not only safe, but also supportive, because everyone in the room has felt, thought, or faced something similar. When surrounded by your peers, you have that “ah-ha” moment when you realize they are not abnormal, weak, or alone.
The beauty of it all is that with that knowledge, you can be your authentic self. There is no in-stone-written description of how an employee or entrepreneur should be. But there is a whole community of other women to support you in your journey.
As a former co-founder of an international women’s networking group and participant in many other networks, I can assure you that your network can be a great resource of support, fresh viewpoints, and innovative ideas that will benefit you. Doing things on your own or with a small crew working for you can be difficult. You can meet others who share your interests through these networking organizations, which may lead to future opportunities from which you can truly benefit. You’ll develop the ability to spot, seize, or take advantage of business possibilities, enabling you to share information and look for new business partners in the future or find your next dream job via a referral from within the network.
Networking is not about what you get, but what you share
At the same time, there’s more to simply joining a networking group and expecting opportunities to fall in your lap; you need to put in the work to get value out of them. Personally, I think you have to visit a variety of networking groups face-to-face, to know which one suits you best. There are also a lot of groups online on Facebook and Instagram, that is so helpful and also organize meetings offline. I have met lots of women, especially through Facebook groups, and some I even became friends with.
But remember, while networking is nice to get a job offer, a referral, exposure, expand your network, and an opportunity to grow a business. It can also happen if you’ll leave disappointed and believe that networking is a complete waste of time. To walk out with new contacts, and business cards, happy, inspired, and excited has to do with one important thing: find a way to help others in the room.
Build real relationships
True connection comes from understanding that everyone in the room has equal value. In its purest form, it’s about people taking pleasure in others, exchanging passions, and connecting with others who share those passions. It’s about listening, discovering what others need, and connecting them with people you think can help them, not for personal gain. The most successful networkers build real relationships and give more than they get.
Written by: Yustine Alvares
Personal & Business Branding Strategist, Business Mentor, and Multiple Business Owner