‘Authentic networking’ (true self need not apply)

‘Authentic networking’ (true self need not apply)

Networking is a bit like marmite. Don’t you think?

Either you relish the opportunity to meet like-minded people in a buzzy environment or the thought of approaching strangers with your ‘elevator pitch’ leaves you cold.

I used to fall squarely into the second group. How about you?

Thanks to a shift in the way I view networking, that’s all changed now. There’s no denying it can be a really great way of connecting with potential collaborators as well as new clients. And it can make the self-employment path seem less isolating, less daunting, more supportive. You can help each other by remembering people in context and sending potential clients who are a genuine fit their way. Approached with the right mindset, it can absolutely be a win-win.

It still wouldn’t be my first choice of marketing technique

As an introvert, networking is more of a stretch for me. (Trust me here. You don’t have to do any one particular thing). But people do buy from people (they trust). And networking is certainly one way of helping people gauge whether there’s likely to be a fit, a connection. Or not.

There’s no such thing as competition when you’re simply being you

Networking for self-employedIf you’re familiar with my philosophy, you’ll know I champion authenticity in business.  There’s more than enough to go around. No two coaches, consultants, therapists, counsellors etc… are the same. We all have a unique way of working, of thinking, of seeing the world, a different vibe, business structure, different outcomes and areas of expertise which will make us an ideal fit for some – and a no go zone for others.

And that’s OK.

Authentic networking groups

Welcome to networkingSo imagine the relief I felt when finding a growing number of authentic networking groups – ones that openly promote the opportunity to show up and step up as your true self. To mingle with like-minded people who are looking to attract more of the right type of people into their businesses and see networking as one fine way to help them achieve that. No elevator pitch required. Hurrah!

Bingo! Seems like a fit. An ideal opportunity to learn and grow, to be my imperfect self, to share experiences and challenges with like-minded people, to support and champion others in their cause and collaborate with those in complementary fields.

Except they weren’t

Locked outBecause there was someone else already a part of that group with ‘Marketing’ in their title or ‘Business’ or ‘Mentoring’ or ‘Coach’. (Yes, it’s happened to me on more than one occasion).

I understand the thinking. But I think it’s misguided.

And I think it’s plain wrong to promote a group as championing authenticity then judge people on their process alone, turn them away because they are being true to who they are or invite them to keep quiet about a particular aspect of their business. (Yep, I’ve seen that too).

So I invite you to consider

Imagine if instead of being labelled according to the process we use in our businesses, we were celebrated according to our purpose, our niche, our role in the community. Two business mentors, two Reiki Masters, two accountants, two holistic practitioners …. so what! Where there’s help and hope available, I believe we have a duty to let people know about it. And surely the truly authentic networking groups would help facilitate this outcome. #justsaying.

Over to you

Do you thrive on networking or is it more of a stretch for you? Have you ever been asked to quash part of your true vibe, pretend to be something you aren’t so you can tap into the support of like-minded self-employed people? Or is it just me? Your voice is the only thing missing from this post so please do leave your comments in the box below.

Photo credit: Tojosan / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: WaywardShinobi / Foter / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: arbyreed / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

17 Responses to ‘Authentic networking’ (true self need not apply)

  1. I’m totally with you on this one, Lisa!

    The whole concept of two holistic practitioners or two coaches, two whatevers, being in competition with each other just makes no sense at all if you’re looking at it from a calm and grounded perspective.

    There are thousands of people on the planet searching right now for exactly what you (or I) offer – way more than we could ever serve individually. And some of them are looking for what we offer in just the way that only we offer it.

    So we can support each other as we go along. How perfect is that?

    I like to think of this as New Paradigm business where we cooperate, collaborate, champion each other and celebrate the successes of others along the way.

    I too have found (Old Paradigm – competitive) networking challenging in the past. And the right groups for me are out there – it’s just a matter of finding them.

    Thanks for a really interesting and thought-provoking post.
    Linda Anderson recently posted…How to stop feeling like a fraud [video]My Profile

    • Thanks so much for adding to the conversation Linda. I particularly love this: “There are thousands of people on the planet searching right now for exactly what you (or I) offer – way more than we could ever serve individually. And some of them are looking for what we offer in just the way that only we offer it”. V powerful. Thanks for stopping by.
      Lisa Barber recently posted…Becoming her own boss: Karen Upcraft’s storyMy Profile

  2. I completely resonate with this and YIM events have been the closest to authentic for me. I signed up to some networking groups that actively promoted the authentic agenda…only to be bogged down with rules and expectations later (like bringing new people to group when I know very few in London). I still think a huge shift and overhaul is needed and I look forward to finding such a group. Thanks for pointing this out as it is so needed!!
    Lisa McLoughlin recently posted…Plant Ally cards! What are they and what do I do with them?My Profile

  3. Oh Lisa, that Marmite moment – and I completely agree. When I walk into a networking group that doesn’t know me and I feel obligated to pitch myself, even though it feels completely alien to me. On the other hand, there is a fabulous group on the Surrey/Sussex border called Zest Connect and it is specifically for therapists/coaches and healers or at the very least those running their business holistically. This group is fantastic, I walk in, I feel instantly comfortable, not just because I have been there since the conception but even when I nearly didn’t make it for a year, I was relaxed as they accept you and as many ‘similar yous’ as there are. They recognise that 5 healers WILL be all different and they embrace that and explore it naturally, nothing is forced. Thank you for reminding me of this. I must now go and thank them and remind them of what they achieve every month. x

    • Hello Misti. Great to see you here. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. Delighted this post sparked gratitude for you – wonderful. They certainly do exist, absolutely. And Zest Connect sounds like another ideal hub to add to my list of truly authentic, supportive groups. 5 healers WILL all be different – love that this resonates with you too x
      Lisa Barber recently posted…How to cope when they unsubscribe from your mailing listMy Profile

  4. I completely agree with everything you say – and all the comments above are so true, too. The “closed” kind of networking group just feels like a prison to me! I am happy to say that Fabulous Women have no limit to the number of people in any one profession or calling and I have found them very welcoming and supportive. And once you are clearer about your ideal client (which I am, thanks to working with you, Lisa!) the “one minute to introduce yourself” is far less traumatic!

  5. Thank you so much for showing up here and contributing to the conversation with your recommendation and experience, Lizzie. No limit to the number of people in any one calling makes so much sense to me. Just imagine the conversations that get to happen, the collaborations people can enjoy. It’s wonderful to know that it’s out with the ‘elevator pitch’ for you also. I love that you help people exhausted from trying to measure up to find serenity. How someone with that calling could be denied access to a networking group because of the process they use is beyond me.
    Lisa Barber recently posted…Becoming her own boss: Karen Upcraft’s storyMy Profile

  6. Wow, loving the discussion here Lisa, and fabulous post! I’m definitely in the second ‘camp’ – as a highly sensitive introvert I ‘hate’ traditional networking, and have longed to find an authentic group I can connect with.
    I couldn’t find one, so I created my own!
    I now run a very relaxed, authentic, ‘just show up as you’, group north of Glasgow, for women who feel intimidated by the usual women’s networking group. (called Supporting Success)
    It’s been a humbling experience – to realise that there IS another way to network, and it doesn’t have to feel icky. It can be deeply empowering to be witnessed exactly where you are, and for everyone to feel seen and welcomed, even (and especially) if you’re scared to be visible.
    Thankyou Lisa! 🙂
    Ann Brown recently posted…Want To Break Free From Rules? – Be Yourself!My Profile

    • Hello Ann. Wonderful to see you here. Loving this contribution. “I couldn’t find one, so I created my own.” Brilliant! “She wanted to so she did.” And you’re so right about introversion. I’m also an introvert so guess it takes that extra courage to investigate networking opportunities in the first place. Supporting Success sounds perfect. Lucky peeps in your neck of the woods. I wish you continued success with this group Ann and thanks once again for stopping by, as you!
      Lisa Barber recently posted…‘Authentic networking’ (true self need not apply)My Profile

  7. Great article and it’s been so lovely to hear that I’m not the only one (as another introvert) that finds networking so tricky. It’s become one of those things I feel I ought to get involved in and have done in the past.But now I’m actually finding that the networking I do online such as through courses I have done or groups I’ve joined has been far more powerful. I’ve gained some wonderful links with people that have felt very supportive and sincere as well as being so affirming. So perhaps it’s time to rethink the scope of networking. Having said that the discussions your article has generated has made me wonder whether i just need to keep finding the group that is right for me.

  8. My networking radar has learnt when I am in the right room with the right people and when I am most definitely not. “Old School” networking is not for me, I know that I want to get to know people first before we do any kind of business card swap or business card shuffle. In the early days of my business I used to endure networking events because I thought it was the done thing. But now I know there are brilliant groups out there that are more about connection and collaboration first and foremost. Which is ideal for me. For many service based businesses there has to be the mutual connection and synergy with ease and it’s often not about the job title or specialism we have. Great to know that I am not alone here either.

  9. Hi LIsa

    You Inspire Me (YIM) Community Meetups that @LisaMcLoughlin has already mentioned were my first taste of “authentic networking”. Corinna definitely has the right approach (the idea apparently came from her having a birthday party at Tibits in London and her friends automatically networking informally with each other over good food and drink.

    Like @Dawn I’ve also found community online which has not only been a valuable way I can support and be supported but also a source of referrals. Like face to face networking it takes time, but when you build up relationships with like-minded solopreneurs you definitely don’t feel alone.
    Kate Bacon recently posted…Why it’s essential to integrate self-care into your businessMy Profile

    • Hi Kate,

      It’s wonderful to see you here. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting and (I must confess) helping me twig re YIM! I’ve heard time and time again how wonderful the You Inspire Me Community Meetups are. Let’s hope our paths cross there some time soon.

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