I’ve always heard about Networking and I’ve always avoided it as if it was a bad illness.
I’m an extrovert but I’ve never felt at ease with PR: I had labeled networking as a way to show off how cool you are and have a lot of chats in order to “sell yourself”, it made me feel phony and uncomfortable.
Then it happened that I moved to Switzerland and suddenly I found myself in a new country, with a different language and without the network I had developed in fifteen years of work in Italy.
Having to start up my own business in this new scenario forced me to challenge my old beliefs: I had to develop a new professional network even if I didn’t know where to start from.
While I was thinking of a solution, I saw a piece of paper attached in front of my desk with the writing “magic happens outside your Comfort Zone”. It looked like a clear “call for action” so I decided to start looking for a networking group.
I work between Zürich and Milan and in both places I’ve found my group.
A colleague recommended me the PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S GROUP OF ZURICH, an international female networking group aiming to inspire women in their career path, to value the diversity of experiences coming from a wide range of professions and whose key words are: excellence, openness and warmth. They organise large monthly events and smaller weekly meetings.
It was not only apero or after dinner: there was always a topic to discuss, something to learn and I’ve thought “this group could be the right one for me” and I signed in.
In the days before the first meeting my brain was able to create a long list of excuses for convincing me that it was better not to go. Walking towards the location fears arisen: will I be good enough? Will I stand alone in a corner for the whole evening? Because even after years of working experience and goals achieved, we’re always good in doubting ourselves.
Then I entered the room and surprisingly found an unexpected atmosphere.
The location was nice an cozy, two women welcomed me and explained how the meeting was organised, I’ve met people of different nationalities and working experiences, I joined an interactive workshop where I’ve learned new topics, shared ideas and perspectives.
After the first event I’ve been to others and I’ve soon found myself wondering “why I have not done it before?”. Because from networking you can of course get useful contacts for your career, but the real power of female networking lies elsewhere:
in being part of a community that makes you feel at home even among its diversities.
Women’s working life is not easy: demanding working hours, uncertainties and risks if you are a self employed, the pressure on performing as a women, mom, wife that comes from different sources. The best way to find support is to be surrounded by people who are sharing the same path, difficulties, uncertainties and the same unique way of creating and planning the future.
In female networking you get in touch with an atmosphere of collaboration and complicity: we all are ambitious, we all have big dreams to realise and goals to achieve, but when we sit together we want to share our story our perspective and to learn from each others.
Since it was a delightful experience I decided to look for an Italian event: Francesca Zampone, in whose Academy I’ve studied as a Coach, launched the BREAKFAST CLUB and I was intrigued by this unconventional new way of networking.
Ten women, around a table, most of them self-employed, that left a company career to explore a new and unexplored path for running their own business. While introducing ourselves and our plans for the future it was easy to see the common background of our stories: family and friends not able to understand why we were leaving a “safe job”, parents worried on our ability to be economically independent, the loneliness feeling of having to take care to everything is needed to star up a new business.
I left that table with the powerful feeling of not being alone.
And it’s exactly when you feel deeply understood that you’re able to to see the whole picture with the right perspective, that your creativity emerges and that you are eager to experiment what usually frightens you.
So today I shout it out loud: I was wrong.
If you are taking your first step in the world of networking here I share some tips I’ve read on an article of the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW that have been very useful to me:
1. FOCUS ON LEARNING
Research shows that approaching networking with an open mind about all the possibilities that might unfold makes the difference on the results you will get. Try to change your mindset from prevention to promotion, concentrate on the positive and this activities will begin to seem much more worthwhile
2. IDENTIFY COMMON INTEREST
Next step in making networking more palatable is to think about how your interests and goals align with those of people you meet and how that can help you forge meaningful working relationships. When your networking is driven by shared interests you’ve identified through serious research, it will feel more authentic and meaningful.
3. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN GIVE
It’s not always easy but, even when you do not share an interest with someone, you can probably find something valuable to offer by thinking beyond the obvious. When you think more about what you can give to others than what you can get from them, networking will feel less self-promotional and more worthy of your time.
4) FIND AN HIGHER PURPOSE
Any work activity becomes more attractive when it’s linked to a higher goal. So frame your networking in those terms.
If you’ve been working for years and feel overwhelmed by having to do everything and to do it great, if you are going back to work or building your new business: look for your Group, find your way of doing it, but do networking, advantages will be much more than the one expected.