Little did I know at the time that these strangers would shape my career, bring me success, and change my life.
I initially found networking really intimidating. I would walk into a room, stand awkwardly on the perimeter, and hope someone would make eye contact with me. The first few formidable events I attended really did a number on my confidence; so much so that I decided to bring my husband along for moral support. While having Tim by my side set me at ease and gave me a ready conversation partner, I soon realized the folly of this plan. Although no longer a wallflower, I wasn’t doing what I needed to do.
Having connections within your industry is invaluable. Like-minded professionals provide inspiration, advice, and referrals. Growing a business can’t happen in a vacuum. Developing trust and depth with others in your field strengthens your values and builds the width of your reach. In this age of social media takeover, relationships with real live people shouldn’t be ignored.
Once I realized I wasn’t effectively networking with my fly-under-the-radar approach and that my buddy-system was cramping my style, I really got down to business. In order to force myself to do the uncomfortable, I set some goals. Every time I signed up for an ABC, WIPA, or ISES event, I laid out the ground rules. I had to talk to TEN new people at the event (from different companies, mind you). Of those 10 people, I had to have 5 significant enough conversations so I knew where they had just gone on vacation, what their favorite venue was, and what kind of clients they liked to work with. I always followed up via email with all 10 but I also had a follow-up goal. After each networking opportunity, I wanted to land one in-person meeting to share my portfolio. Whoa!
This might seem like I just depersonalized the process of getting to know people but that’s not what happened for me. In fact, it helped me meet people I never would have connected with. My “numbers game” challenged me to introduce myself to people I was intimidated by. I joined conversations or started them instead of waiting for them to find me.
The result: a rich network of delightful, incredible, talented, beautiful colleagues I can now call friends.
These lovely friends got together to throw me a baby shower last fall. It was an incredibly sweet event for me. Looking around the room, I saw the smiling faces of so many wonderful people who have greatly influenced my career; women who have encouraged me, inspired me, and believed in me before I really believed in myself.
I’m so grateful for those who celebrated with me on that day and for all of the creativity, gorgeousness, and sweat that made it so special. I can’t thank these dear friends enough for all they have given me.
Hostess, Stylist, & Gorgeous Furnishings: Jeni of Found Vintage Rentals with lots of help from Anna
Bright & Fun Flowers: Carissa of JL Designs
Breakfast for Dinner Catering: J & R Foods
Pretty Placesettings: Diana of Casa de Perrin
Vibrant Stationery & Signage: Amber of Pitbulls & Posies
Delicious Desserts: Melody of Sweet & Saucy Shop
See more images by the incredibly talented Joel of Studio EMP on Inspired By This.