I get a lot of questions from women about how to network. The questions usually come with a groan, a sigh and an eye roll. I get it. Most of us hate the thought of networking. It's tiresome, potentially a waste of time, and usually pretty boring.
So let's reframe it. Because as women, we love the idea and opportunity to connect. Most of us, even the most introverted, like to meet new people under the right circumstances.
But if you are like me, you hate the small talk. The niceties. The meaningless chatter that we could all do without. And for the vast majority of people, the question of 'What do you do?' is the first question that is asked and often doesn't lead to anywhere really exciting.
And it's so ambiguous! Of course we go straight to the work context. I'm a writer. Or an account manager. Or I work in advertising. Or I'm a lawyer.
But what about the rest of you? The part that is a mother, sister, yoga teacher, artist, mountain trekker, salsa dancer, guitarist, daughter, philanthropist, environmental campaigner, volunteer....the list goes on.
So what if, the next time you met someone for the first time, or reconnected, or just wanted to go a bit deeper, you asked them this question:
'What are you most excited about right now?"
Boom. What are you most excited about?
If I asked one of my clients that right now, she would say something like this: finishing this massive project I have been working on for a year (I can't wait to put it to bed); sorting out my photos from that last trip to France; planing my next trip happening in about 60 days (but who's counting); writing a new blog for a cool site that wants to publish my work; and nesting in my house which we've just renovated.
Wow. That's pretty cool and gives me so many different and interesting points to discuss.
In a recent podcast with Margie Warrell, I asked her that question at the end. She paused. And then told me she was excited about a retreat she was running soon, her first one; the work she was doing right now; and the mountain trek she was about to do in Africa with her entire family (go listen to that fabulous discussion here).
If you asked me that question today I would tell you this: Im excited about seeing my new book Lead Like A Woman, together with the new company and online program, launched into the world; spending time with my kid in the school holidays; my next trip to Byron for the Writers Festival in August; creating my own series of events to connect with women face to face; some space to just be and think and dream and create after my busiest six months ever. Oh, and some reading time.
Rethink networking. Rethink how you connect. Think about it. When you meet someone, you want to really meet someone. Not chit chatter. Not engage in exhausting small talk. But really connect. Otherwise what's the point?
So next time you go to an event to 'network', think about connecting instead. Think about showing up with your curiosity and wonder about the fascinating people you might meet. And be brave enough to scratch under the surface just a little bit with perhaps a random sounding question, that will unveil undoubtedly interesting nuggets that could lead to a powerful connection, or at least, a much more interesting convo than where someone works.