Our community is full of women of varied ages and professions and all with different backgrounds and experiences.

The vibe in both our online community and at our offline meet-ups is chilled and welcoming. Whether you arrive alone and for the first time, you will always be chatting happily with someone, within minutes. There is always scintillating conversation and different guest speakers. The environment is relaxed and women learn from each other. I’ve learnt the importance of self-belief during my own journey of building a business. I believe that women thrive in less conventional networking environments. It’s important to talk about our failures, as well as our successes, that’s how we learn. If women feel safe they are more comfortable admitting what has gone wrong.

The days of having a business card shoved in your face has long gone. Our networking events are based on the spirit of being sharing and caring, not selling. We don’t like stuffy, square conference rooms, and prefer to find venues which make you feel at home and relaxed. Women find working for themselves so isolating and need to connect with like-minded people. We throw a big party, on International Women’s Day. It’s a day to be celebrated.

Networking is changing. It’s becoming more about cultural and social enrichment, as well as professional gain. It’s about building deep, meaningful, lasting, trusting, loyal relationships. These are the ones that go somewhere and last a lifetime. Social media has definitely changed the game. Relationships can be and are built online.

I recently had a meeting with somebody. I get lots of offers to get together for a coffee. I don’t do this often, for the very reason I am just about to outline. Our coffee or should I say ‘meeting’ consisted mostly of the other person sharing the trials and frustrations of their business with me. Asking me for advice on who they should talk to, what to do and my views on how to restructure their business. I realised very quickly that it would be a one-way conversation. There was no ‘mutual’ discussion. The missing element in this persons approach to me was any attempt to give back or ask if there was anything they could do for me. They were so wrapped up in themselves, that the meeting was entirely about them. Now don’t get me wrong….I LOVE supporting women and I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from helping others. It’s what I do. The meeting was supposed to establish a mutual ‘connection’. This person totally missed the boat. They took, but they did not give. Networking is always a 2-way exchange where both parties feel like they are benefiting from the relationships. There are no exceptions to this.

Make your conversations about the other person. The principle of giving crosses over into almost every imaginable social and interpersonal relationship. Explore the other persons challenges and needs. Look for ways to help solve their problems. Ask “How can I help you?”. Listen. Extend yourself and give! Tell them you love their shoes, or the colour they are wearing, looks fantastic. Simple acts are thoughtful and you will be remembered for this. If you are talking to somebody new, ask them “Is there anything I can do to help you, or anyone I can introduce you to?”. Offer to lend your specific expertise in any way you can. It might well be that you can’t help them…..but the art of your giving, will count.

This is how the Business Girls community works. Introductions are made to help somebody. Women share stuff that connect to their specific needs or challenges. GIVE BACK!

In the end, the more you give, the more you receive. Sounds a bit like a Beatles lyric but it’s really true. The people who take the time out to help and give to others are the ones who are most likely going to receive the help and introductions they are seeking. This in turn helps them to achieve their goals.

Women-centric networks, offering support, advice, a reciprocal environment, as well as new business are becoming more and more popular. Many of us miss the camaraderie of the workplace, and communities like the Business Girls do fill the gap. It’s not always business talk, though. That’s important too. We recommend all sorts of things to each other, let off steam when we need to and support each other in personal stuff too. When you build and nurture relationships that go somewhere, friendships are formed. There is no hustling for the same business amongst similar business types. There is respect and loyalty. We support and help each other. The meet-ups leave you feeling invigorated. There is a mindset of collaboration, not competition. Historically traditional networking has had a ‘take’ mentality. We’ve all been to an event where you’re talking to someone and as soon as they realise there’s not a business opportunity with them, they find any excuse to move on to the next person.

The new rule of networking is playing the long game and giving. The benefits of talking to someone, might not immediately seem obvious, but good things come to those who wait. There is always an opportunity. Networking is more about the people and experience.

Some argue that while beneficial to women, female-only communities hinder the feminist cause. I don’t agree. I don’t exclude men. If they booked in, they would be welcome. The reality is that many women are terrified of social and business rejection. This follows with isolation and loneliness. Having confidence comes from self-acceptance and I think people under-appreciate the value of communities where women can be themselves.

It’s refreshing for women to meet women at different stages of life and career, and not from the same industry. Women develop and learn from each other. Mistakes can bring us together. No matter what it is, we all see it in ourselves, somehow. We all make mistakes. I’ve done great stuff and I’ve done some awful stuff that has gone wrong: but it’s these things that make you who you are. We are all in this together.

I would love to know your view on Networking in 2018?

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