become an insider

I'm Ditching The Term 'Networking' From My Vocabulary

Happy woman holding glasses
I’m not gonna sugarcoat this

You’ll need to embrace key people to move forward fast.

Women need a peer group. It’s especially true for women in business because the cultural, gender, and racial currents are so prevalent in business you’ll need the support of people who get it. 

When it comes to entrepreneurial support, you’ll have to look further than your friend circle.  Let’s call it specialized support, it's where you can get industry tips and the emotional support you’ll need to get through sleepless nights, paralyzing fear of failure, self-doubt, and decision fatigue.

When it comes to picking your specialized support, you'll want to make sure that:

1. The person is in the fiery pursuit of their goals. 

2. They're comfortable in their skin and willing to tell the truth to you and themselves. 

Those are the type of women you'll need to pick you up when you're down, see who you are, believe in you, and keep you moving.  They’ll need the same from you.

You will always know when you’re in the presence of a wise woman.  She will have a belief in you that you don’t currently have in yourself.  She will show you that by asking you to stretch and try new things that you don't know how to do because she's made her way to the mountain top and can describe opportunities that you can't see yet. That’s how you'll grow and learn what you are capable of.  Those are the women that come to you from a place of leadership and accomplishment, they will assume you can meet them there, and they'll make sure you do!

These women have strong connections and are well connected to a network of vetted practical resources.  That will be helpful when sourcing out partners to grow your business like lawyers, co-founders, CEO's and VCs.

It's essential to set your sights on aspirational people.

First, you’ll need to strengthen your connection muscles and go out and find them. Here are a few that I've learned about and used personally.

2 Simple Things You Can Do To Surround Yourself With The Right People

  • Pinterest your network. Create a pinboard the way you would pin decor for your dream home or wedding.  You’ll want to include people in and out of your industry. Think about your areas of interest and add people from those areas.  Be picky as you build your aspirational circle of contacts.
  • Build a list.  Zoom out as you approach this list think internationally, nationally, and regionally.  Then zoom into who is doing interesting things in your city or town.  Make a list of people you think can complement your business, that has shared values, and are a few rungs of the ladder ahead of you. Look out for who is making a ruckus in your industry. Just by doing the research, you'll learn more about organizational structure and pick up a few strategies that you can use right away.  Take notes on the IRL and virtual events.  If you can't find any meetups, it might be an excellent opportunity to create one.  If you live in a smaller town, make it a day trip and travel to the nearest big city, there will be more opportunities there.  Focus on universities, community colleges and chambers of commerce to start. 

Don’t Focus On Networking, Focus On Connection

The old-school conference model is dead.  It's replaced by getting together to share meaningful experiences that forge new business relationships.   Often by glamping together, dancing together, cooking, fishing, working out, golfing, and outdoor adventures. The new way of connecting may look like after-work social stuff, but that couldn't be further from the truth. But make no mistake real business deals are happening, and money is being made. These spaces have their own unspoken codes of conduct, here's the inside scoop.

  • Join a club for professionals.  These clubs are all about having fun and connecting, elite style, and cost a thousand dollars and up. However, the main currency isn't money. It’s impact.  You’ll want to perfect your elevator pitch on exactly how your work is impactful and meaningful.  By the way, everyone's authenticity meter is turned up on high, so they know b.s when they hear it.  
  • By invitation only.  Most events hosted by the clubs are exclusive and are by invitation only.  Never ask to be added to the list.  If you want to be invited.  Do something so extraordinary and impactful that then organizers seek you out, stand up for something!
  • Never sell, ever.  The worst thing you can do is go there with a douchey salesy mindset.   It will kill the vibe and any potential for a relationship to work together in the future.  Focus on building relationships genuinely.
  • Turn asks into opportunities.  You can turn ‘asks’ into opportunities simply by framing it as an opportunity.  For example I will never say to someone, “Here’s what I’m doing. Will you buy or invest?”  I would say, “I’m super passionate about this _____. If you know anyone that can help, will you introduce me?”  It may even surprise you that the person you’re talking to says, “I might be the person you’re looking for.”  If you're a direct person like me, this might feel passive; trust me, its not.  In times like this, taking a connection centred approach is best.
  • Look for common ground.  Let's say you're at an event, and you're finding it hard to crack a smile, look for the other person in the room with a straight face. You could talk to them and likely find a common ground, and let the conversation flow from there. Finding things that you can agree on get's you both saying yes! Which sets the tone for a future of yes's!
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Q & A with

Gigi Thomas

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