In part three of the Claim Your Space Series, and the show’s twelfth episode, Sofie explains how to claim space together by building a strong network of women who uplift and amplify each other. She covers the essential steps for constructing a thriving network, including the importance of diversity, providing value to your network, the three types of connections to pursue, methods of connecting, and more.
Our final episode in the Claim Your Space Series will be released on February 12th at 9 am EST.
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Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host Sofie and this is part three of the Claim Your Space Series. This episode is all about how to claim space together. When I say claim space together I’m talking about forging relationships and building a community that uplifts you, and that you uplift.
The reason that we do this is oftentimes when women succeed there is a hidden belief, even unconsciously, that there is only room for one of us. While we are busy tearing each other down, finding ways to undermine other women’s power, and ultimately projecting jealousy or projecting this notion that there can only be one of us at the top… men are meeting over golf, going out for drinks, hiring, collaborating, and guess what, promoting each other, and giving each other opportunities, causing the male-dominated power structure to continue. But, we can start changing this narrative through one incredible tool that we often overlook. This is networking. Networking is the foundation that builds up women. And the key to networking is the following.
The first thing that we need to do is to be authentic. Connections should be ethical. They should come from an actual desire to know someone and if you don’t like someone, if you don’t match their personality, if you feel like they just don’t align with your values, then don’t network with them, because guess what, there are so many other women that you can talk to. There are 8 billion people on this planet and 50% of them are women. That’s so many other people that you can network with that actually line up with your values, and where you want to be in your career.
Seek people out
Also, we need to make sure that we’re seeking people out. I think with networking, a trap that I fall into all the time is I always wait for people to network with me. I wait for people to reach out to me on Linkedin. I wait for people to come up to me at professional events, and I don’t actually go and seek people out. We always need to be on the lookout for people that we genuinely like, and we need to work to forge relationships with them. And you can find these people in unexpected places. I have met some of my favorite people at speed dating events. Which I have found to be a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals. Also, the great thing about those types of speed networking or speed dating events is you get to know a lot about a person, their interests, and their values in a very short amount of time. It’s like reading someone’s bio, and so that’s a great way that I have found to build networks.
When you’re seeking people out, remember that people are attracted to those that they feel are good people. People that are kind, confident, and authentic. You want to make sure that you’re projecting that outward. But especially you want to be kind as this is the best way to network. When you’re meeting people and you’re showing them that you are a good person and that you care about others, it goes a long way. And, when you are kind in your networking you’re ultimately going to attract the right people into your network. You’re going to attract those that are also good people. Those that are also kind. Those that have high ambitions but also want to help others out and want to help you grow in your career. I always find that kind attracts kind. So when you are projecting kindness out to others, you’re usually going to attract other goodhearted people in return. So project it and show it off.
As we are building up these connections, we need to be attentive to them. While being kind, seeking people out, and being authentic is all good and great, however, it’s all about maintenance. You have to maintain these relationships.
You also have to tend to your relationships in proportion to where you want them to go. If you want someone that could potentially be a board member for your nonprofit, that could potentially write you a letter of recommendation, that could sponsor you for a director role, that is going to need a lot more attention than networking with someone that is on the same level as you in terms of career growth. You really have to assess what you want from networking and then use that assessment as a tool for figuring out how much time and how much energy you’re going to place into tending to those relationships.
Yes, networking can feel like a huge task, and it does take time but it should be fun, and if you don’t want to spend a lot of time with someone but you like them and value them as part of your network you can keep in touch via a method that works best for both of your comfortability levels.
As you’re maintaining these network relationships, offer value. Give before taking, and give more than you get. When we network, a big part of networking is mentorship, but at the same time, a lot of people don’t network for the sole purpose of being a mentor without gaining anything in return. Everyone wants something out of networking relationships. That could be the opportunity to watch someone grow, the opportunity to speak with a fellow woman in power, to connect on a deeper level, or even to build their client list.
If you are not sure what someone is looking for out of a networking relationship, start by giving affirmation. Express your gratitude for the interactions you share. Express how they inspire you. You can even express your support for a new endeavor they are leading. Think of how you can give back to your network regularly, because the more you give, the more people are inclined to give back. This is coming from someone in the nonprofit sector but usually, giving feels pretty good. Even if you’re just expressing thanks to them for taking time out of their schedule to speak with you, giving back to your network is a way of fostering connection and building community.
Create a Diverse Network
As you’re building your network you want to seek diversity. Diversity is something we so often overlook because we often want to connect with people that are like us. I get it. It’s part of human nature. We more easily connect with those that look like us, act like us, and think like us. While yes, it’s good to have those types of people within your network, as it is often easier to maintain those relationships, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Fill your network not just with people from different races, genders, ages, and so on, but also from different careers. Find people in different sectors, and in different industries of your own sector, because it’s going to give you a more well-rounded experience.
Speaking of a well-rounded experience, you want to make sure that you are building community and connection with three different types of people. First, those that are a step or more behind you. Second, those that are in a similar place in their journey as you. Third, those that are a step ahead of you.
I actually learned this from the Powerhouse Women podcast and this has been one of my biggest takeaways from January. After reflecting, I noticed a lot of the time we network with people that are ahead of us and we focus on these networks because we think that we are going to leverage that connection to get a job, get funding for a project, or grow our audience via their own network.
While yes, it’s good to have those connections for growth. It’s also good to use those connections as a mentorship opportunity so that you have someone to look up to, and someone to learn from. Someone who has been down a similar road as you, can walk you through the dos and don’ts, and help you avoid some of the mistakes that they have made.
Going into the second group… when you find people that are at the same level as you, that is a crucial connection that you can use to talk out what you’re doing. It is an impactful opportunity to be with people that are going through a similar situation in which you can figure life out together. I think that there’s a lot of power in figuring things out together, especially within the professional world. I see this often among women that are working on building their businesses from the ground up. Which I think is an amazing tool to leverage as it creates relationships where you can talk about those stresses with someone that is going through it with you. It’s also pretty fun to celebrate the successes of your network when you’re with people that are at a similar place in their journey as you because it feels like you are all growing together. You’re all rising together, and there’s a lot of power in having a dynamic like that.
The other type of person that you should be connecting with is those that are a step behind you. People that you can mentor. People that you can talk to and figure out where they are trying to go, then use your expertise to help them My philosophy is if you are being mentored and you are in a community that is mentoring each other, it’s only right that you mentor someone. Return the favor to this wonderful community of women that are trying to level up, that are trying to go for what they want in life. I can promise you’re going to feel inspired to do even bigger things knowing that you have helped a fellow woman out
The final part of networking is connect others. When we create networks I think it’s very easy to hog connections. “This is my connection. No one else can talk to this person. I want them to be part of my network and no one else’s”. I get it. I do it too. There are people that I connect with on Linkedin whom I feel like I need to gatekeep. Where I feel like I need to make sure that no one else is connecting with this person because this person is very influential in my field and I don’t want them to support anybody else but me. That is a trap that goes back to my initial point of when women succeed it’s easy to tear them down and to feel like there should only be one of us at the top.
We need to connect others. Introduce, introduce, introduce. The more that you connect people that are in your network to other people in your network, the more valuable you actually become to your network.
I’m always looking for ways to connect women with other women. One way to do this is to think of your current network, who would like each other? Then invite them over for a charcuterie night or a game night. You could do a virtual cocktail hour or a co-working session. Frankly, anything to build a bridge between the different people in your network, because people appreciate it.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me, “Oh Sofie I have this really great co-worker who’s actually really interested in women’s empowerment, I think it’d be great if you two had a conversation”. Or, “oh there’s actually someone that works at my company that is involved in nonprofit management, maybe you should speak with this person. I can set you up with a contact”. We always appreciate those people. So why don’t we become those people ourselves? Why don’t we stop gatekeeping and start introducing other people in our network to the rest of our network?
Do other women a favor and introduce each other. When you rise up, you have the power to reach down and help other women rise with you. Hire women. Defend women. Promote women. Tell your stories to women. Listen to other women’s stories. Embrace what we have in common as a gender, and learn from the different experiences that we all have.
Networking is deeper than just a work or academic community. It is wider than our usual immediate circle of neighbors, family, or friends. Networking is a mindful act of being connected. It’s about community and it’s about mentorship.
For yourself and for all of us, build a network of women who amplify each other’s voices.
I will leave you all with this ever-so-famous quote, “empowered women, empower women”.
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