Networking. It was a negative and disingenuous idea in my mind. I always believed in using your work to pave your way through life and relationships seemed like cheating.
As a young school girl, I was not a fan of teacher’s pets. From kindergarten and on through high school, I didn’t bother getting close to teachers. In my youthful mind, forming relationships with those above or in charge of you would always be self-serving and I wasn’t for it. I would work hard and make progress on my own. I didn’t need anyone else, and I wouldn’t use another being, mentor or not, for my own advantage.
But then I started a job at the chamber of commerce, and as you probably know, they’re all about networking. Most chambers exist to help businesses grow and make connections, and this chamber was no different. We had multiple events a month with the main purpose of networking.
I quickly found out that most of the people who came to these events were quite the opposite of what I had long pictured. Rather than being self-promoting, they were community-driven. They were even friends with a lot of the others who came to these events. They asked about each other’s kids, they sent handwritten thank you cards, they gave thoughtful gifts. These business owners and employees cared, and had real, genuine relationships. This was not what I envisioned previously, but this was, in fact, networking.
Before long, I too, had built relationships. I had friends. There were people that cared about me and lifted me up — that checked in and made sure that I was doing okay. It felt wonderful. They embraced me. And I started embracing them back.
Since then, I’ve cherished community relationships in my business, and in my life in general. My life is so much fuller surrounded by people that support me, and who I support too. I now have people to turn to as mentors and as confidants. And because there is now a trust and an authentic relationship, there is an ever-growing network of people that will refer me and help me with my business. But at this point, that’s not what it’s about. Even if I received no referrals, ever, from this group of people, I would still have an infinite well of wisdom in which to search and grow personally and professionally. I can rely on my network. I can forever grow it and nurture it, and it will nurture me.