Lessons with Leasha – SPARCing New Networks

     As an extreme introvert, networking has never been my main idea of fun!  I spent the early part of my career trying to do all the things by myself, from navigating college to figuring out my career path. I often felt obligated to attend networking events instead of viewing them as truly beneficial opportunities. If you, too, have been avoiding meeting other humans–and not just because of COVID19–then I invite you to consider the following mindset shifts when it comes to professional networking.

Benefits of Networking:
     1) Intentionally putting yourself in front of new people can open new doors for you professionally. Attending networking events can give you an opportunity to cross paths with folks from the organizations you’ve been dreaming of working for. Deliberately reaching out to professionals from other organizations and industries to connect, market yourself, and/or share ideas is a great way to get in front of folks you may have never met otherwise. Don’t get in your own way by limiting your exposure to the right connections. That old saying, “It’s who you know” is very often true. So, get out there and get to know some folks!

     2) Often, networking can happen internally in the form of mentoring. You may find someone from another department in your current organization or from a certain level of management that you wish to someday reach, or perhaps someone who shares something in common with you (same gender, same ethnicity, etc.) and start connecting with that person in a mentor-mentee capacity. Through this professional relationship, the mentor can begin to help you navigate the challenging road that might lie between your current position and where you’d like to be. If your organization doesn’t have a formal mentoring program in place, don’t be afraid to suggest starting one, or to simply reach out to the person you have in mind to serve as your mentor. It doesn’t have to be a very formal or time-consuming process. People who have been doing what you desire to do for a longer amount of time will likely have an insight that will be helpful to you.

     3) Finally, networking can expose you to different types of people and different thoughts and ideas. If you are intentional about creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture for yourself and your organization, stepping out of your comfort zone and finding ways to get to know folks who may differ from you is a great way to get started. Personally, I have never regretted getting to know more about someone. I believe there is truly something I can learn from everyone I meet.

     So, the next time you have an opportunity to network with new people, try to shift your perspective about the process. Instead of viewing it as an obligatory, socially awkward time to carelessly exchange business cards, view it as an opportunity to learn new information, grow both personally and professionally, and to exercise your “stepping out of my comfort zone” muscle! Don’t go it alone like I did in the early years of my career. Take it from my lived experience: the road ahead is easier to endure with a network of knowledgeable and diverse people to help you along the way.

Love & Light,

Tip for Working Remotely: While working from home, it’s easy to work all day and night. I suggest starting and ending your work day at a set time each day as much as possible. I know this is easier said than done for those of us working from home with children doing virtual school from home at the same time! But the more your stick to a routine, the more efficient you will be and the more free time you’ll have!