The importance of establishing and maintaining personal contact for busy Mothers, in their personal and career lives.
Networking is the practice of establishing and maintaining personal contact with a broad range of individuals. It is one of the most effective ways to meet new people for work, business, spiritual, or social connections, and has many long-term benefits.
Relationships with individual contacts are made usually with the intention of exchanging mutually beneficial information, sharing similar experiences, building your “handy-to-know” list of people, or actively positioning yourself to receive or give help in some way. Although we’re considering the application of networking here for “Mummies”, or even parents in general, the principles are still based on networking skills that can be applied across a number of areas, and not necessarily limited to those with children; so draw from these essential tips and see how they can benefit you in making new contacts.
...So, what is a ‘network’?
A ‘network’, in general terms, could be objects, institutions, computer systems, individual people or a group of people, which are connected in some way. For example, a family is a network; your circle of close friends is a network; the people you work with or do business with are a network; the other parents you chat to when dropping your kids off at school could potentially be a network. They all interact with each other and communicate amongt themselves with a shared purpose.
... and how can ‘networking’ benefit me?
I truly believe the better connected you are, the more opportunities you come across. Research proves it. Regardless of someone’s education, training, or skill set; people who are better connected seem to have more success in what they do. Every time you meet another person there is an opportunity to do business, offer assistance of your personal skills, or gain help with something you may be in need of yourself.
Parents are in an ideal position for networking as they have the potential to regularly meet people and build strong bonds, to share similar concerns and interest areas through their children, and have the need of essential emotional and social support. This is particularly important for mothers (mummies) or single parents in general who might feel isolated from normal social circles, suffering from the pressures and stress associated with raising kids (sometimes on their own), and can add value and substance to their daily routines.
With the purpose of networking being to give and receive information, a parent who actively builds new connection relationships grows their own sense of purpose and self-esteem; and in doing so creates new opportunities for themselves, opening doors in new directions. It can also be great fun too!
Here are 7 networking tips that could make all the difference -
1) Set yourself networking goals
Determine the types of people you want to meet, and why you want to meet them. Is there a specific reason you want to meet someone in particular? If it’s for a more sociable reason, how many people do you want to connect with and for what purpose? Where are you likely to meet them?
Just ask yourself –
- "What do I really want to get or bring into my life by meeting and mixing with new people?"
- "What kinds of people do I want to meet, of which age group, social/marital status, culture, or faith background?"
- "How many people do I want to meet and connect with each week/month?"
- "How do I want to meet people? What capacity or function will I be meeting them in?"
- "How will meeting these types of people benefit me right now?"
- "What strengths, skills or existing contacts could I bring to any new network connections?"
2) Keep your bridges open
It is essential to take whatever opportunity you can to communicate with those people that you already know. Networking is as much about maintaining connections as making new ones, as keeping those relationships ‘alive’ and active ensures you are regularly in contact with other people that just might know of something or someone that needs you, or can benefit you in some way.
Have you ever been in the right place at the right time where you’ve met someone unexpectedly, and that meeting has presented a new opportunity, offer of employment, you’ve made a new friend, you’ve been able to help them out a difficult situation, they’ve been able to help you in some way, or you’ve been able to make a referral on behalf of someone you know? These times often come about from cultivating connections with people you already know, and from that relationship you’ve been able to expand and grow some areas of your life.
3) Introduce yourself
Just like in business networking, you should have a brief introduction about yourself that you can give to new contacts, where you tell others who you are and what you do in around 15 seconds or less. Be truthful, but interesting; quirky, but inspiring. You want to catch their attention in those brief first moments that make them want to remember you and keep in touch. If you talk any longer than this you run the risk of people thinking you’re more interested in talking about yourself and not interested in who they are. This is an ideal opportunity to give out a business card if you use one, and also to take a card if one is offered to you. Always have a card available with your details on if the chance arises to give them out, as it saves time in passing on your contact details, and also leaves a lasting impression that you made an effort to be prepared for meeting someone new.
4) Be active in your circles
Get involved with any local parent & toddler outings, young-mum or nursery groups, Sunday school, Scout or Guide troops, or even those aimed at parents of older children like parent and teacher associations (PTA’s), sports & martial arts clubs, or dance classes; anything that encourages parents to socialise and mix. You may also find similar opportunities through volunteering or charity groups as well, particularly if they have a support element that you will directly benefit from, or wish to voluntarily support yourself. Just getting involved will get your face known and people talking with you, and what better way to get mixing and chatting with others. It is also a good way for you to get out the house for a bit, and you’ll benefit from the more grown-up level of conversation.
5) Increase your visibility
This lets others see that you’re keen to be involved and that you believe in doing something to share or contribute to your common interests. This is a powerful tool as you will get valuable recognition and stand out from others for the work you get involved in doing. If you want to go deeper and take responsibility for something such as actually running a group, or doing a newsletter, then this is a great way to build up to that and get credibility. Other doors may open for you that you hadn’t considered as you build bridges, and that home-based business you’ve always dreamed of may suddenly appear closer than you realised!
6) If you need help in a particular area, don’t be afraid to ask
If your contacts are of a decent-sort in your network, then the chances are they’ll be open to listening and sharing, and quite possibly have experienced the same things before. If they aren’t in a position to offer help themselves, chances are they’ll know someone who can. That’s the beauty of networking because as your network grows, your circle of exposure/influence grows as well, and that means you meet different types of people, cultures, skills, traits, and backgrounds. Draw on your contacts for strength and support, although be sure of what you’re asking for, and that the person your asking can be trusted as well.
7) Recognise and acknowledge any help offered
When someone helps you with a concern or gives you support in some way, is able to refer you to another new contact for friendship, work or business, a valuable introduction to someone new, make a special effort to return the favour as soon as you are in a position to do so. A great way to say “thank you” is with a simple hand written card, or an offer of something in return. This could be something as simple as taking them for a coffee. Even if they are unlikely to take your offer initially, the fact that you thought to offer will make a difference. If there’s ever a time they actually come to you for help, don't turn them away and make time to listen. These relationships always pay off, and you will surround yourself with genuinely great people.
Use this list as guide to growing your circle of networking of contacts, and then watch as new opportunities open up before you. These techniques can be applied across a number of areas in your life and work, and you will still benefit greatly as you put them into practice.
What areas will you be making changes in for your work or career plans in the year ahead?
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