One of the things that I have heard people say over and over again (in business, when I was an actress, and even from mommy friends): “I hate to network? How can I network and not feel sleazy?” I get it. And not because I don’t like to network, but because I don’t like how most people view networking. But the thing is, it really is all about who you know. And I don’t mean, “if you know the right person you won’t have to work hard and can just get by on being friends with a powerful person”. No no no no no.

I’ve been working since I was a teenager. My parents were frugal and a little old fashioned. I did not receive an allowance, nor was I paid to do the chores that my siblings and I had to accomplish on the “chore chart”. And my hard work helped me either get or create great jobs. My childhood best friend and I created all kinds of jobs. We were entrepreneurs in the neighborhood! We had a legit dog walking business, we sold hand painted potted plants door to door, we even had a spy agency (the third one didn’t have any paying customers, but we loved it!). I was inventive and hard working. And that paid off! Later on in High School, I took jobs as a receptionist, counting money at the PGA Tour, coat checking at a museum, pouring plaster molds of people’s mouths at an orthodontist, mopping floors at an ice cream shop, and babysitting. Eventually I moved to NYC where I worked full time and went to school full time. I sold shoes, I sold bras, and I sold expensive dresses on Fifth Avenue. I even had a stint telemarketing for two days. And when it came to getting those jobs, want to know what helped me the most, whether it was in my childhood neighborhood, or in a fancy boutique in NYC? Great relationships. Yep, networking.

Networking doesn't have to be sleazy. Kimmay gives you tips on the blog!

Why is networking important?

My jobs and many clients often came from people who knew me. I would get referred, or people would reach out to me. These were people who got my essence. Who believed in me. Who liked, knew, and trusted me. This was as true in my years as a babysitter for the neighborhood kids as it was in being a key holder in one of the fanciest shops on Fifth Avenue. Even my first job in NYC when I was 18, where I walked into a shoe shop on 86th street (the nearest shopping area to where I was living at the 92nd street Y) and didn’t know a soul, networking helped me. I had a resume filled with working experience and a letter or recommendation from a boss. I had people who believed in me. I knew people. Hiring is hard work. There’s a lot at stake when you take on a new team member. And hiring someone who comes referred makes hiring so much easier.

And while networking won’t get you everything (if you get the job or land the deal because you know someone and then can’t deliver, that will backfire!) it’s certainly helped since I started my own business. In fact, along with being fab at what I do, networking and relationship building is how I’ve gotten hundreds of media placements including The Rachel Ray Show, Insider, and more. It’s how I started writing for About.com (now LiveAbout) and The Lingerie Journal. It’s how I got my first marketing client. It’s how I have supportive business friends in my corner who encourage me, ground me, and keep me on track.

Networking is how I have supportive business friends in my corner who encourage me, ground me, and keep me on track.

Having a strong community and network can aid you in getting new clients and jobs, sure. And it can assist you in not feeling alone as you grow your business. It can bring in a reliable new hire. It can help you find your tax accountant. It can provide feedback for your big new idea. It can fill the seats to your event. It can connect you to a potential opportunity. It can feed your soul and keep you inspired. Trust me on this. I have examples of each and every one of these.

Less Networking, More Connecting

What we are really talking about here is relationships, and support, and connections. Not in an “I’ve got connections, I’m a big shot” kind of way. But in a magical threads across the universe kind of way. In an it-feels-like-we-were-meant-to-meet kind of way. Gosh, we may even be talking about friendships, here. When you look at the person you are meeting as a potential relationship, and not just a potential lead – something shifts. Something more human arises. It’s connection.

When you look at the person you are meeting as a potential relationship, and not just a potential lead – something shifts.

Something more human arises. It’s connection.

I use the term “networking” because that’s what most people know or recognize. And while it’s not a “bad” word, it certainly comes with a bad context. Most people think of networking as a “what can you do for me?” kind of thing. It’s an introduce me to that person, put in a word for me with that guy, buy my product, write about me, me me me. That’s not the best path toward connecting and creating lasting relationships – of any kind. The real kind of networking comes from building a relationship.

This has always been how I operate. When I was clienteling at large department stores, I was relationship building. When I was helping out my colleagues on the sales floor, I was relationship building. When I was participating in a lively conversation at an event, I was relationship building. You see, naturally I’m an extroverted person, and I love to make friends. In fact, I have a really vivid memory of a teacher mentioning something to our class, in a kind of encouraging manner: “…if it’s hard for you to make friends…” and I stopped listening. I think I actually said out loud, “Who has a hard time making friends?” I was incredulous. The teacher had to assure me that indeed there were people for whom it was difficult and took effort to be friendly, to have conversations, and to make new friends. I was stunned. It was something that had always been very easy for me, and I had never thought that something so fundamentally natural {for me} might be something where others needed some compassionate coaching in order to improve.

Even for someone as outgoing as me, I still found myself having to put in some effort and intention. One of my first real intentional networking experiences as a business person was when I was working for a bra shop as their marketing director. I’d told my boss how important it was for me to attend a conference for women, called SHE Summit. Not only would I gain some valuable insight and growth, but also it would be an ideal place to network, and to introduce myself to ideal clients. I went alone, armed with a notebook and business cards, and a nervous heart. And. I knew it was my opportunity to meet new people and share with them. And I knew that what I was doing, and who I was, was worth sharing. Below are a few of my tips that I use when connecting and networking. See what works for you!

Want to learn how to network? Read Hurry Kimmay's blog here!

Tips for Connecting

If you’re looking for basic tips for networking, try an article like 7 Tips for Networking from Entrepreneur. These are simple and powerful. And, below are my own tips for connecting at live events and workshops.

Start With Why (And an Intention) 

This is a popular book and concept from Simon Sinek, and it can apply to just about anything, including networking. Spend some time thinking about WHY you want to network, grow your community, and build relationships. If it’s rooted in “I want that person to make me money or bring me fame or a big opportunity” the sleaze factor is far too high. What would it feel like if you create a (truthful) why and intention centered on ideas that are more compassionate and less self-serving?

A few intentions to try: 

  • I am ready to connect with people with big visions, so that I can practice expanding my own vision.
  • I want to build relationships with people who are outside my normal sphere of influence so I can be a more aware and understanding leader.
  • I am aiming for the stars and I know I need support along the way.
  • I am open to learning from and teaching others.
  • I welcome in new ways to share my expertise and experiences so it may serve others.
  • I am so passionate about business, I can’t wait to share what I do with others and hear what they do, too.
  • I see each person I meet as a full human being, not a stepping stone or connector.
  • I trust that I am connecting with the “right” people for the highest good of all involved. 

Change the Way You Connect

Because of how I approach networking/relationship building, I have shifted how and where I meet people. I still believe in the power of going to events and business meet ups. I think they’re super valuable! And, I also found that the quality of the connections I was getting at some of those events was not in alignment with the kind of relationships I was looking to build. Not everyone had gotten the “don’t be sleazy” memo. And, quite frankly, I felt like I was meeting inauthentic people who were desperately trying to do the networking thing.

So instead of “turning it on” and going to unfulfilling events, I decided to keep an open mind and heart, be myself, and meet people in more authentic ways. That included referrals through my already wonderful community, or doing things that I love, or going to events where I loved the speaker or the message. Then, even if I met no one I still loved my experience. And, wouldn’t you know it, because I was doing something I enjoyed, I was meeting people with so much more ease. Suddenly, “networking” felt less like a chore and more like fun, or deep connection, or exploration. It felt great. Hurray!

A few ideas to explore:

  • Is there a part of your networking routine now that you can update in order to put some Hurray in it?
  • What types of activities or events light you up?
  • What qualities are you looking for in potential partners, clients, and colleagues? Where will you find those people?
  • How can you show up more authentically to attract people and opportunities that align?
  • What kind of relationships do you want to build?
  • Is online or in person best for the kind of relationships you want to build?

Introduce

One of the hardest things to do when networking is to introduce yourself. Even for me, this is tricky. So I use my same friend making best practices here. Use these examples to spark a conversation, to join a group, to interrupt the awkward we’re-both-sitting-here-waiting-for-this-thing-to-start silence. Most of these are for in person events, but some of the same principles can apply to networking online.

  1. Ask about the event. “Have you been to one of these events before?” “What brought you to this event?” “Do you know what time the program starts?”
  2. Compliment them. “I loooove your purse/eyeliner/notebook. You clearly have great taste. Where did you get that?”
  3. Get something for them. If you’re at the snack or drink station, “Can I grab a snack for you?” “I can fill that up for you.”
  4. Make a joke. There’s nothing better than a shared experience and some gentle humor. Depending on your environment, I would avoid anything too lewd or political.
  5. Straight up say hi and introduce yourself. “Hi there! I’m Kimmay. What’s your name?” Include a firm handshake and a smile. I like to repeat their name back to them. That way I clarify what it was (sometimes I mishear) and it gives them a chance to correct me, and I have a better chance of remembering it later.
  6. Introduce them to someone else. Invite others to join in and do the introductions. Whether you’ve just met or you know the other person, be the connector. I love to include something like, “Have you met Blake yet? He’s a rocket scientist based in LA.” It shows my interest in what they’re doing and opens up the conversation for more expansion.
  7. Introduce your business and what you do. Sure an elevator pitch is great here, but remember to include why you love it so much. “Hey there, I’m Kimmay and I run a website for women called Hurray Kimmay because I know that when people learn to love and understand themselves, they are more able to love and understand others. And gosh do we need that right now.”
  8. Share your insights from the event. Did you attend a workshop? Did you write down a great quote? Did you love the cocktails? Share with a new person and ask them what they’ve taken away from the event, too.
  9. Ask where they live. This one has saved me a ton. “Do you live in the area?” or “Where did you grow up?” is especially fun in NYC because we are almost all transplants.
  10. Online? Comment on their thread. Offer a suggestion. Link to a supportive article.

Be curious. Be genuine and authentic. Truly listen. Share and do not compare. Look them in the eye and devote your attention to the being in front of you. That is such a gift.

Stay in Touch

If you are having a great connection with someone, ask to exchange information! This is when you can say something like, “I would love to continue this conversation/learn more about what you do/send you an article that I think you’d love. Do you have a business card?” When you take it, make a note on it. For real! Write down a word or two that helps you remember that person, where you met them, or how you want to support them. If I do this in front of someone, I legit say, “I’m writing down that article to send you so I don’t forget”, or “I want to remember that book you suggested, I’m going to write it here.” You can also use a little notebook and pen for this, but I prefer to put it right on the card if I can. I also keep my business cards in a little pink case and put those I’ve collected in one spot (either in the back of that case or in one small pocket in my bag.) That way they’re all together and not floating around.

Don’t have a business card? Other ways to connect and stay in touch are following each other on Instagram, LinkedIn, or other social media. (Personally, I try not to friend people on their personal Facebook account because I don’t like to do that with someone I don’t really know. Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are my preferred methods.)

If you met someone and got their information, make it a point to follow up. Send an email to say “Hi! It was wonderful to meet you at the {insert where you met them} event! I loved talking about {insert something you remember fondly}. I’m so glad we met! I’m making sure you have my information, too….” This is a polite and important step. And I admit that this is something I can improve on. I often have a great connection at an event and then their business card sits on my desk forever. Suddenly I don’t remember what we’ve talked about and it feels too late to email them. Eek! Sometimes there is a lot going on at events or gatherings, so do you two a favor and send a short and sweet “hello” email shortly after you’ve met so you can keep the conversation going.

But, don’t overdo it.

Real relationship building is about a slow build. Example: I fit someone for a bra who was a writer for a small publication in 2013 or so. I remember that we were giving her a free bra since she was writing about the store I worked for. And since the fitter wasn’t going to make commission, the sales people did not want to waste their time. So I stepped in to help. I had such a wonderful time connecting with her, that even after she published the article, we stayed in touch. I liked her Instagram photos, she liked mine, etc. And several years later I posted about my article on how 9 different bra sizes can all fit and my More Than My Numbers project. She contacted me on Instagram asking if she could write about it. Because we liked and new each other, I said yes right away. I wasn’t even sure who she wrote for now. Turns out, she’s an editor for Insider – an online publication that gets a LOT of readers. After she published the article, it got picked up by MSN, where a producer from The Rachael Ray Show saw it, and contacted me to come on the show. That one meeting several years ago, and me being willing to Show Up and Be Nice (a favorite motto of mine) came back to me in glorious dividends later. Had I asked myself then “What can you do for me?”, I may have stopped being friendly with her after the first publication. {Note: this is just one really obvious thread like this, and I have sevvvvveral, including many I’m not even aware of, I’m sure!}

So don’t force it too fast. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had wonderful people reach out to introduce themselves to me … and ask to partner, ask for me to do something for them, or ask me to buy something from them all in the same email or meeting. Wow! Let’s slow things down here. It would be like a guy saying “hi” for the first time, asking me out, choosing our kid’s names, and a wedding date all in one short conversation. No thank you! If you’ve already met, it’s ok to include a simple invite to chat again, grab coffee, meet up at another event, etc in your follow up email. And if you two have already discussed something specific about working together, go for it. But I highly suggest slowing things down and really creating space to get to know each other before diving in to partnership ideas or referral requests. Keep these people in your thoughts and hearts. And genuinely connect.

Support and Share

Your follow up email can include some kind of support. Maybe it’s an article about a topic you two were discussing. Or ::gasp!:: even something non business related. If you two talked about cooking, or dress shopping, or kids – send them a tip or link or suggestion about it. This should be a no agenda offer. It’s support – not selling. It’s sharing – not pushing.

A few ideas: 

  • Follow them on social media and leave thoughtful comments or retweet their posts.
  • Show your support of their project.
  • Send them a no agenda referral of a book or helpful article.
  • Connect them with someone.
  • Find them on LinkedIn.
  • Sign up for their email list.
  • Invite them to sign up for yours (but PLEASE do not take the email address and add them to your list, or your Facebook group, or your whatever without permission.)
  • Feature their product or service on your blog.
  • Donate to their cause.
  • Be a friend. Nurture.

Partner

Eventually, it may feel right to ask your new business friend to help you. Or to offer a way to work together. Or to refer you to someone else. Just like with any relationship, you’ll know when it’s right. And just like any relationship, the support should flow both ways. Be a giver and a receiver. Be a builder for them and for you. Partnering with someone you know and trust puts more Hurray in the whole experience – for both of you!

A note on bras…

It wouldn’t be right for me to not mention bras here. I can hear you now: “in a networking post??” Yes. Because fully showing up requires you to lead with your heart. And your heart is guarded by your bust. So if you have any confusion (what size should I even be wearing?), discomfort (this underwire is killing me), or shame (ugh these things are out of control) in the area of your heart, you’ll block your truest, most heart lead version from coming forward. Not to mention, by wearing a bra that fits well, you’ll feel and look your very best in your clothes, stand stall and be confident, and look polished and professional. Hurray! Check out my Top 5 Bra Fitting Tips or book a fitting with me.

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Stay in tonight or Network? Kimmay helps you get ready to Network your best self on the blog!

Want to know my favorite way to connect, support, and build relationships, all while learning and growing my business? It’s The Conquer Club. I’m inviting people to join this year long incubator through me. I believe in it so much that I’m going on my 5th year in the club! The community is amazing. And part of my bonus includes a smaller, private group to go through the year together. The women in that group go far beyond my “network”, they are now my business buds, my confidants, my supporters, and my girl gang. Interested in joining?

Step 1: Join the Conquer Accelerator, a free 10 day business boost for those serious about stepping it up and making an impact. This is a great taste of what the full year of The Conquer Club will have to offer. Use my link to sign up. It starts Wednesday November 1st! Hop in and join us.

Step 2: Book a call with me and ask me ANYTHING about The Conquer Club and what we do and learn. We’ll see if it’s the right fit for you and your vision, and if my bonuses are what will support you best on your business journey. Hurry! The enrollment for the Conquer Club starts 11/8.

Let connect.

Psst! Photos in this post are by Katie Perry for WeWork Creator Magazine.

 

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