A whole ‘nother networking problem

The other night I went to a networking event where we went around the room, introducing ourselves and announcing the types of connections and advice we are seeking.

The group was made up of unemployed women, women developing their own businesses or coaching practices, and women doing both simultaneously. The vast majority were in their thirties or older and had impressive stories. One (or more) had supervised staffs numbering 50 or more. Some had been corporate vice presidents. Others had sold to or counseled C-suite executives.

About halfway round the room, one woman, in getting up to speak, remarked that her qualifications paled in comparison to those of the other women. The group reflexively groaned as if to say, in a supportive way, that yes, you are worthy, don’t undervalue yourself.

We read a lot about how to network effectively: how to break into conversations that look interesting, what to say when we can’t think of anything smart to say, and how to give, not just take.

But sometimes our own self doubts diminish our networking efforts much more than the rare perceived coldness from others.

I know how this works first hand. I’ve dragged myself to the car feeling like a Stuart Smalley reject: I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, and doggone it, people don’t like me.

OK, maybe some people like me but I’m not good enough or smart enough to compete with these superstars (or rock stars, as they’re called lately).

At such times, telephoning and similar one-on-one seems easier than facing the competition.

We must remember that many of these networkers are not competing for the jobs or assignments we want; they are not actually the competition. And even if they are going after the same work, they may not be as qualified as we are. Everyone presents herself in the best possible light—including us. It’s about how we excel at the requirements for the task at hand, not titles, degrees and achievements unrelated to the work.

The solution?

Sometimes it is the long drive home with music that soothes or distracts, a cup of tea or a long walk.

Sometimes it is to read over our own resume or marketing copy and remind ourselves we really are the individuals glorified. In print, we are surprisingly impressive.

Sometimes it is about bringing ourselves to a calm, contemplative state, remembering the value we bring to the world.

One solution that does not work, long-term, is to avoid networking events where we are around successful people. Let’s remind ourselves that the people who are the most intimidating (due to their successes, not their haughty attitudes) expose us to the ideas and contacts that inspire our climb to higher levels.

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2 responses to “A whole ‘nother networking problem

  1. This is true even when you’re not networking for business purposes. A few years ago I joined an alumni committee that had some very successful members, including people well known in the media. I felt in awe of some of them, including the man who has chaired the committee for the past two years: he is accomplished in three different fields and comes from a prominent family.

    But I also noticed something important: Although he has a dynamic and enthusiastic personality, his leadership style was not to dominate but to elicit the other members’ ideas and make sure that everyone was listened to. Differences of opinion were OK, and the discussions were always respectful.

    When I was asked to chair the committee for the coming two years, my first thought was “No way, I’ll never be as good and I’ll make a fool of myself.” But then I said to myself, “Come on, Barbara, step up to the plate. It’s your turn.” I’ll have a group wonderful, intelligent people working with me. I’ll have some good ideas to offer, and they will also. I’ll make sure that everyone has their say and that everyone is respected, just as he did. I’ll do just fine!

  2. Barbara, good for you! I’m sure you’ll do a great job.

    -Diana

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