I used to think that I did not like networking - but really it was the exercise of going into a room full of strangers, talking about what I do and handing out my card that I hated. This is not networking, or it is what networking looks like to someone who does not know how to do it well. It comes easily and naturally to some people and not to others. Often, exactly what is meant by networking is not communicated well. The end result returning from a conference with a pocket full of business cards of people they may or may not remember talking to and then those people may or may not get added to a bulk email list. There might be some follow up emails and calls, but really - the whole experience of getting your card was awkward to start with, so this formal email follow ups feels even more uncomfortable.
It felt like an epiphany when I realized that (for me) networking is not about being able to tell corporate how many business cards I gave away and how many leads I got from a given activity. Networking is about relationships, real relationships. It is about building relationships with people where the connection is genuine and the relationship is mutually beneficial. The best connections in your network are the people whose success is linked to your own. This is exactly why we feed the neighbor’s cat when we are out of town.
Sure, I like the neighbor’s cat, and it is great if they want to feed my cat when I am out of town -- but it goes deeper than that. We are both also invested in the safety of our neighborhood and we know that by feeding each other’s cat we are both keeping an eye on a house that may be vacant for a few days. We are coming and going, maybe turning a light on off here and there. Sometimes we even send each other silly pictures of the cats while they are away. We are in relationship with each other. We are supporting each other, we are supporting our community and we are supporting those rascal cats that might tear up the curtains while we are away if they don’t get some entertainment.
I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I love learning about life experiences that are different from mine. When I talk to new people with fresh perspectives and different ideas - this is when I feel most alive. Spending time with people and having the opportunity to really visit with them - it provides me with fresh perspective, and sparks the creative part of my brain. I have had these moments at campfires with friends, in hotel lobbies and restaurants when working on a team, and on long car drives. If someone had told me that this is networking, maybe I would have become a fan a long time ago.
When networking moves beyond the self-interest of “what is in it for me” and towards the goal of doing something for the community, there is something transformational that can happen. We have seen this at charity fundraisers where the experience of being in it together brings people closer together.
I am driven to not just support other women in our field but to build the kind of real community where this can happen. When I help a friend tackle the question of EHR integration that they have been struggling with and they help me with the PR effort for my new organization we are moving beyond a simple mutually beneficial relationship. We are building community, we are sharing our knowledge and resources in a way that is also strengthening both of our positions in the industry. In fact, the more we amplify each other and reflect back the dedication, hard work, achievements, creativity, and resourcefulness of our network, the more light shines on our work. We set examples for the women around us about confidence, goal setting and building a network that is about something that is bigger than ourselves. We might even send each other fun & silly snaps along the way as we move towards our goals.
This is what Doyenne Connections is all about. Yes, it will be beneficial for you as a member, it will be beneficial to your business as a sponsor - but more than that, it is going to be beneficial for the community of women in Health IT. We are engaging in a deeper kind of networking. This deeper networking far beyond who you can buy and sell things with. It is about authentically supporting the people that make up our community. It is about having the kind of reciprocal relationships that not only mutually beneficial, but beneficial to the community as a whole.