Networking is important, but it sure does get a bad rap.
My personal aversion to this type of event started many years ago, when I was starting out in my career. "Networking" seemed to be all about distributing business cards and half listening to waffling answers to the question "so, what do you do..." over lukewarm hotel quiches while people in shoulder pads blabbed about their rise to the top. In a bid to escape the typical shindigs in very male-dominated industries, I started rocking up to events that felt the need to over-emphasise a cliched brand of femininity. Still, the pink-washing of #girlboss events felt out of step because the nature of the events weren't at all altered. Where was the connection, the deep conversation, the camaraderie?
Since getting more deeply involved in the entrepreneurial community in my city, I've found smaller scale groups that do networking a whole lot differently. These gatherings offer the promise of belonging and celebrate the acknowledgement of our interdependence as business owners.
I believe this sense of connection is important because it leads us from superficial small talk to the kinds of conversations that draw out and test our willingness to welcome new people and ideas into our inner circles and test our capacity to give with no expectation of anything in return. These are elements that I want to nurture in my business and in my self which cannot develop in isolation, much less in a business culture suspicious of transparency and fixated on fear of competition.
Meaningful, open networking is about building communities of people around us for the purpose of offering mutual support and fostering collaboration. Coming together like this is the only way I've found in business to discover truly creative solutions to my problems and open myself up to bigger possibilities.
Last Wednesday I had the most wonderful time at the event my friends and I at Homeroom hosted for a small group of Brisbane business ladies, but I'd never want to limit myself to just one group. I've loved being part of The Creative Women's Circle in Australia, and I'm thrilled that Creative Mornings will be starting up here in the next few months.