professional development

The therapeutic power of networking done right

Fi Bendall /

Sometimes it is easier to stay at home. Sometimes you’d rather sit on the beach. Sometimes it all seems like too much effort to get out and meet new people, especially when there’s so much work to be done. And if I want to connect with new people, can’t I just do that on LinkedIn?

Networking. For some, it’s a necessary evil, while for others, it’s an excruciating exercise that inspires fear and dread. A few of us actually do enjoy getting out and meeting people, talking about what we do, establishing new contacts and relationships, swapping a business card or two. But networking can be a slog.

However, I firmly believe that networking, done right, is not only about expanding your contacts base and mining the potential for new opportunities. It’s also a great way to challenge your thinking, open yourself to new ideas, and find the people you need around you to achieve your goals.

I recently attended a workshop called ‘Born to Disrupt’, which was run by Kelly Stickel, the founder and chief executive of Remodista. Chicago-based Stickel started Remodista in 2010 after a successful consulting career at companies like Accenture and Acquity Group. In founding Remodista, she recognised the massive shifts taking place in business (and society), especially in her specialist areas of retail and finance, and that there was a role for people like herself in connecting talent, cultivating collaboration and finding innovative solutions.

I was in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon that just had leisurely lunch in St Kilda written all over it. But I had committed myself instead to heading along to an office block in the CBD and sitting in a boardroom with a bunch of people, most of whom I didn’t know.

The next three hours with Stickel and the other 16 or so female entrepreneurs in that boardroom flew by as we talked about our respective journeys. 

Stickel started with a quote from Dan Millman: “Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear”. We then went on to a four-part discussion around the topics of inspiration, friction, fear and success.

This was the type of networking event that went far deeper than swapping business cards and connecting over LinkedIn. Stickel teased out from each of us our greatest fears and grandest ambitions in regard to our businesses. There was a lot of laughter and even some sadness.

The thing is that I went into that room not totally knowing what to expect, though I knew Stickel had a great reputation as a facilitator, and left feeling emboldened and energised. The women in that room were doing incredible things, and it made me feel so inspired to hear their stories.

When the discussion got around to books we could recommend, a couple of people put forth Janine Garner’s book It’s Who You Know. This made me so happy because Janine is a friend and someone I really respect when it comes to advice on networking (after all, she’s written a book about it!).

There’s a quote in her book that sums up how I felt about my experience at the ‘Born to Disrupt’ workshop: “I choose to surround myself with positive, big-picture, can-do thinkers. I choose to surround myself with the right people. This is what fuels the fire in my belly, puts the spring in my step and waters the seeds of ideas that grow in my mind”.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs work very hard. Sometimes they work themselves into a cocoon and lose touch with the energising power of connecting. Search out events like ‘Born to Disrupt’ that put you in touch with can-do people — the right people. Done right, networking is about more than growing your LinkedIn contacts; it’s about connecting with the people who can inspire you to be your very best.

NOW READ: Scared of networking? Here’s how to do it to make connections that last

Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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