Lauren Windle shares her tips for connecting with other professionals in a way that doesn’t feel shallow and draining.
The idea of networking fills most of us with dread. Connection with others is valuable and life-giving, but often networking can be the opposite. It can feel like a draining and anxiety-inducing exercise in self-promotion.
But, for both those in the private and charities sectors, it is a vital tool in building helpful contacts and learning from our peers. It is for that reason that I am pro networking – even though it means pushing back against the overwhelming desire I have to stay at home and never meet new people.
Here is how I think we can do networking well as Christians…
Put yourself out there
I know it’s a trite phrase but it is important. If you feel you are in need of a better professional network, you need to be turning up to new events and speaking to new people when you get there. You can also have a look for Christian conferences and groups for those in business in your area.
Be interested and interesting
Here’s a good opportunity to really listen and ask insightful questions. Everyone has a story, passions, skills and perspectives that you can learn from. You never know how God can use those around you to guide you towards something he has lined up for you. Give people space to talk and enjoy listening, ask questions and chip in with your own relevant anecdotes.
Don’t just look for value in a person’s job
The worst feeling in a “networking” environment is telling someone your job and seeing them visibly switch off from the conversation. Every individual is of value and there is something we can learn from everyone. This applies even if their work isn’t directly related to yours or you can’t see an immediate way that the contact would benefit you.
Read more on business
Keep the conversation going
After you’ve made contact with someone, keep the conversation going. That doesn’t mean you have to have a monthly dinner with each person – you’re not made of time and money. But just a friendly email here and there, checking in on their project or business will keep good relations between you. It’s important not to just message people when you want something.
Be open handed with your connections
Yes, you may have worked hard to nurture your connections and relationships but what we have, we give away (Matthew 13:12). If you know that two people would benefit from an introduction, offer to make it for them. You’ll find people are keen to do the same for you and then all of our networks grow in a fruitful way.
Not every opportunity is a networking opportunity
If you’re at an event designed for connecting with new people, or even just a normal drinks and nibbles party – it’s fair game to approach anyone. But if you happen to be in the same place as someone, like at a private event or at a festival or in the same office building, it may not be the networking opportunity you think it is. Sometimes being brave and making an unsolicited approach pays dividends and others you can come across as socially inept and rude. Pray about it and no that sometimes, you just need to let it go.
The Woman Alive podcast is out now! Available on Premier.plus, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Please do rate and review the podcast and share the episodes you’ve enjoyed, with the women – or indeed men! – in your life.