Back in around 2009, a couple of years after setting up my own business and becoming self-employed, I walked into a room of female strangers, got out of my comfort zone and did the very un-British thing of talking about myself and how good I am at what I do.
No, I am not a boastful person, but I had walked into my first networking group as a way to promote my business.
Aside from the obvious benefit of finding new business through the Athena Network, I have found many other benefits to becoming a regular member of such a group.
On a personal level, the training has been useful for my working and home life, learning about everything from tax to time management and chakras to mindfulness. The support aspect, which is key when you are working alone and for yourself, has also been an added bonus. From a business perspective, I have found suppliers and alliances who I can refer to.
Now that the dread of standing up and delivering a minute’s speech at the monthly meetings has eased, I have even taken on the role of chairing one of my groups. They say that many fear public speaking more than the notion of death, but I can honestly say walking into a room of all females isn’t that scary. Mixed groups may not be too, but I prefer the all-female approach. Why is this? I get on with men, I can talk football at the pub and many of my clients are male, but when it comes to networking, the vibe of an all-female group is one I think cannot be beaten.
Women are great listeners and we tend to genuinely want to help and retain information, which makes us natural referrers. The friendship aspect and the making work not feel like work aspect comes naturally with all women groups as well; We are there for each other and we want each other to do well and succeed.
A group of women doesn’t have to be bitchy or man-hating, but it can be uplifting and supportive. I genuinely leave my monthly meetings feeling buoyed up and ready to take on the world! As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Moving aside from the personal development, the learning, the business growth, the friends and allies I have met and the increased profits, there’s another reason I would recommend female networking groups. Speaking in public and showcasing what you have to offer, and what knowledge and experiences you have, is brilliant for your self-esteem. When you then get positive feedback that ‘imposter syndrome’ voice in your head starts to disappear too. It doesn’t go away, as sadly I think us ladies suffer with this syndrome from time to time, but the supportive nature of a tribe certainly helps to quieten down that voice.
Luckily, I personally haven’t tripped up in my heels or walked in with my knickers tucked into my skirt, but I have stumbled on my words, had tears and spilt a bit of lunch on my top, but that makes me human and one of the girls.
My all-female networking group has taught me a lot about knowing and realising my worth and it encourages me to be the best version of myself that I can be. Of course, the world of running your own business is full of ups and downs but feeling supported by a tribe who has your back certainly helps in the times of uncertainty.
Have you tried networking? What are your experiences? Tell us below!
Nicole Martin is the director of Pinpoint Marketing Consultancy Ltd