Building Connections: Knowing Who to (and Not to) Pursue

Building ConnectionsBuilding connections is important regardless of your industry, position, or tenure. Simply put, it’s hard to get anywhere in life without the help of others. Going at it alone can only do so much; you’ll still have to rely on external help and guidance at some point if you really want to succeed and exceed your expectations on yourself.

This is especially true in your business or professional career. As such, it’s highly important to look at the significance of connections and knowing who you should pursue (and avoid) in building them.

Why Connect?

In a nutshell, connections provide opportunities to learn, grow, and become a more accomplished person, as well as a chance to give back to others and your community. These connections lead to additional beneficial relationships, fuelling your growth as a business person or professional. However, please remember that, when seeking connections, your mindset shouldn’t be one that’s just about financial gain. Growing your financial capability and making that your sole purpose will lead to negatives such as unrealistic expectations and shallow, unauthentic connections that may bring more harm than good.

Connection Advice

Not everyone is an extrovert and comfortable in networking and approaching strangers. There are many ways to connect and channels you can use, even if you’re shy and uncomfortable with networking.

For example, you can employ the power of social media networks like LinkedIn which has 4.2 million active Australian users. Being active on LinkedIn will raise your profile and help get you noticed. Offline, you could try getting involved in work, community, or industry groups where there’s a good chance you’ll meet interesting, like-minded individuals who not only share your values but also could offer guidance in your own career. As a businesswoman you can also choose to attend female-only networking events if you feel more comfortable interacting with fellow women and in a space that nurtures collaboration. Find something that works with your schedule, and try coming up with your own communication strategy, such as having your own elevator pitch. You also need to have an objective that you want to achieve when attending each event such as to gain a meaningful connection or business opportunity.

Which Connections Matter?

Finding people you want to connect with is much easier than thinking about who to avoid. Start by connecting with people who interest you and represent the values you want to embody. Australian entrepreneur and brand ambassador Jennifer Hawkins said, “Loyalty, kindness and compassion are very important in friendship and business partnerships. I like to think I have those qualities, too.” When you decide you want to hear what people say and their story, you’ll have a much more genuine connection. Experience is also an important factor. When someone has accomplished or experienced much, they have a great story to tell. You’ll appreciate and even learn from what they have to say.

Who to Welcome

Knowing who you should connect with comes down to your goals not only for your business or profession but also for yourself. For example, connecting with recruiters (head hunters) makes sense if you are seeking career opportunities, while meeting key industry stakeholders and personalities is beneficial if you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of your industry. Thus, your connection strategy may change depending on what you want to achieve. Whatever it is that you need help with, focus on how a potential connection can help you meet your goal. This helps keep you organised in your interactions as well.

At the core of any strategy is, of course, a common denominator you share with the persons you want to build a connection with. You’ve only got so much time and attention to give so pursue connections proactively but efficiently.

Find people who not only have the same values as you, but also encourage you to improve and extend yourself. You could also surround yourself with different kinds of people who share the same values to give you an idea of how to interact and speak with individuals with different personalities. Diversity in connections is important since, as you go along in your career, you’ll have to deal with all sorts of people on your way to success.

Knowledge in a particular field you want to excel in is also another factor you should consider. People who have knowledge and experience know what it takes to succeed in their own industry and, if you connect with them, you could be the recipient of invaluable knowledge that will give you a competitive edge compared to others who ignore the value of connections. This is why industry experts, speakers, and recognised alumni are sought after, and having them in your circles gives your own profile added credence.

Ultimately, the best connections are those that are mutually beneficial. For instance, a writer may provide a guest post on another company’s blog through a connection. The writer gets more name recognition and the company gets quality content. You could also trade expertise with a connection, enhancing both parties’ skills in the process. The important thing is that it shouldn’t be one-sided.

Who not to Pursue

On the other side of the spectrum, you should also know who you should not pursue. This is not to say you dislike them but, in the long run, there are connections that won’t give you any value and could even lead to poor relationships and you being taken advantage of. Watch out for red flags, such as negativity. People who are very negative and talk bad of others shouldn’t be pursued as they can demotivate you and affect how you interact with others. You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life. Red flags include if you get the sense a person isn’t being truthful. Honesty, in your career, business, or personal life, should be top priority. Trust your gut feel.

Stay clear of those who don’t support your own success. Remember, everyone’s in their own pursuit of happiness and success; you don’t need to feel guilty about achieving it, and you don’t have to explain yourself. Also, these people bring little in terms of encouragement, which is something we all need at different times.

Reputation matters so be protective of yours. If there’s anyone in your network, group, or business who clearly has a questionable reputation and an attitude to match it, it’s probably good to not associate yourself with them. Think things through first since connecting with someone with little or no integrity may reflect poorly on you, affecting your business or professional life.

Last but not the least, be wary of “fake personalities”. As previously mentioned, honesty is important. They may act positively in front of you but, in the background, spread rumours for their own personal gain, affecting your own growth and how others perceive you, which is important since we are our own brands.

Where to Start

There’s much to learn about being connected, and much to be said about its importance. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, has this to say, “Leaders need to find that place of wisdom, strength, and real connection (with themselves and others) and they need to lead from that place. Only from that place they can truly create miracles and change the world.” As with many things in life, building the right connections takes practice and patience but, as long as you have the right motivation, values and mindset, there’s every reason you will be successful.

Want to get started on finding the right connections? We at Behind Closed Doors nurture and cultivate the kind of environment business and career women need to find and build connections for true business and professional development. We value working together and have the mentorship, networking, and resources to extend women further to ensure their continued success.

Donny

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Be Heard: Why Speaking Up and Building Relationships Matter

Be HeardYour voice matters. As a business woman, you may sometimes hesitate to make a name for yourself or proclaim what you can do. You may feel like you need to hold back or keep your ideas to yourself to avoid offending anyone.

But what you have to say is important. In fact, it is valuable. Putting yourself forward and building relationships is empowering. Not only will you empower yourself, you’ll empower those around you. Opportunities for professional, business, and personal growth occur as a result of these relationships. Here we’ll talk about the benefits of being heard and the value of building connections.

What Does “Being Heard” Mean?

In simplest terms, it means speaking up. This could be in the boardroom, around an executive table, at a networking event or just in everyday conversations. Having a “seat at the table” offers you the chance to tell your story, your experiences, share knowledge and your expertise. Think about how you can contribute to every situation you find yourself in on a daily basis.

You have the right to be heard. Take opportunities to connect with others who embody the qualities you find ideal. These connections will help you grow as a person and progress in your business or career. Giving and earning the respect of others will also enhance your emotional intelligence—something that’s needed if you want to build strong connections with more people.

Why Speaking Up Matters

Having a plan to expand your network makes for success in business, and part of it should be you aiming to be heard. In a general sense, not being afraid to speak up and be heard makes your presence known to more people. This is important because, if you want to build more connections, other people should know first that you exist, that you are a woman of substance, and that they need to take you seriously.

Being heard also gives the impression that you are confident in your own abilities and in who you are. This is another trait successful businesswomen share. Without confidence, you will hesitate in facing new challenges, talking to more people, and exploring opportunities. By speaking up, you’ll let others know that you are confident, and those willing to pursue new business or professional connections will find this more appealing than talking to someone who seems to be too afraid to take risks.

Speaking up and being heard also broadcasts what you can do, what you’ve gone through, and what you believe in. While there’s a risk that some won’t agree with what you say, there will also be those who share your views and values. This opens up possible opportunities such as business partnerships, joint ventures, or events and engagements (e.g. public speaking opportunities) that will bring valuable business or professional experience.

Last but not the least, you being heard is also a chance for other women to be heard as well. Confidence is contagious and you speaking up and sharing your opinions and success stories will inspire other women to follow in your footsteps and shed the veil of anonymity. Like you, they’ll develop the needed poise to interact with more people and the confidence to take on challenges on their way to achieving their own success.

There are certain events and interactions that are conducive to women who want to be heard and build meaningful professional or business relationships, such as the ones below.

Networking Events

Networking is one way to build both professional and business connections. Through networking events, you’ll meet a variety of people, from those who are just starting out to experts who have made it in their fields. It is also a way to know more people who share what you stand for, what you believe in, and your own business or career values. However, there’s no sense to be too timid or anonymous in a networking event—chances are, no one will approach you if you don’t speak up or make any effort to let others know you.

If you’re new to networking, you can opt for women-only networking events. This type of networking provides a more comfortable space where women can talk more freely and share experiences. Women sometimes have the tendency to not ask for advice even when amongst peers. In a women-only networking event, you’ll feel less self-conscious about speaking up or asking for tips.

Mentoring

Being a mentor in a mentoring relationship is rewarding. Mentoring fellow women, in corporate programs, or through professional associations can greatly impact other women who aspire to have leadership roles. Through mentorship, you can encourage others to be more confident in their abilities and empower them to face challenges and progress in their respective fields. Your voice has the ability to empower those around you and, in return, they’ll feel grateful and hold you in high regard.

Mentorship extends beyond the workplace. Being a part of your community or through volunteer activities, you can meet other women who have similar interests as you. If you are a mentee and need advice on becoming a mentor, the connections you form within your community will help you build your self-esteem and get to know more people at a deeper level which is important if you want to be a successful mentor.

Social Media

You don’t have to be physically present to speak up and be heard. You can go online and reach even more people through your digital voice.

For example, how often do you use LinkedIn to get advice, pitch an idea, engage in a business or professional conversation, or write a post? It’s not just a portal to showcase your resume; it’s one of the fastest-growing social media networks. It’s also a place to build and nurture relationships through constant communication, and women can have a strong presence on this platform.

Naomi Simson, CEO of online gifts and experiences retailer Red Balloon and a LinkedIn influencer, has over 2.5 million followers and has used the platform as a way to build her personal brand, her company, and relationships with other women. She is an avid poster on the site offering her wisdom. Naomi said of gaining success on social media, “Posting consistently, writing the way you speak and offering original ideas are the best ways to build a major following on social media and garner influence as a thought leader.” This is an example of how being heard and having a voice, may it be online or offline, can positively affect your business or career growth.

It’s Hard to Get Anywhere on Your Own

Speaking up, being engaged, and being involved in person or online is a must for success. It’s hard to get anywhere in your business, career, and, most importantly, in life without a support system or external relationships. You can’t be always silent; you can’t be a wallflower if you want to be in the conversation. Fashion legend Anna Wintour, once said, “In today’s world, you have to interact. You have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus, and what you believe in.”

If you need advice, empowerment, and guidance to help you speak up and be heard and in building positive relationships, it’s wise to seek the help of the right people you can learn from and share ideas with. At Behind Closed Doors, our focus is on helping women achieve business and professional growth through networking, mentorship, and having an environment where women can help each other achieve their goals, objectives and dreams. Learn more about how Behind Closed Doors can help point you on the path to success by watching the stories of some of our members.

Donny

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