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WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

How To Strengthen Your Professional and Personal Network

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If you, like me, have based your network connections on industry, corporation and executive level, you have been missing a golden opportunity. I’ve realized this since speaking with Pamela Ryckman (pictured above), author of best-selling book, The Stiletto Network. She advises that networks should be built on our passions and our joys - our constants versus changeables like industry, organization and job level. Our long-term constants provide the base from which we can grow into successfull entrepreneurs and contributors to society.

I met Ryckman at the Executive Women’s Forum Conference in October. We were both keynote speakers and became fast friends. She talked to me about Stiletto Networks, groups of women that coalesce around changing business for the better. She described the six steps necessary to building a better network. 

Strive for emotional satisfaction. Ryckman says that the best network builders look for something deeper than a typical power-based agenda. "It seems counter-intuitive," reports Ryckman, "These power networks are formed based on shared values between smart, kind women who genuinely wanted to help each other and make the world a better place." Those deep connections form the foundation for turning new great business ideas into the next big thing through thoughtful collaboration. Women who willingly share their hard earned expertise as well as extend relationships with power-players with the women in their networks will achieve the highest emotional satisfaction.

Adopt a giving attitude. "When people talk about giving, they think about going for the jugular," says Ryckman. We often hear networking advice that tells us to target key people to meet based on what we want to receive in the form of introductions and advice. Instead we ought to lead by giving, not by selfishly thinking about "who is going to help me?" To boot, being of service to others has the unintentional benefit of significantly increasing personal social capital.

Share your connections. Ryckman used to believe that being a great listener (she is!) was the best gift she could give to someone who came to her with an idea or seeking advice. That’s all changed. "Now I think about the introductions I can make," says Ryckman. Many women are afraid to reach out on someone’s behalf. Ryckman also used to worry about asking for favors and expending her political capital. But that's not the case. She explains,"People are helpful, and if they can’t help, they usually introduce you to someone who can."

Establish a constant flow of useful information. People may naturally limit relationships to people in like-industries and with seemingly common interests. "I love to watch trends and see the intersections of innovations." Follow her on Twitter @PamelaRyckman, go to her site, or follow her on Stiletto Network’s Facebook page and you can see Ryckman loves the intersection of industries. Establish a constant flow into your network of interesting insights and introduce people to each who normally would not meet. Then watch ideas spark around you.

Create the world you want to inhabit. "Every connection you make is a reflection on you," says Ryckman, who refuses to invite a jerk into her network. She helps people she likes. Seeing her friends succeed is a clear source of joy, one that she works hard to sustain.

Pursue network expansion as a free agent. I saved my personal epiphany from Stiletto Network for last. So many of us believe that organizations are a mechanism to build our networks. Big mistake. "What happens when you leave or get laid off?" asks Ryckman. Build relationships with people you like, relationships that transcend beyond your day job and extend into common areas of passion and joy. Ryckman has worked in multiple industries. Her relationships and relations grow with each move. The common thread isn’t what she does for a living; it’s the passion and joy that creates the foundation for Ryckman’s personal Stiletto Network.

It’s time to reexamine your network. Identify the areas you want to strengthen in your own network and, as Pamela says, look for ways you can help others through introductions and a giving attitude. 

Last updated: Jan 24, 2014

PATRICIA FLETCHER | Columnist

Scholar-practitioner, experienced high-tech marketer and advocate for meaningful innovation, Patricia Fletcher is passionate about leveling the imbalanced technology playing field to include all the best innovators. She blogs at www.psdnetwork.com and tweets at @pkfletcher.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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