Guest Blog: Networking is like Making Friends in every Department by Lindsay McLoughlin

In another life, in another time, I found myself with a new job in a large department in a huge organisation. The size, culture and shape of the organisation couldn’t have been more different to anything I had experienced up until that point.

I was pretty sure I could carry out the role I had been recruited for, but I was not so sure I could “get a handle” on the enormity of the organisation. I needed to know how it worked and how I could get it to work for me and – just as importantly – for the team I was there to build, shape, create and grow.

Within a couple of days, I had a plan…

…I needed support from all the teams throughout the substantial building. In other words, I needed a friend in every department.

I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but I was developing an internal networking strategy. I made it my goal to mix and meet with as many people throughout the building as possible, whether their role related to mine or not. I started building work-like-trust relationships. I was raising my head above the parapet, getting to know people so relationships were already in place for if/when I wanted to get in touch a bit further down the road. The plan worked like a treat.

A few years later, my family moved out of London and I left the “corporate me” behind. With three small children at school & nursery, I started a proofreading/copywriting/blogging service, aimed at small businesses in the area. With this new step, I was motivated and excited about this latest reinvention of me, but there was no team, no sounding board and, crucially, no clients!

First venture into networking

On the advice of a friend, I went to an Athena Women’s Networking meeting. This was a life-changer. Athena became the main source of my business clients over the next eight years. But Athena brought so much more than that; it brought training, strategic alliances, support and kindness, friendships, personal growth…

But it also brought relationships for the personal and family moments, when I needed them.

Just like my time back in corporate, I had made friends/connections in every department. Over time, I had built up know-like-trust relationships with nutritionists, therapists, travel consultants, bookkeepers, accountants, solicitors, care providers, photographers, stylists etc. Over the years, I have worked with all these people for a mix of business, personal and family reasons.

Networking brings relationships with people before you need them

When the time comes for needing them, the know-like-trust relationships are already in place, ready and waiting for when the time comes to get in touch. This is no different to building relationships with people in a traditional corporate environment that you may have left behind in an earlier “you”.

Working at home on your own business can be isolating and uninspiring, without a team around you. Networking can help you to find new connections, grow your business and be inspired .

Want a few networking tips?

If you are new to networking, here are my five top tips for making a success of new business relationships:

1. Make yourself a promise to make at least one new connection at each networking event you attend

2. Engage with and connect emotionally with the person you have just met. Make it an open two-way exchange and a balanced conversation, and not all about business

3. Don't forget your business cards! Connect and chat, and then politely suggest you exchange business cards so you can keep in touch

4. It's always useful to make a few notes at the event, or when you are back at your desk, about your new contacts to help you remember the person you met and how the conversation went.

Think of it as simply looking for friends in every department!

 Lindsay McLoughlin is the Regional Director for the Athena Network, Maidenhead, Marlow & Cookham

After being an Athena member for several years, Lindsay jumped at the opportunity to run the region. She now runs four successful Athena Network groups.

About Athena

The Athena network is an international networking, training and development business club for female executives and entrepreneurs. It is passionate about bringing women together, helping them to grow stronger, more profitable businesses and creating opportunities for career success. It’s 3 main aims are:

○ To create opportunities for members to make strategic connections and accelerate business growth.
○ To inspire success and collaboration by developing members’ business and networking skills.
○ Encourage women in business to inspire and support others to achieve success

Regional Directors, like Lindsay create and host friendly, fun and informal business networking meetings, which attract warm, welcoming, friendly and supportive women. It’s all about relationship-building. Once the relationships are there, the business relationships and referrals start to come in.

If you are local to Maidenhead, Marlow or Cookham, feel free to get in touch with Lindsay if you would like to find out more and/or visit one of her monthly events. Alternatively visit the UK website to find out the location of your nearest group.

Email:             Lindsay.mcloughlin@theathenanetwork.com

Mobile:            07977 989862

Lindsay’s Website: https://theathenanetwork.com/lindsaymcloughlin/

Find your local group here: https://theathenanetwork.com/groups