I have always known networking is important but I saw a new perspective on it today that I wish had seen earlier in life.
If you are thinking about starting a business, but don't yet know exactly what that looks like, or, if you have a clear idea in mind but aren't sure where to start, you can make incredible progress right now. Really.
Here it is: expanding your network to include intentionally meeting people involved in something that you are interested in.
And here is another thing: You DON'T need a full blown idea and a fat business plan to start networking with people that can inspire and help you start your business, eventually. The most amazing idea on the planet will be slow to grow, or might not even ever see the light of day, if your network is weak.
If you don't know what your exact idea is, but you have a restless desire to start a business, adopt a Founder's mindset. Go to conferences and meetups focused on your interests. Start meeting the people NOW that you will need later.
As women we often worry "do I have a right to be here?" "Here" being a certain meeting, group, conference, conversation, luncheon or coffee meeting. (Barbara Corcoran has a great chapter about this in her fun book If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom)
It is totally fine to show up at meetings / events just because you are fascinated by the subject. I have attended seminars about sustainable ranching practices. Why? I love wide open spaces and cows. Guess what? It turns out grass fed ranching is really about water management. One rancher said, "I got into ranching because I like cows, and really all I am is a glorified plumber." Huh, good to know. Does my fantasy of a ranch include plumbing? Take away: Its unlikely I'll ever have a ranch, but if I ever do make a serious run at it, I will start with meeting as many people as I can involved in ranching before I buy cows or land or plumbing pipe.
Don't disqualify yourself. That's their job.
When I asked myself a few months ago, (to paraphrase Darren Hardy) "Who do I need to be to attract the people in my life with whom I can co-create the impact I want to make?", improving my network quickly emerged as one of my top 3 priorities.
That led to me applying for a few opportunities that would allow me to meet alot more people of the business caliber I aspire to.
Only thing was, I had to call BS on that internal debate with my fear - I'm not a fit, maybe next year after I do this or that I can apply..... I should wait until I get more settled and can focus...blah blah freakin' blah.
Those were excuses because
It IS my job to show up enough to apply. In the end, I was turned down by 1 and accepted by 2. Circular Board and TEDWomen 2016.
Which is perfect, I couldn't afford to pay for all three, and the 2 I'm pursuing now will be game changers for 2017.