How to Network Authentically as a Social Entrepreneur: 6 Tips & 1 Golden Opportunity
For many of us, the idea of in-person networking can incite a justified full-body cringe. For many, it’s an inauthentic and exhausting performance. Stereotypically, you dress a certain way, talk a certain way and select your mask to help you achieve the desired outcome. While this is an accepted way to approach networking, it doesn’t have to be this way – and this approach can only get you so far.
Here are 6 tips for networking authentically as a social entrepreneur:
Aim for authenticity over great impressions
Pretending like you’re perfect will sever the connective passage between you and the person you’re talking to. As humans, we connect through vulnerability and honesty, so feel free to unashamedly share your challenges, weaknesses and successes (small ones included!). This shows maturity and invites the person to also take off their mask, allowing for a more authentic, meaningful and durable connection.
Listen, really listen
There’s a distinct and important difference between listening and waiting. When you are listening, you are curious and open to what someone has to say, regardless of your own agenda. But too often, in networking scenarios, people are merely waiting for you to finish talking while holding their next point in mind, excited to blurt it out once you finish your sentence. This is a recipe for disaster (bad vibes and awkward moments). Don’t stress to impress! Allow the conversation to move organically, and go where it needs to. Who knows where you’ll end up?
Connect with confidence
Know your worth and value in the space. Back yourself! It’s a good exercise to reflect and write down your strengths, experience and anything you bring to the table before heading into a networking situation (regardless of the stage of your career), so you are clear on this. It’ll roll off the tongue real easy this way!
Manage your expectations
Firstly it’s good to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No stress if you don’t hit it off with someone important on your first interaction. Just connect online and keep in touch! Persistence is key. Also, learn to accept that there will be awkwardness and discomfort at times, but don’t fret. It won’t kill you! Sit in that discomfort for a tad longer, and the rewards will be fruitful!
Don’t make assumptions
Some people are better at selling themselves and their brand/mission/purpose/product than others. Don’t underestimate or write off anyone. Some people may blossom once they get to know you and feel more comfortable. Some of the most successful and interesting people can be the most unassuming and humble. Giving everyone a chance and taking the time to listen and engage with everyone could lead to beneficial business relationships in the future.
Think outside of the box
There are no rules. Conference rooms and cheese boards not your cup of tea? What interests you? Do you love to travel? Travelling networking trips can be a great way to see new places while fostering meaningful relationships. New sights and activities can break the ice and create a conversation without feeling forced or cringey.
Luckily, social entrepreneurs such as StartSomeGood’s CEO, Tom Dawkins, have decided to create events that facilitate authentic, fun and meaningful networking opportunities. The StartSomeGood team, with the generous support of City of Parramatta, City of Sydney, Minter Ellison, and Future Super have created a perfect environment for human-to-human connection – the Social Enterprise World Forum Road Trip!
The SEWF Road Trip will take you from Sydney to Brisbane on a bus over two jam-packed days (25th – 27th of September) alongside brilliant bus buddies Hedayat Osyan of CommUnity Construction, Brendan Lonergan from Beehive Industries, Fiona Harrison from Chocolate On Purpose, and more. Along the journey, Roadtrippers will attend an official networking event in collaboration with Sourdough Business Pathways in Byron Bay, providing ample opportunity to connect with Byron entrepreneur communities. We will be visiting a range of local social enterprises on the road, such as Soul Cafe in Newcastle, which do incredible work to serve disenfranchised people in their community. Many socially-conscious culinary adventures also await, with a group dinner event at OCA Byron Bay, a pit stop at Harvest in Newrybar, and more!