How ‘networking’ really just means building community and making connections
Like many others, I don’t love the word ‘networking’. It has this machine-like, ulterior motive, abstract-feel to it that doesn’t convey enough humanness. Perhaps we’ll create a new word to describe this process so it seems more approachable and less like a LinkedIn lecture. But for now I’ll simply use networking to refer to this process of making useful connections and creating greater, more accessible community.
When I first committed to becoming a part time yoga teacher, networking felt like a daunting task in a market that was already saturated and any efforts on my part seemed too small to have an impact. That helplessness only made getting started seem scarier and more importantly, it wasn’t helping anyone.
By shying away from being fully present in my community and hesitant about sharing my passion and skill, I wasn’t able to be in fullest service to my students or to the community.
Once I got out of my head about what networking entailed and got more focused on simply making connections with people, things got a lot easier.
Networking initially seemed prescriptive; do X to get Y, like following a set of external guidelines to move toward an end result of fostering opportunity.
However I think there’s another angle that’s more intuitive. If you have a reason to network, you most likely enjoy the idea/service/product you’re offering and naturally want to share it.
Creating a structure, doing research, and using specific platforms is definitely useful, but without that connection to your initial inspiration for what you’re networking for, attempts to network might feel empty, disconnected, or awkward.
Continue connecting to your WHY so that your efforts are derived from a clear sense of purpose and intention.
I have found that networking is most effective when it is streamlined from your organic drive to share what you offer with others as well as your natural instinct to build community around you.
Everyone wants to connect in a meaningful way, but we unfortunately find ourselves a lot of the time doing that from behind a computer/phone screen, indirectly, or we tend to avoid person to person interactions altogether because we don’t want to feel awkward or embarrassed.
Nobody wants to feel rejected or misunderstood by those around them. We want to feel acknowledged, purposeful, and appreciated. Knowing that we all share that common fear and desire, choose to be the one to initiate the connection.
Notice the tendency to want to just wait for someone else to reach out to you with some amazing opportunity. There are actually opportunities everywhere if you choose to approach them that way.
Networking can simply mean taking opportunities to connect even though you don’t need to. Be the one to start the conversation and be open to sharing what you’re interested in and also really listening to the people you’re talking with.
As a yoga teacher this translates in my experience as: connecting individually with each student before class, even if briefly, checking in with students after class when the opportunity is available, taking other teachers’ classes, showing up as authentically as I can, learning a lot of names, sharing and discovering techniques and ideas with peers, giving myself extra time to spend time at the studios I teach at so that I can be available to connect, reaching out online to teachers and peers I admire, attending yoga-related events, being open with others about my interests and learning what inspires others, letting people in the community know what I do and that I am open to opportunities that they come across.
The process of networking can simply be allowing your efforts to be fueled by not only the love for what you do but also the drive to make connections, help others, and build a community where you are seen and have purpose.
I’ve also realized that small efforts aren’t a waste of time and might in fact have the biggest impact. Being present with another person and contributing to them feeling seen and understood can hold value and leave a lasting impression. Especially in this digital age, making a positive, meaningful in-person connection is needed, craved, and therefore deeply nourishing.
Networking can reconnect us to our humanness.
Rather than approaching the idea of networking as a competitive busy marketplace, try to view it as more of a state of mind.
Imagine you are consistently connected to the intention behind your actions. You feel inspired by what you offer and experience a sense of personal intention behind your work. You believe that people would be well-served by what you have to offer. You bring your unique personality to your interactions and that is felt and appreciated. In that frame of mind, networking becomes an abundance of opportunities to simply become present to in order to extend your intention to those around you.
Natalie Mazur is a bilingual (English/Spanish) yoga instructor based in San Diego, California. She teaches private clients in their homes and offers weekly group classes. Natalie has nine years of study and teaching experience combined, and has taught in the U.S. and internationally.
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