Sunday, March 29, 2009

Networking for Moms

Pictured Judy Homer and Christina Hagan
It’s a scary world out there if you’re considering going back in the work force after you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a while. It’s probably scarier after you’ve given birth to your first child since your identity has changed: you’re a mom now and that’s what some people will only see you as. Some women embrace being called “Kyle’s mom” instead of their given name, but others want to be known for themselves and to carve out a work identity. Of course, this can be very difficult if you’re a mom who has switched careers after the child, or who has taken a long break while staying at home with the kids.

So let’s say you’re a stay-at-home mom who wants to return to the working world as an entrepreneur or as a consultant. Or maybe you want to return to a job like your old one, but without the crazy hours. How do you get back into the swing of the working world before you’re even there? Morning and lunchtime networking groups, that’s how. They are all over the Triangle and some meetings correspond to preschool hours, so you won’t need to have someone watch your child. In these groups there are women who are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, artists, therapists, and those that are employed with a small business. I’m a member of several that meet on Wednesday mornings. They all run on a tight schedule, and they include introductions and a speaker. Maybe you don’t a job lined up and are looking, don’t know what’s out there, but you want your name to get out in circulation. In this case, networking groups can help. With a women-centered networking group, you can find supportive women you will get to know and trust, which will be especially important down the line, when you need someone in your corner when you’re looking at job possibilities.

But, you say, you don’t know the first thing about networking? No problem. Here are a few tips to get you prepared for your first networking group meeting.

• Go with a friend or know that you’ll meet your friend at that particular networking group. With a friend by your side, you can introduce her to other people and take some of the pressure off of yourself
• Have a goal before you enter the meeting room. Ask yourself, who do I want to meet today? It’s OK to say that you only want to meet one person or have one good conversation. Quality trumps quantity at these meetings since you’re there to build relationships and not to find a job when you walk out.
• Print up business cards and have plenty to give out. Make them simple with your name, number, address and hopefully the name of your blog – You do have a blog, right?
• Once at the networking meeting, be useful. Offer to help someone if they are looking for a name or product that’s within your area of expertise. And then make sure you follow up with that person that same day if possible.
• Work on how you’ll introduce yourself. If you’re not working say, “I’m a graphic artist looking for opportunities.” No one wants to hear that you have no money and you’ve been pounding the pavement for eight months without success.

I’m so grateful for my networking groups because they’ve provided me multiple chances to work on my introductions, to work on my presentation skills (I’m now a sought-after speaker), and to work on my people skills. If you go into these groups knowing that friendships and business relationships take time to develop, you’ll be joining for the right reasons, and you’ll have a net when you start your own business or make a career move.

No comments: