The Fear of Business Networking

Photo Credit: Oana Patru

By Valerie Conway

Truth bomb incoming;

People in suits (especially men) always used to intimidate me. I felt like they had it all together and I was just bouncing around life, like a silly girl not knowing what I was doing! This was such a deep belief that took years to even uncover, let alone deal with.

It didn’t matter that I never had to work that hard at business to make a good life for myself. I still believed I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

Total imposter syndrome!

All my experiences were telling me the opposite, yet I held on tight to my extremely debilitating belief… I know right lol! It wasn’t until I was setting up my second business, that it really came to the forefront for me when I was invited to a formal networking event.

With total fear in my belly, I buckled down and braced myself to attend. I was hoping and praying that I could just be a fly on the wall and not have to talk or interact, for fear of showing everyone how stupid I was. It didn’t matter that I could get up in front of a hundred people and teach a top quality dance class just a few years earlier.

After all, no one was in a suit at those classes!

Cold sweat running down my back, I walked into the room of my first meeting not quite knowing what to expect. To my surprise and relief, not everyone was dressed in suits. Some were, but others were quite casual.

The room consisted mainly of men and to my dismay I ended up sitting next to one of the men in, you guessed it, a suit! I actually learned so much at that meeting and everyone was surprisingly nice.

The suited up man I was sat next to ended up becoming a really good friend. If it wasn’t for his selfless generosity, I would never have gotten my second business off the ground!

And to think it was all thanks to a phone call he made (but that’s another story for another time!). He also showed me that the exterior doesn’t reflect the interior. Even the suited up men had their insecurities, they just hid it well. I learned through going to many networking events after that some I loved, and some I would avoid like the plague.

For me, it’s important to go in authentic and interested in the people you meet. Not just out to get clients or make sales.

You will be weeded out very fast with that approach!

It’s all about building relationships and through that, the business will come authentically. I have so many friendships now that I cherish, all through business networking.

I ended up loving networking so much and the support and camaraderie that comes with it. So when I had my baby boy it was one of the things I missed terribly! Because I was breastfeeding and the little guy wouldn’t take expressed milk in a bottle, where I went, he went.

Networking meetings aren’t really a place to be bringing a baby. So, out of my frustration I decided to organise one where you could bring your baby/toddler/pre teen etc.

Hence Moms Mean Business was born!

I figured if I was frustrated with this, then surely other moms are too? Turns out I was right! And my little venture born out of pure selfishness has hit the heart of many moms. So much so, that now MMB meetings are starting to happen, not just in Limerick, but around the country! All of them with the focus on supporting moms in both life and business.

All moms know how tough and lonely it is to be a mom, and all self employed people know how isolating it can feel to be the leader/boss with everyone depending on you.

So, put the two together and it’s a double whammy of loneliness!

MMB brings moms together to share, support, inspire and diminish that sense of loneliness, by creating a safe community. If you’re nervous and scared of stepping into the world of business networking, my advice is to just go for it. Go scared. Go shaking. Just go!

I remember at one particular monthly event, where a woman would shake and barely get the words out of her mouth to introduce herself and her business. But, month after month, she always turned up and tried again! I always felt such respect for her because she showed up and kept trying.

At the end of the day, business networking has changed my life completely. Not just for making professional connections, but also the personal connections that have come from it! Which is why I think it is such an important part of my life now.

If there isn’t a MMB meet up in your area and you would like to facilitate one then fill out the form in the Join our Team tab. All the details will be sent to you!

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