I cannot begin to tell you enough about the value of having a network of reliable, awesome women at your disposal. Also, you can always start today. At one point, I had practically zero network, and I started from scratch.
In my early career I had worked for two companies, both of which were pretty “heads down” cultures focused on the work at hand. As a result, very few people ever ventured out of the company-based network to meet other people. It wasn’t that external networking was explicitly discouraged, just that nobody really did it. I barely had to time to pee most days, so the idea of going to eat overcooked eggs at a networking breakfast where a bunch of people selling insurance handed me their business cards seemed like an extraneous task to me. Part of this was due to having a baby, and surviving the first year (looking back, that was simply a blackout phase of my career where I survived what I had on my plate, and didn’t add much extra). One day, though, I seemed to wake up, look around and notice that I hadn’t been anywhere or met anyone in a long time. And that most everyone around me in leadership roles was a dude. I needed to go out and expand my horizons.
The lack of strong women leaders in my view was obvious. So, I set out to meet some people, my way. I thought of the three people in my network who seemed to be the most connected, shared with them what I was doing and my goals to meet more women leaders. They connected me with one or two people that they thought I should meet. And I met each of them for coffee. Each of those women suggested someone else I should meet, and so, I did. And I continued to do this making time for an average of one coffee meeting each week for over a year. I began going to more networking events, even though I hate networking (and bland eggs). I got more involved in the community events. All because I was interested in meeting some cool people in general, and some badass ladies in particular. As an introvert, I prefer focused one-on-one conversations rather than group settings.
Over time, I met some amazing women; some of the most influential women in the city. People were generous with their time. I joined my own organization of emerging female leaders and met women in my peer group in age and experience who were doing incredible things. Like, these women are going to run this town in ten years, I am quite certain of it.
Once I began, I couldn’t stop. People kept telling me more people I needed to know, or others began reaching out to me to request my time. I met men too, of course, but I was on this lady train, and it had a long set of tracks. Over the course of time I have met hundreds (yes, hundreds) of incredible women leaders through one-on-one coffee meetings, group events, or even virtually. And I had started from practically zero.
After curating a rather large local network of amazing women, I continue to build relationships directly with a few women that really fill my cup. When I think of who those women are, I am so impressed by their caliber; their work, their ability to parent with grace, their dreams, their heart. I am constantly in a state of gratitude that these women kept me in their presence. This is the badass lady gang.
These are the women who you would recommend for damn near anything. The women who you could call to hide the body and they wouldn’t judge or ask questions, other than how big of a shovel they would need. The women that if we were all in the same organization together, could probably move mountains in a day. The few and the committed who have earned the right to hear our full stories.
As an introvert, I tend to keep my circle small. I have a large network of acquaintances, yes, but those that are connected on a deeper level are only a few. I prefer to go deep and committed to a few key relationships rather than having 50 of my closest friends, and that is just my preference. My friend Lisa is excellent at having 150 best friends, and she amazes me. I would equate the small badass lady gang to about 6-8 people, and the slightly extended posse to around 15-20. That is about all to which I can successfully give enough heart and energy.
Make it a priority to find your people. Do business with these people whom you trust fiercely. Ask each other how you can show up for one another. And bring your shovel.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is a keynote speaker, author, coach and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.