Since I was a small child, it was very apparent that I was an introvert. I enjoyed being alone and felt drained after having to spend all day with other people. I had a close-knit group of friends that I trusted and loved to spend time with, but who understood my boundaries and limitations. This never seemed to pose too much of a problem until I got older and became a professional and heard the dreaded word:
This word makes me nauseous. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of “networking” is a cocktail party (another word that makes me nauseous). I picture everyone standing in uncomfortable shoes, eating tiny hors d'oeuvres (seriously people, don’t say you’re “serving food” if all you have are meatballs and some glorified crackers), sipping on bubbly, and doing the thing all introverts hate most in this world: small talk. Everything about this scenario of “networking” feels uncomfortable, unpleasant and most importantly, insincere. I don’t believe that faking smiles and interest is the way to make meaningful connections, but if you’re not willing to go to the cocktail parties and wear the uncomfortable shoes, eat the bad food and have the meaningless conversations, how are you supposed to meet the people that you need to know to be successful?
The answer is much simpler than you might think: you reach out to them.
Let it sink in.
That’s right, you don’t have to have an excuse to bump into them, you don’t have to happen to show up at the same party as them and you don’t have to stalk their social media for the perfect post to leave a witty comment that they will love. You can just reach out to them.
My journey began by buying a book I had seen in an Instagram ad: Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence by Molly Beck. In this book, Molly teaches you strategies for crafting a perfect email, Instagram Message or LinkedIn Letter and helps you overcome your imposter syndrome and find the courage to reach out to people and expand your network. Most importantly, she teaches you how to have a consistent practice. Molly reaches out five days a week with the dedication of the U.S. Postal Service (come rain, come sleet, come shine) and she recommends that you do the exact same thing. You can reach out to someone you already know who you want to reconnect with, you can reach out to someone you’ve been meaning to follow up with, you can reach out to a friend of a friend or you can reach out to someone you don’t know at all. The idea of reaching out to someone new every single day was incredibly intimidating to me. I didn’t feel like I had enough to offer. I didn’t feel like I was interesting enough. Mostly, I was afraid that no one would want to talk to me. So I put the book on the shelf for a few weeks and moved on with life. Still believing that networking just wasn’t going to be my thing.
Then I saw a post from an old college friend on Instagram: Carly Valancy. She had started a new business called Valence and Co. and what was her main offering? The Reach Out Party: an organized group of people dedicated to learning more about reaching out and who were dedicated to pressing send five days a week. Who was her partner in this endeavour? None other than Molly Beck. It was too weird of a coincidence to just ignore. The same week I was struggling to figure out how I was going to continue my professional growth while I was stuck in quarantine in Colorado. The dots seemed to connect despite my best attempts to argue that they didn’t. The Reach Out Party felt scary and outside of my comfort zone, but if we’re being honest, most great things in life are. So I signed up.
The first day of the The Reach Out Party I logged on and was incredibly nervous. I remember Carly asking us all, “what does your imposter syndrome tell you about Reaching Out?” and I typed back in the chat, “that I have nothing valuable to offer.” YIKES. But it was true, I felt like in networking all I had to offer was fake conversation and a fake smile, because I didn’t believe I brought anything to the table that would engage someone. This was a wake up call to me and helped motivate me to find what I could offer people.
No, I’m not the CEO of a company. No, I don’t run casting for anyone. No, I can’t get you an interview with the New York times, but… I have great book recommendations, I have awesome resources for learning more about the arts, I have amazing friends who create new work and even more valuable: I have a gift for giving genuine, specific compliments.
Networking suddenly stopped being a scary thing and started being a fun thing. I got to share things I enjoyed with extraordinary people and I was able to tell them exactly why I thought they were extraordinary. Sometimes I asked for favors and sometimes I just sent some kindness into the universe and expected nothing in return.
The Reach Out Party gave me the support I needed to hit send for 27 days straight on emails and messages full of amazing offerings I wanted to give people. Here’s what happened:
-I earned an Executive Board Member position for The New Cosmopolitans Theatre in L.A.
-I connected with my favorite composer, Adam Gwon.
-I got to connect with the woman who translated the adaptation I used for Medea and share how I used her words.
-I reconnected with mentors that helped me find focus and clarity in a confusing and chaotic time.
-I reconnected with friends that inspire me and make me want to be better.
-I built professional relationships in my future home, Chicago.
-I met people from around the world and got to learn about the arts scene in different countries.
-I was given invaluable advice from professionals in my field.
-I was given the best book recommendations.
-I made new friends.
-I got to talk to and encourage a senior writer at Vogue.
-I got to tell people whose work I had idolized for years exactly why I loved it.
-I expanded my worldview and understood where I had room to grow.
-I started blogging, because I felt confident enough to believe I had something unique to say.
-Of the 30 emails I have sent so far, I have a 92% positive response rate.
The most important thing I gained from The Reach Out Party was a community. I showed up everyday for 27 days and spent 27 minutes learning from others, celebrating their extraordinary accomplishments, walking them through their hard days and pressing send with them. I got to see not only how I changed and evolved through the process, but how everyone else did. I became good friends with some of them and a huge fan of all of them. It’s truly one of the most unique experiences you can have.
After the past month of Reaching Out, I feel in collaboration with the world in a way I’ve never felt. I’m excited to talk to people about their work and elevate them, because networking is about sharing. It’s about sharing gifts, skills, friendship, love and encouragement. That’s all it should be. Unlike cocktail parties with bad food and smalltalk, sharing wonderful things with people you admire is the least scary thing in the world.
I never endorse anything that I do not 100% believe in, which tells you I 100% believe in Molly Beck and Carly Valancy. They transformed my life and they can transform yours as well. If you’re feeling stuck or aren’t sure how to start making connections, The Reach Out Party is for you. Carly and Molly are pure magic in human form and I guarantee they will give you more joy, more confidence and more inspiration than you could ever imagine. Cohort 4 of The Reach Out Party starts August, 23rd. Don’t miss out on a full and energized life, because you think joining the party isn’t worth leaving your comfort zone. It’s worth it, I promise.