Competing with other women is out. Connecting with other women to share ideas, work together on projects, and offer support is in. The changes brought about by the global economy have made collaboration and innovation must-have skills, and the great news is that women tend to be naturals at them. And that is why the women-helping-women movement is really picking up steam.
We’re making a shift to what I call "Connecting 2.0." It’s more meaningful than the "mile-wide and inch-deep" type of connecting we associate with social media. It’s based on sharing and co-creating, not self-interest. It’s authentic, it feels good, and it works.
The women-helping-women movement is nothing like the phony, self-serving, let’s-exchange-cards-and-move-on networking that most of us hate. Sure, connecting with other women does pay off in amazing ways, but the rewards flow organically from our feminine strengths and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
You may be wondering, Where do I sign up? The answer is everywhere. This is not some exclusive club—it’s open to all women with passion, enthusiasm, and a yearning to live a richer, more fulfilling life and maybe even change the world. Here are 11 tips to join the movement and connect:
1. Aim for a good mix of online and face-to-face connecting. It’s easy to send an e-mail message, and it’s really easy to like, share, and follow in the world of social media. That’s why so many women do it. And while there is nothing wrong with social media, it’s also no substitute for real-world human interaction. The women-helping-women movement depends on both types of connecting: virtual and face-to-face.
If you’re burning up social media, consider taking an online contact offline. Tell her you’d love to meet her for lunch the next time she’s in town. Conversely, if you’re proudly old school and neglecting your social media presence, dive in. You really need a foot in both worlds.
2. Join a new group that interests you and make attending the meetings a priority. It doesn’t matter what activity it’s based on. This may be a book circle, a kayaking club or a community cause. What’s important is that you’re getting together with other women who share a common interest—and that you go to meetings and events often enough to let these strong connections develop.
It’s the shared passion for the activity that generates the connections. Those connections then take on a life of their own. You may end up forging alliances, finding jobs, winning clients—even though that’s not the purpose for the group.
3. Get on a different team at work. We tend to stick to our comfort zone. However, shaking things up from time to time keeps you sharp and puts you in the path of exciting new people. When you work with women you don’t know on projects you’re unfamiliar with, you will learn, grow, and often discover vital new talents and interests.
4. Get involved in a philanthropic cause that speaks to your heart. Women who care enough about others to volunteer their time, talents, and treasure are the kinds of women you want to meet. They tend to be other-oriented and want to make new connections, too. So whether your cause is homeless animals, kids with cancer, adult literacy, or clean oceans, get involved.
I actually met the 19 women who cowrote my new book "Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life," through my Women Connect4Good, Inc., foundation. In fact, the book is living proof of the kind of collaboration that happens when women make connections based on their desire to serve.
5. Think about what you need to learn. Seek out mentors who can help you learn it. Let’s say you have a small catering company specializing in weddings, parties, and family reunions. You’d like to expand into the healthcare conference arena but know nothing about the field. You might reach out to someone who plans such conferences and offer to trade services—perhaps cater an upcoming event for free or for a greatly reduced price—in exchange for the chance to learn and get a foot in the door.
“ There are always reasons to say 'no' and some of them are good reasons. But overall, life rewards action. Life rewards 'yes.'”
6. Likewise, give back to women who need your expertise. In other words, don’t just seek out mentors; be a mentor to women who can benefit from your knowledge and experience. It’s good karma and it can pay off in unexpected ways.
7. Take a class. (And don’t just sit there; talk to your neighbor.) Whether it’s continuing education for your job, a creative writing class at the local community college, or even a martial arts training session, actively pursue new knowledge and skills. This will bring new and interesting women into your life—women who, just by being there, show they have a zest for life and learning.
8. Volunteer your speaking services. Yes, you hate public speaking. Many women do. However, taking to the podium is a powerful way to get your voice heard, to build up your confidence, and of course to make new connections with those who hear you speak. There are many civic and service organizations—like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club—that need speakers.
9. Handpick five to 10 powerful women in your community and ask them to participate in an event. This might be a roundtable discussion that takes place at an industry conference or a community fundraiser, for example. And don’t think that busy, important women won’t have time for you. Women love sharing stories, best practices, and ideas. You might be surprised by how many will say "yes."
10. If you’re invited, go. When someone invites you to an event or gathering—whether it’s an industry trade show, a party, or a hiking trip—go if you can. Yes, even if you’re tired, out-of-sorts, and feeling blah.
There are always reasons to say "no" and some of them are good reasons. But overall, life rewards action. Life rewards "yes." The more times you say yes, the more connections you will make. The more connections you make, the richer and more creative your life will be.
11. Set a goal to meet "X" new women per month. Insert your own number, depending on your circumstances and personality. Hold yourself to this number (it will help greatly to keep track in a journal or calendar). If you take this metric seriously, you’ll figure out how to make it happen. And while meeting isn’t the same as connecting, it’s the essential first step.
Let’s say your goal is to meet five new women this month, and it’s the last day of the month and you have two to go. You can always pop into the spin class at your gym, or maybe go to an open house or political rally. While you’re there, of course, strike up conversations with at least two women and introduce yourself. Voilà! You’ve met your goal!
While women are naturally good at connecting, it doesn’t happen automatically. We really do have to make an effort.
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of "Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life" and urges women to connect to help each other create a better world. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, and women empowerment expert, O’Reilly helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families, and their communities. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on her website. For more information visit www.drnancyoreilly.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.