The Networking Edge: Build Genuine Connections

WHO you know matters more than WHAT you know. I can say this confidently as someone with a BBA, MBA, and now Co-Owner title.

A 2023 study by Chief and Intelligence Firm Morning Consult revealed that over 80% of women in management positions or higher have tapped into their professional networks to secure board positions, move into C-suite positions, and have been able to land higher-paying roles.

2023 Study by Chief & Morning Consult

2023 Study by Chief and Morning Consult Graph: More than 90% of women leaders say they’re satisfied with their network’s ability to support their career needs and goals.

And it’s not just about networking for the sake of your career growth. It’s about building genuine human to human connections because those relationships are what turn into opportunities. That’s literally why I left corporate and what the mission of StandOut Authority is all about!

As Marisa G. Franco, a leading expert on human connection, explains, “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.”

Build Relationships with Deliberate Effort and Intention

You could have hundreds of thousands of contacts or followers on LinkedIn, but if you haven’t built a genuine and lasting connection with even 1% of them—you simply have an empty rolodex of people for show, and nothing else. It’s time to focus on building genuine connections for success and relationships that will drive your career.

Forget the myth that great connections just happen. Like any skill worth mastering, building relationships takes real effort. It’s about choosing to be where networking thrives and actively engaging.

Accelerate Your Network by Joining Groups

When I was at Microsoft and Gartner, I made a concerted effort to join ERGs at the company and with partners. I joined the women’s groups, attending monthly meetings, sitting on the boards, and creating different events. I was also part of IAMCP for Women which supports Microsoft Partners and it was beyond helpful in networking outside of my direct team. Those relationships continue to support me as a leader of my own company.

Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire

While employed I was also part of Together Digital and led the Austin Chapter. This was a group focused on supporting women in digital through mentorship, job opportunities, and education. By leading this chapter, I had the chance to host a SXSW panel! These are the kinds of opportunities you can create when you join groups WITH intention.

Together Digital

I was the City Champ of the Austin Chapter of Together Digital and I was give the opportunity to speak on a Panel at SXSW.

And now as an entrepreneur, joining intentional groups is even more critical because we not only have to generate revenue, but we also can feel quite alone. As a business owner, it’s helpful to ideate with others who’ve been where you’re at or feel comradery with those experiencing the same business challenges.

This is one of the reasons why I joined CEO Mama, a mastermind by Natalie Elizabeth Ellis (founder of the infamous bossbabe Inc!). I didn’t join for the sake of clout to announce that I’m a part of a “cool networking thing”; I joined because I craved like-minded community of fellow mompreneurs who just get it.

CEO Mama 2024

Heading Out to the 2024 CEO Mama Mastermind Weekend

The vibe is much different than the ERGs and partner groups from my days Microsoft and Gartner but the purpose is the same. Intention is what matters when you use groups to network!

Don’t wait for relationships to happen naturally, approach it like any other skill you want to master.

Being a leader in your organization can be isolating enough (because let’s face it, a lot of people are scared to mingle with their bosses). So, the next time you think about exploring professional workshops or networking groups, make sure you surround yourself with people who’ll completely understand you.

Grow Your Reach Through Social Media

Another important way to intentionally grow your network is by using social media. As a Brand Marketing Ladyboss, I’ve witnessed the power of social media in expanding professional networks. By being intentional in your online presence, you can strategically connect with industry leaders, potential collaborators, and thought-provoking individuals who can elevate your career trajectory.

To cultivate a thriving network on social media, it’s important to define your target audience. Identify the C-suite executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs who possess the insights, resources, and influence you seek. Engage with their content, share valuable perspectives, and participate in industry-relevant discussions. By creating a targeted approach, you can effectively expand your reach and attract the right connections.

The Power of Vulnerability—Being Real Isn’t a Sign of Weakness

Opening up about our challenges or insecurities can actually draw people closer. This is known as the “beautiful mess effect,” where sharing personal setbacks makes others see us more positively than we expect. I recently shared an incredibly vulnerable post, and my community came through in ways that filled my soul back up.

Rachel Sharing Honest Feelings

My Beautiful Mess in Full Effect

I posted this Reel a week ago about how I was burning out, and I didn’t expect it to “blow up” or gain traction (I just felt vulnerable in that moment and felt the need to express it to my followers on Instagram). I started to see a trend on Instagram, where countless people had been sharing what they’re really struggling with behind the scenes. I wish we all did this way more than trying to post what’s “perfect” and curated all the time.

Because let’s face it: we’re all human, we’re all struggling with something, and we don’t have good days all the time.

Supportive Social Media Comments

A few of the Supportive Comments I received

My post not only sparked conversations, but also encouraged others to share their experiences, deepening our connection. 💜 The comments that came through really helped me and it’s all because of the network I’ve built.

Y’all remember that time my vulnerable post about my IVF experience for Mental Health Awareness Month made it to The Washington Post, right? I was originally very worried to share my post but felt like it could support maybe one person and that would be worth it. If you read it, you’ll see that I tied it back to mental health awareness month and my entrepreneurial journey, so I could connect with the people who were like me and build those connections. My vulnerability post to date has received 14,960 impressions, 457 reactions, 116 comments, and 5 reshares. This wasn’t the goal, but I’m glad I did it.

Rachel's Viral Post

My Viral Post that The Washington Post Picked up

Your Network is Your Net Worth, Make it Count

I learned from Jill Rowley when I had first started at Microsoft, that ‘your network is your net worth’, and those words have stuck with me. I know that networking doesn’t come easily for many people, but you’ve just gotta suck it up and get out there.

🔵 Immediate chemistry isn’t a must for a meaningful connection.

Familiarity, or the “mere exposure effect,” suggests simply being around someone more often increases how much you like them.  Repeatedly put yourself in situations for connections to happen. You can always find something in common with someone else.

🔵 Ask questions and LISTEN!

Intentionally connecting on social media involves making a conscious effort to engage with others in a meaningful way. By asking thoughtful questions and actively listening to responses, you can build rapport and establish genuine connections.

Here’s an example of how this could play out in practice:

You: Hi Rachel, I loved your post about the three tips to stand out with your personal branding. Which tip makes you most excited?

Me: Thank you. I’m glad you found it helpful. All the tips matter to get the best results, but tip number 2 excites me the most. I love the process of coming up with a LinkedIn headline.

You: That’s awesome to hear. Do you have a formula for that or a prompt?

By asking open-ended questions and actively listening to the person’s response, you’ve started a meaningful conversation that could lead to a lasting connection.

🔵 Send personalized invites on LinkedIn whenever you meet someone on a call or at an event.

Be diligent at connecting with speakers, people in the audience at an event, people suggested to you on LinkedIn, and more as they’re all potential opportunities. Make a point to remember and mention something you admire about the people you meet.

ABC: Always Be Connecting

ABC: Always Be Connecting

It’s important to build connections early on in your career. In the early days of my career at Microsoft, I sought guidance from Kati Quigley and Tracey Pretorius. Kati gave me full responsibility of the Microsoft Partner Network social media channels and Microsoft Inspire activation, only a couple months into the job. At Gartner, my manager Kelly Hopping, built a culture of trust and camaraderie that went beyond the office setting.

Social Media Week Austin, TX

Kelly and I at Social Media Week in Austin, TX

The relationships I formed in my corporate era are with people who were invited to my baby shower and are people I still call on for business advice. Doing this isn’t as scary as it sounds. You can easily start strengthening connections by being genuinely curious about the people around you. Ask meaningful questions and share your stories too.

Reach out. Connect. Treat each person you encounter as a human being.

Share your stories with me and tag that person who’s made a difference in your career journey. 👇

💥 Did you catch my LinkedIn LIVE interview with Chelsea Krost Personal Brand and Marketing Coach – Speaker?

Chelsea is a Top Personal Branding LinkedIn Voice, a renowned branding and marketing coach, and social video expert.

Live Event withChelsea Krost & Rachel B. Lee

Check out the Replay!

She shared her incredible strategies and tips to help you unlock your brand’s potential. Chelsea’s proven methods have helped countless entrepreneurs and professionals achieve success through personal branding.

We had an insightful discussion on:

💜 The importance of defining your personal brand and aligning it with your passion.

💜 Building your digital footprint and establishing thought leadership.

💜 Overcoming mindset blocks to attract your ideal clients.

🎥 Catch the replay here!