Reflections upon my release

In News by Sharron Attwood

I just got out of prison this afternoon.  I’ve been in and out of jail three times in the last year – all thanks to my networks and I couldn’t be more proud.

I work with an amazing bunch of business women (and one bloke today) who give back to their community by volunteering to present on their area of expertise as part of a return to work program, the aim of which is to educate and empower women in the community and in the prison system, as they get ready to find employment. It’s an amazing example of how we can work with our colleagues and our networks, to bring about change.

So networking is about more than just work – which we have previously discussed.  It can hit you right in the feels.

That was the purpose of today – and every time we present together – to leverage our connection.  Plus, I always learn from the other presenters.  Always learning or earning, as they say.

I’ve presented on Networking as a part of the community programs, but it’s not a subject we tackle on it’s own within the prisons, where I present on Interview Skills  (a return to my days as a recruitment consultant) or Effective Communication – though I have noticed networking pops up. Well yes – of course it does – just disguised in work clothes.

Here’s the thing though – we usually end up discussing how to reverse engineer their networks. These ladies often realise that they may have gotten in with the ‘wrong crowd’. They may also be concerned that they’ll come out of the system and find themselves back where they started – in an unchanged environment and peer group – when they have now changed. To that end they know they’d be better off distancing themselves and/or starting to build better relationships within a better network, amongst those who share their changed view of the world.

So of course that’s a conversation I’m keen to be a part of. In life and in business we need to set ourselves up for success by being around others walking the same path as us – some ahead that we can learn from and some behind that learn from us. All of us encouraging one another towards a shared goal – as general or as specific as we want, or need it to be.

So who do you surround yourself with? Do they share your vision and do you always need them to? Not everyone has to ‘get your business self’.  It’s all about balance and flow – which is unique to us all.

Like many of you, I have some friends (and a variety of acquaintances) who have very little idea of what my business is – but we share other interests and they fill my cup in other ways, just as I hope to fill theirs.  We share values though – and that does not change.

For us to be truly fulfilled by our business it needs to align with our personal values – so for much of the time our networks and friendship circles will overlap.

I’ve never been one to differentiate between a ‘work friend’ and a regular ‘friend’. For me, a friend is a friend. If we share values and vision you are all right by me.  I can see though that the way we can support and encourage each other in business is defined by our experience of one another’s journey. So when it comes to business networks some experience is required.

The good news though – is that you can easily find your business network ‘tribe’. There are a vast number of quality events every week right here in Perth, coffee chat opportunities, social media (have you checked out Linkedin lately???) and private events to attend. You can also consider going through that stack of business cards in your desk drawer. You know – the ones from people you have already met and promised to contact but never did? Now is the time!

You just need to know yourself and your business and get out there! You may of course check out previous columns for details on the preparation required to make sure you put your best foot forward. Happy to help.

So in the same way as we send our kids off to school and hope they make friends who will support them and make school more fun – may you find a tribe to share your business journey with.  A good tribe – one that shares your values and that you can grow with. It makes business fun and will certainly amp up your energy to be surrounded by like-minded people.

So is business a metaphor for life or is it just a part of our life? Are they business friends or just friends? Who do you need on your team and who can you help?

Just as the ladies I worked with today discovered – you may need a different team to surround you to move forward. You may have just fallen in with a less than ideal crowd – but what’s it costing you?