Building Connections: Networking Tips for Busy Parents

Learn how you can get back into the swing of things and effectively network!

Why You Need to Rethink How You Network

For better and worse the pandemic has shifted how we work. For some families, working from home has now become an option. That’s blessing for sure.

Some companies have shifted how they communicate, with in-person meeting being replaced with chats, emails, and video conferencing.

However, there’s benefits for in-person events like conferences and team strategy sessions for a big project or to connect with coworkers.

With in-person events opening back up, you may feel a bit rusty with essential skills like networking.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, remote worker, or back full time in the office, it’s vital to your career, and believe it or not, your joy to brush up on those skills.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have Michelle Jackson on the show today. She’s an author and content creator and the founder of The Brand Building Lab where she helps entrepreneurs dial in and design a profitable and authentic business that positively impacts their community.

I’ve known her for probably 10 years now and I can tell you she has a gift for connecting with people and networking.

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • why the old model of networking doesn’t work
  • where and how you can organically connect with people
  • how to develop a strategy that’s a effective and fun

Hope you enjoy!


If you’re ready to jump into building your career and finances, here are a few of my favorite resources that we covered in the episode plus more.

If you want to chat more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips, please join us at Thriving Families on Facebook. We’d love to see you there!

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Effective Networking is Building Connections

Elle Martinez: One of the things I love and respect about you is you have a great reputation in our original space, the FinCon space, the personal finance space for being someone who's just genuine fun to be around with, but also an effective networker.

I wanted to first jump into that because I feel like this is a skill that maybe post-Covid, were a little rusty on.

We're going back to in-person, events and working with people again. For you, have you always been like a natural networker or was that a skill that you've built upon?

Michelle Jackson: I wanna actually change how we're referencing this, which is relationship building.

I feel like when we say networking, it feels very like mechanical and stilted and like I get images of going to a cocktail bar and wearing, you know, a really cute cocktail dress, which I don't own because I've gained weight over Covid and I have to use Rent the Runway now as I try to lose weight.

Like just, I don't network. I build connections authentically, in organically with people. I think that would be a better way to kind of frame what I do.

The Effects of The Pandemic with Networking

Michelle Jackson: I've always been pretty good at connecting with people, but I do wanna say even though I am a natural extrovert, during Covid, I have definitely become very solidly an ambivert.

In the sense that I notice that there are times when I just get tired of people faster than before.

Now I will say, I'm an extrovert, a lifelong extrovert, but I'm an only child and so I would be social and then I would be fading away prior to Covid. Covid just made that tendency a lot more pronounced.

But because of how I approach connecting with people and just connecting with people.

I think that there's room to organically meet people where they're at, including yourself when we are in these professional spaces.

What I would say to anyone listening to our conversation as we get further into it is ask the question, how would you meet people if you could never go to a conference?

I think it's just a completely different approach, like how would you meet people in the content creation space that you're currently in and never attend conferences.

How to Approach Conferences

For context, I now alternate the years that I attend conferences so, Any conferences that I attend in 2023, I will not attend in 2024.

This has not harmed my visibility in the space. I see people all the time. In fact, today as we record this episode, prior to getting on the show, I was sharing how some mutual friends of the FinCon space will be in town. I'm gonna have, you know, cocktails and happy hour with them.

So I think my first question would be how are you meeting people if there's no conferences?

For a lot of people you've been doing that because of Covid, especially if you are observing, protocols. For me, I have only so much capacity and I do not want to go everywhere.

For conferences, like I'm very like, particular about the conferences that I attend. I want to enjoy the location. I wanna be excited about it.

I wanna feel like the content makes sense for me to even be there cuz I've been in the content creations space for a long time. Like it has to make sense to get me on a plane from basically the middle of the country to fly around.

The last conference that I attended, it took five hours to fly back because I live in Colorado, so it was almost five hours. That's not including once I arrived at home, like at our airport and getting home.

So for me, it has to really make sense to do these things, which is part of the reason why I emphasize connecting with people in other ways.

It's so much better, it's so much less pressure and I'll just get off my soapbox.

Finding the Right Spaces to Network

Elle Martinez: No, I think you bring up a lot of good points and one, we do have parents who are starting to build something on the side, either for a career pivot or for their specific financial goal, getting outta debt, saving up for a house, or, doing something else.

Then your advice about connecting with people, not just networking, I completely understand. A lot of people have like a bad taste in their mouth when they hear networking, but it is a necessary skill too if you have a nine to five, because I don't think people realize how important it is when it comes to promotion.

Even if you go job searching for another position, having your network there for you, letting you know about openings that might not be advertised. are great opportunities to build up your career.

I know, we're gonna be focusing a little more on entrepreneurs and freelancers but a lot of this advice is really helpful for families that are looking to get ahead with their nine to five career.

So, wanna take another step back. What you were saying about if you couldn't go to conferences, how would you network.

Let's say someone, it's been three years, what are some ideas or starting points for someone who is trying to, maybe a resource to find, like I need to develop my relationships and networks within the community that I'm around.

Michelle Jackson: Again, I kind of think of it this differently.

Right now there is a epidemic of loneliness in the United States and across the world and partly because of the impact of Covid, if we've been shut off and cut off for one another for a long time.

The reason why I keep kind of pushing back on this idea of networking is it takes a community to do a thing, right?

You would be surprised at the most unexpected people who may be a resource for you or related to someone that they connect you, that they could connect you with, because it's just they like you and they're like, oh, well my cousin so-and-so does this thing.

I'm gonna give a couple examples of how in regular, everyday life this can happen. If you're a nine to five, if you're an entrepreneur, it doesn't matter.

This is just making connections with people in an authentic and organic way where they're sustained over time and they would actually want to share things with you.

So simple things like what do you like to do for fun? What do you enjoy? There are different, and this is a very Colorado example, but there are so many different outdoor experience clubs, if you will. So if you like to ski, if you like to hike, if you like to work out, there's all these different communities that you can join for free here in my state and beyond.

Using to Find Your Community

Michelle Jackson: A good example of that is actually. I absolutely love It is a community of communities.

Basically that came out of 9/11. They created because people were like, we don't have a sense of community and we're feeling really apart from one another. was a great way for people to create all these different interest focused meetups and and then it grew from there.

I've attended meetups in the US in Australia. They've just been amazing. What I like about them is they can be very, very, very niche.

So you could have multiple interests, you could be interested in. I actually, am in an online marketing community for women here in Denver. But there are FinTech meetups, so I go to the FinTech one.

There's podcasting meetups. I go to those. It's great because when they schedule an event, I see if it works with my schedule, and then I go, I don't have to pay.

It's just like a, a great thing. Maybe I buy a drink when I'm there. I don't have to dress up because here we don't really have to do that. It's just super low key. If we're going hiking, Same thing. I just go and sign up and I go hiking.

Consider Professional Development Opportunities

Michelle Jackson: The other thing I would say is, you know, again, talking about interests especially from like a professional standpoint where you're really trying to grow and expand in your area of expertise or your field that you're working in?

Anytime you can do a professional development program, say yes. There was a program on my campus that was professional development program and we were in a cohort for a year.

We got to go to conferences as a part of that cohort and mine was in Bozeman, Montana. It was phenomenal.

It was just a really amazing way to meet people who were aligned with what I was doing. They were my colleagues across campus and it was just cool.

What I would say is you could also look into that at your organization. There are fellowships you could apply for. You don't, just because you work for people doesn't mean that you have to put all your cards into them, like you don't need to put all your eggs in one basket.

You could apply these kind of communities where they could support what you're trying to do and expand your learning and then they become a community that you're a part of throughout the year.

I apply for fellowships and a lot of times with fellowships, you're part of a cohort.

I just feel like there's more than one way to meet people, and I feel like that's the part that people are missing.

Think Outside the Box with Networking

Michelle Jackson: It's just like there's this whole thing now where people are trying to date, right? They're always trying to date, but this is like a new thing that came up and they're like, wait, I don't have to use an app.

I can just go to Home Depot. And I'm like, Yeah, you can or you could be a part of a pickleball, pickleball league or corn hole if you're in the Midwest or here, like corn hole. Or maybe you like snowboarding. I feel like, yeah. Meeting people doesn't have to be work.

And a lot of times in these conversations, that's how people approach it and so it's painful. I would say the other thing is this- if you're a part of a community, as a creative, like we are there are a lot of different online meetups that they're hosting in state meetups. If people are coming to your state, Connect with them, but there's big caveat with that these are people that you've been in touch with for a while.

You know people are crazy, so you have to have discernment. If a person seems like a weirdo, they probably are, but if you've been in touch with someone for a while, and you're like, this is a person that I can transition from online to offline. You do have to do that thoughtfully.

You're meeting in a place with lots of other people. Maybe there's other people with you. I've made some really amazing friendships transitioning from online to offline but I do have some very strict ways to do that because I don't have time for crazy people.

I just would say there's 1,000,000,001 ways to meet people and expand your network, and most of them do not involve wearing a cocktail dress. I love to dress up and whatever, but it is cold today, right?

At the time we're recording this, it's freezing cold. I'm not gonna dress, wear a dress to meet people cuz I'll freeze. I totally get that.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. You're negative seven. So don't do that. Choose life. Yes.

But I I do appreciate you saying that cause I think we have kind of gotten out of, we have to get out of that mindset where here are my professional interests.

Therefore, when I meet people it's gonna be in this very strict setting that you can expand it, that it can be more organic. What are your interests? Because there's a benefit just in so many ways you learn and grow from each other on that.

We can meet people outside of conferences, but let's talk about conferences because that's still a big part.

I know like in our space to meet potential partners. Again, learning about what's going on in the community, great way to learn new things, trends that are going. How do you do it without one being exhausted, and two, how do you choose the conferences?

You said, you're not gonna be going every year to the same conferences. You're being very thoughtful and discerning.

How to Choose Which Conferences and Events to Attend

Elle Martinez: A lot of in my community are parents with kids and quite frankly, it's like if I travel, I want to make the most out of it. I do wanna enjoy it. How do you do it? I'm just curious about your thought process.

Michelle Jackson: So I am at the point in my online content creation career, if you will where there are certain things I'm really looking at. Does this event make sense for me at the point that I'm in with what I'm doing?

Like, have I heard that the content will be at a level that, that I will learn something. If I go there, will the attendees be great to to meet?

They're all the attendees of every conference are almost always like amazing. But for me to get on a plane and to fly across the country or whatever, It takes a lot of energy and so it just, there's just certain things I have to make sure I check before I say Yes.

Is it affordable? I am not trying to pay thousands of dollars to go to conferences. My goal is to make money when I attend a conference and to always be in the black. So any financial investment that I make when I attend. I have to recoup that money within that week or within a month of attending. Whether that is like a business partnership or something has to happen.

I just don't go to go. I go and it has to make sense. Is the audience aligned with the audience that I wanna be front of? Is there someone speaking that I'm like, wow, this is a really good opportunity to get in front of this? Like to see this person and hear what they have to share.

Do I like the community? Do I like and resonate with the community? I typically like most of the communities, but sometimes it's just like it's not quite the right fit.

Yeah . And so that's something to kind of be aware of as well.

Are there opportunities to highlight and share your expertise and that could be as a speaker, that could be if you decide to host something unofficially outside of the window of the event. So there's a lot of different things that I kind of look at.

One event that I'm attending this year, it will be the last time I go because I've been attending this event for a really long time. I see the people all the time. It's like family.

And so I think there's another thing to consider, which is like the life cycle of the event. I have done side hustles at conferences and it's interesting because they're some of the best side hustles, by the way. But it's interesting because you'll meet people who are like, yeah, I've been going for 15 years and I'm just like, you know what? Like you don't need to go for 15 years. Like this could be, maybe

Elle Martinez: at that point they should give you a free ticket. , you're like the

Michelle Jackson: mascot.

Oh my God. So for me, I don't wanna be doing anything for 15 years in a row. We're good.

I wanna also say that in 2024, I've decided not to attend any conferences partly because when I experimented with alternating years, it was just like phenomenal. And also it didn't really impact my business at all.

Like I had the capacity to implement what I was learning at these events, and then also to deepen the relationships that I was making with the people that I met.

I think that that's something that we don't talk enough about, which is going to conferences is , but there's a lot of information that we're taking in and I feel like most people don't give themselves enough time to actually implement what they're learning.

I think some people are kind of addicted to going, and so to me, it's like, again, I have other places I can go without like, all this, the obligations that come up with attending a conference.

I think the other thing too, to the second part of what you asked, which is how are you meeting people and connecting, you have to make these events small and quite frankly, if you're doing it right, you're still gonna be because meeting people is tiring.

Like this idea that you're not gonna be tired, I think , is not realistic. You're traveling to a new state or place, that the travel alone is tiring. You're talking with people you know throughout the day. Even introverts who talk to just a few people, they're gonna be tired.

Even extroverts, like everyone thinks that extroverts don't get tired. They get tired. And there's a point where you're like, where'd the extrovert friend go? They're taking a nap. You know, or, or

Elle Martinez: they lost their voice. .

Michelle Jackson: Yeah. Or they lost their voice. Which I have done. And so for me, what I tend to do at, at large conferences in part, especially I make it small.

I go to coffee meetups, like they always have these fun little things you can do if they're, if they're designed well conferences typically will have all these, smaller things that you can do, like a coffee meetup or a run or go to happy hour with a really niche group within the group.

I really focus on those things. This is the other reason why I'm so picky because a lot of people will arrive early to a conference and by early, I don't mean the day that it starts.

I mean, a day or two before it starts. So a lot of the events that I attend, I'm going one because I like the location. That's huge and so I'm gonna attend for a week because I wanna experience the location I wanna build in time so that I can meet with people in a really like, relaxed way without being rushed because maybe they're gonna be speaking and they're really well known.

We have friends that people follow them because they have fans like that. And so if I know that about them, I'm building in the time to really network in a way that's really like relaxing.

A good example of this is last year, I feel like it was last. Was it 2021? I think it was 2021. I was at an event in Austin and Austin's amazing right? Eating tacos, hanging out. And we went to I wanna call it Barton Springs. I feel like that's, is that Barton Springs? Yes. No. Yes. It's this cool massive pool.

It's a massive natural pool in the middle of Austin and we just hung out and swam and, you know, slid along the, the like slimy bottom . Cause the bottom is kinda slimy, but it was just so, such a great day.

That's how you meet people. You go swimming, you relax, you explore. That's what you do. That's how you network and make really authentic connections that are, yeah, pretty stress free because how relaxing is it to go swimming and floating around and just like relaxing and then go for tacos and drinks, like that's what we did that day.

That was one of the highlights of the conference and those people are a big reason why my revenue grew actually over time because they shared some insights into their business.

Again, the moral of the story, the lesson is have fun with people and keep showing up.

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