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Stacy Brookman, Leadership & Resilience Coach, Real Life Resilience

Stacy Brookman is a leadership coach and founder of Real Life Resilience

Can you share a little about what makes you an authority on building a great network?

As a women's leadership coach, conference speaker, and the founder of Real Life Resilience, I have dedicated my career to empowering women leaders and helping them overcome imposter syndrome. Through my own personal journey in the corporate world, I have experienced firsthand the challenges and self-doubt that can hinder professional growth. But I also know the transformative power of building a strong network and finding mentors who can guide and advocate for you.

Through my own experiences and extensive research, including studying the concepts of Connectional Intelligence and the Medici Effect, I've developed a unique approach to networking that goes beyond surface-level connections. My 50 cups of coffee challenge, along with the Connectional Coffee Tracker, provides a practical framework for building meaningful relationships and expanding your network.

I've witnessed the incredible impact that networking can have on women's professional journeys. By leveraging my coaching expertise and combining it with the power of intentional connections, I have helped countless women overcome self-doubt, embrace their unique strengths, and confidently command their seat at the table.

How important is networking for professional success, and why?

Networking is a crucial ingredient for professional success. Picture your career as a garden, where you sow seeds of potential and nurture them into blooming opportunities. Just as gardens need sunlight and care to flourish, your career needs connections and relationships to thrive.

I realized the power of networking when I met someone by chance at a conference. That connection led me to exciting projects, fresh perspectives, and unexpected opportunities. Networking opens doors you never knew existed, exposing you to diverse ideas and different industries. It surrounds you with a community of like-minded individuals who offer guidance and support.

Networking is not just about collecting business cards; it's about forging meaningful relationships based on trust and genuine connection. It's cultivating a garden of relationships where everyone grows together.

Approach networking with an open mind, curiosity, and a desire to connect. Consider trying the Connectional Coffee Tracker to guide your networking journey. It's a simple yet effective way to connect with others, one cup of coffee at a time.

What's your usual ice-breaker question when meeting someone for the first time?

When meeting someone for the first time, my go-to ice-breaker question is, "What's your superpower or skill you enjoy most—either at work or outside of work?" Why do I love this question? Well, let me share a little secret—it's all about tapping into the individual's passions and strengths.

You see, we often get caught up in the mundane small talk of everyday life. "What do you do?" or "How's the weather?" While these questions serve their purpose, they don't really spark a genuine connection or reveal much about the person's true essence.

But when I ask about their superpower or skill, something magical happens. It's like a doorway opens up to their inner world—their passions, their talents, and the things that truly light them up. It's an invitation for them to share something unique and meaningful, allowing us to skip the surface-level conversations and dive into what truly matters.

People's responses to this question never fail to surprise and delight me. Some reveal unexpected talents—like someone who's a secret salsa dancer or a master of baking mouthwatering desserts. Others share their professional superpowers—a knack for problem-solving, a gift for public speaking, or a talent for building strong teams.

Not only does this question foster a genuine connection, but it also empowers the person to recognize and celebrate their own strengths. It's a powerful reminder that we all possess unique abilities and passions that make us extraordinary in our own way.

How do you approach networking differently when you're meeting someone in person versus virtually?

When it comes to networking, whether it's in person or virtually, my approach remains rooted in authentic connection. However, there are subtle differences in how I navigate each setting. In person, I rely on non-verbal cues, body language, and the immediate energy exchange to build rapport. Virtual networking requires focused attention, active listening, and leveraging digital platforms effectively. Regardless of the setting, my goal is to create a comfortable and engaging space where genuine conversations can unfold, fostering connections that transcend physical boundaries. Ultimately, it's about adapting to the environment while staying true to the principles of building meaningful relationships.

So, whether you're shaking hands or clicking "Join Meeting," remember that networking is about cultivating meaningful connections, one interaction at a time.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network, and how can they avoid them?

When building their professional network, people often make a few common mistakes. One is approaching networking with a transactional mindset—viewing connections solely as a means to their own advancement. To avoid this, shift the focus from "What can I get?" to "How can I contribute?" Another mistake is neglecting to follow up or nurture relationships after an initial interaction. To overcome this, prioritize consistent communication, show genuine interest, and find ways to provide value to your network. Finally, many people overlook the power of diverse connections. Avoid this mistake by actively seeking out individuals from different industries, backgrounds, and perspectives. Embrace the richness that comes from diverse networks, as it opens doors to new opportunities and innovative thinking.

This is where my Connectional Coffee process comes into play ( It offers a tracker and a method to build relationships that bloom from people you already know, to people they know...but you don't.

Have you noticed any differences in the types of relationships you build through in-person versus virtual networking? If so, can you describe those differences?

Certainly! I've observed some differences in the types of relationships built through in-person versus virtual networking. Interestingly, being virtual doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I find it often easier to establish connections in the virtual space.

Virtual networking allows for greater accessibility and flexibility. It breaks down geographical barriers and enables connections with individuals from diverse locations and backgrounds. It also provides a level playing field, where everyone can participate without the constraints of physical presence or hierarchy.

In virtual settings, I've noticed that people are often more open and forthcoming. The digital environment allows for a certain level of comfort and confidence, making it easier for individuals to share their experiences, opinions, and aspirations. It fosters an environment where connections can be formed based on ideas and shared interests, rather than external appearances.

Even more...virtual networking offers unique opportunities for deliberate engagement. It allows for focused and purposeful interactions, without the distractions that can occur in busy in-person environments. This can lead to deeper, more meaningful conversations and connections.

What are some strategies you've found effective for building rapport and establishing trust with someone you've only just met?

When establishing rapport and building trust with someone you've just met, a few effective strategies come to mind. First, active listening is key—truly engage in the conversation, show genuine interest, and ask follow-up questions to demonstrate your attentiveness. Second, find common ground by seeking shared interests, experiences, or goals. This helps create a sense of connection and relatability. Third, be authentic and transparent, allowing your true self to shine through. People appreciate authenticity and are more likely to trust those who are genuine. Lastly, follow up with any promises or commitments you made during the conversation, showing reliability and respect. By combining active listening, finding common ground, authenticity, and follow-through, you can establish a solid foundation of rapport and trust with someone you've just met.

How can someone use social media and online networking to expand their professional network?

Social media and online networking offer valuable ways to expand your professional network. Here's how you can make the most of these platforms:

Engage with LinkedIn groups that align with your interests and industry. These communities connect you with like-minded individuals and provide opportunities to join coffee chats, where you can share insights and build relationships.

When using social media, share valuable content related to your expertise, positioning yourself as a thought leader. This attracts others who resonate with your ideas and fosters connections.

Direct messaging is powerful—reach out to individuals whose posts or articles resonate with you. Personalized messages show genuine engagement and lay the foundation for meaningful conversations.

Remember, networking is a two-way street. Engage with others' posts, leave thoughtful comments, and support their achievements to build authentic connections.

Proactively schedule virtual coffee chats or video calls with your online connections to deepen relationships beyond the digital realm. These conversations allow for deeper discussions and potential collaborations.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to networking and trying to make connections in their industry?

Start with curiosity: Approach networking with a genuine desire to learn and connect. Be curious about others' experiences, insights, and perspectives. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their responses. Showing authentic interest in others will create a foundation for meaningful connections.

Be proactive: Take the initiative to put yourself out there. Attend industry events, join professional organizations or networking groups, and participate in online communities. Don't wait for opportunities to come to you—seek them out and actively engage in conversations.

Give before you ask: Networking is a reciprocal process. Look for ways to offer support, insights, or resources to others before asking for anything in return. Be generous with your knowledge and connections. By adding value to others, you establish yourself as a trusted and valuable networker.

Embrace discomfort: Networking can be intimidating, especially for newcomers. Embrace discomfort and step outside your comfort zone. Attend events, introduce yourself to new people, and engage in conversations. Remember that everyone is there to connect, and many are likely feeling the same nerves as you.

Remember, networking is a journey, and it takes time to build meaningful connections. Be patient, persistent, and authentic in your networking efforts. By embracing these strategies, you'll be well on your way to establishing a strong professional network in your industry.

  • Embrace authentic connections: Building a network is not just about collecting business cards or LinkedIn connections—it's about cultivating genuine relationships. Seek connections based on shared values, interests, or goals. When you approach networking with authenticity, you create a foundation of trust and mutual support. Remember, it's the quality of your connections that matters, not just the quantity. For example, one powerful tool that can aid you in building authentic connections is the Connectional Coffee Tracker. It's a practical resource that helps you track your networking efforts and foster meaningful conversations. By using this tool, you can stay organized, follow up effectively, and build a network rooted in genuine connections.

  • Give to receive: Networking is a reciprocal process, and giving before asking can have a tremendous impact. Look for ways to support and uplift others in your network. Offer your expertise, share relevant resources, or make introductions to help them achieve their goals. When you give without expecting immediate returns, you foster a culture of generosity and reciprocity within your network. From my own experience, I've found that by genuinely helping others, whether through mentoring, sharing insights, or making connections, I've built strong and lasting relationships. The key is to approach networking with a mindset of giving and adding value, rather than solely focusing on personal gains.

  • Step outside your comfort zone: Networking requires embracing discomfort and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. Be open to attending events, conferences, or industry gatherings where you can meet new people. Initiate conversations, introduce yourself to strangers, and actively participate in discussions. It's through these brave actions that you expand your network and create opportunities for growth. I've personally witnessed the power of stepping outside my comfort zone. By attending conferences and engaging with individuals I wouldn't typically encounter, I've gained fresh perspectives, made unexpected connections, and opened doors to exciting collaborations.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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