Today I’ve been at a Christmas Afternoon Tea hosted by the ‘Socially Shared’ network group. With its warm and friendly vibe it struck me that this supportive group has become my new ‘team.’ Today certainly felt like a ‘team Christmas do’ with full on Christmas jumpers, sparkle and giggles.

I always knew that making a career change from ‘employee’ status to ‘self-employed’ was going to be a challenge. As someone who loves team work I was concerned initially that I’d miss out on the opportunity to bounce ideas around, learn from and be challenged by others. So one of the best pieces of advice I got when becoming self-employed was “don’t let it become a lonely business.” I can honestly say that I have not once felt lonely; there’s plenty of people who I meet on a regular basis who provide that ‘team’ element and more. But you do have to work at it! (and yes I count numerous coffees, lunches, breakfasts as ‘work’) But a valuable ‘support network’ isn’t just a thing that us self-employed business women need, it’s also a hot topic within career coaching sessions with my clients from all sectors of the working world.

One of my favourite questions to ask when clients are talking about what they want to achieve is ‘who can support you with this?’  Sometimes this is met with a long pause but when you really really think, there is always someone who can. It might not be who you expect, and you will most likely have various ‘supporters’ depending on the situation.

Here’s my favourite five tips around support that I’ve learned both from coaching clients and from my own experience:-

  1. One of the best ways to discover new work possibilities is through your network. There’s a degree of truth resonating in the old work cliché “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” However, this is most effective when there is some common ground, history, and trust present before seeking support.
  2. Make a list of your ‘star supporters’ it might surprise you how many have had your back over the years; include everyone throughout your career and think about what the impact that support had on you. Tell them.
  3. Networking is about supporting each other and having conversations. (Not selling!) Think about what you have in common? what interests you about them? Just start conversations – it really works. One of my favourite openers is ‘what brought you here today?’ You get more of a story rather than a job title that way.
  4. For those of us who are more comfortable being the ‘supporter’ rather than the ‘supportee’ it helps to think of ‘asking for support’ as a sign of strength not a weakness. JUST ASK. People generally like to help, and if they don’t then they can always say no, or ignore you, that’s their choice. What’s the worst that could happen?
  5. Be a supporter of others. Champion each other regardless of whether they are considered your ‘competition’ or not. We all have our own unique strengths. Supporting others in the same trade as you (as long as it’s genuine) highlights your own confidence and credibility in what you do.

This blog is dedicated to all my star supporters and all the Socially Shared network group.  I’m incredibly lucky to have you.