The Magic of Networking: What I Learned from My Fairy Godmother


The Tale
Once upon a time I went to a Women’s Business Leadership meeting in the Valley of the Sun. It is a group similar to the Missoula Businesswomen’s Network here in Missoula, only it depleted my coffers far more to join. I was but a simple Montana girl hoping to make it in the bright Phoenix Kingdom.

The next day I received a phone call from Teri, a financial planner who’d been at my table, inviting me to a pre-work coffee. I expressed that I’d love to join her, that I hoped to meet more citizens of the sun, but explained up front that I wasn’t looking for a new financial planner. She wanted to learn more about my business and thought she might have some potential clients for me.

When we met at 7AM later in the week, it seemed she’d already had one meeting, as she did almost daily before she went to the office. She knew the owner of the coffee shop and when she introduced me, she raved about my business. He asked for my card.

As we settled in, she with her Americano and I with my tea, she quizzed me on my ideal client type, and what I needed to grow my business. As I shared my business niche and vision with her, she volunteered that several of her clients used similar services, but probably weren’t receiving the level of care and expertise I delivered.

That afternoon, I received several cc’d missives. Teri had messaged her clients, introducing me and my business, suggesting that they might be happier with my company than the one they’d been using! Teri continued to regularly introduce my company as an option for her clients.

As time went by, I toiled in the sun and built my business into a respected and recognized leader in the industry. In the end, I sold the business and moved back to Missoula to live happily ever after. The End.

The End?
But wait? What happened to Teri, you ask?

I watched her consistently build connections, always with a spirit of service, asking how she could help others reach their goals. Then she set out deliberately to assist them. She scheduled time to serve others (maybe only minutes each week), and she followed up via email.

I never hired her as my financial planner. But I never forgot her generous efforts to help me build my business, either. I knew all along she wasn’t being entirely altruistic—of course she hoped to build her business by supporting others with their businesses. But she was subtle about that and genuinely helpful. And it worked! I told my clients about her. Many of her other networking connections must, too, because she has built her practice into an extremely successful one.

The Moral
I thought I was the hero of the story—small-town Montana girl builds business in big city, then moves home to live happily ever after. But it was Teri all along who was the hero, the fairy godmother who helped others and in doing so built her business and helped herself.

Through her example, I discovered that I can give to others in a more intentional manner. My generosity had always been spontaneous, haphazard. I learned to be more purposeful, to schedule time to be available to others, to support their endeavors, to witness their accomplishments.

Being mindful of this approach as I’ve returned to Missoula has opened up the community in ways I hadn’t experienced when I lived here before. I’m more involved, becoming an active member of the village, and many of my connections have opened up Missoula to me, in both personal and professional ways.

One way I can serve this community is to share my experience with you. I invite you to send in your work-related questions and I will answer them or I will find the answers!

And as you approach your work or your life or your job search, ask your contacts what they need. Helping others might not translate immediately or directly into a job or promotion, but I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of focused generosity. My fairy godmother taught me that.

Jennifer Shryock is a resume writer and interview coach with Rainmaker Resumes.  Her blog features Missoula job hunting tips, covering everything from the employer perspective to networking ideas to interview-winning resumes to keeping your sense of humor, whether you’re working or working to find work. For answers, send your work related questions to Make her blog a regular part of your job search.