Act #148: Surround yourself with others who also seek change.
After working in the same small community for almost a decade, last year I found myself with a new job, in a new town, thrust in the midst of a tight-knit progressive community that I wasn't sure would have room for yet one more activist-minded person. Everyone either went to college together or served on a board together, and who was I, as an outsider, to come in with more ideas for community change when these good people have been at it for decades?
So what do I do? I started asking women out on lunch dates. Brown women, state representatives, business women, MBA students, college grads looking for work, former baristas turned graphic designers, non-profit directors, Mary Kay consultants, fundraisers, faith leaders, women I read about in the local paper, politicians, and other women of interest whose names keep coming up for one reason or another.
I e-mail them, call them, or approach them at social functions and introduce myself. If they aren't too freaked out by me by that point, I ask them out to lunch or for a cup of coffee.
My "agenda" is quite simple: to connect with and learn from other women who believe in social change, in order to find ways to support one another's efforts, in hopes of strengthening our impact. I've been pleasantly surprised that no one has really ever rejected me (yet), although some are understandably quite busy and we haven't been able to nail down a meeting time and place yet.
I figure I have two choices: 1.) To work for change in isolation, re-invent the wheel, create my own way; or 2.) Draw from the existing wisdom from the community, identify ways to enhance one another, and thus broaden our overall capacity for change. Luckily I have enough sense about me to choose the latter.
As working women, we've been preached about the importance of networking and the power of surrounding ourselves with strong, like-minded others. But aside from joining professional organizations, we often don't have natural opportunities to do so. I encourage you to push your comfort zone a little to make those connections. You may be surprised at how willing other women are to share their time and gifts with you. And naturally, you would do the same, right? So the next time you find yourself at a luncheon with a fabulous local keynote speaker that you've been watching on television and have been impressed with for years, give it a shot. Introduce yourself, tell her why she inspires you, and ask her out on a date.