HER take on networking: A conversation with Meegan Hofmeister

Meegan Hofmeister is the founder of The Dostal House, a coworking and social space for women in the New Bohemia neighborhood. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Meegan Hofmeister is the founder of The Dostal House, a coworking and social space for women in the New Bohemia neighborhood. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Meegan Hofmeister, the founder of The Dostal House in Cedar Rapids, readily admits that networking isn’t her thing.

“I love socializing, but I hate networking. All of the interactions are forced and unnatural.” The difference between socializing and networking, she says, is that socializing is based on making real connections, rather than gathering information. “It’s built on genuine interactions that could become real relationships.”

Hofmeister can’t avoid networking events entirely, mainly because they give her a chance to tell people about The Dostal House, a co-working space and social club for women that she founded in NewBo in 2017. When you see her at an event, you might not realize how difficult it is for the “extroverted introvert” to make connections. “One of the things that evokes the most anxiety in me is walking into a room full of people and trying to wiggle my way into a circle. I’ve been that girl hiding in the bathroom stall checking her Instagram.”

To make networking more bearable, Hofmeister asks people questions about themselves and makes an effort to get to know people regardless of where they work. “I’m more interested in knowing about the person and hearing their story.”

Getting to know people beyond what’s on their resume makes sense now more than ever, Hofmeister says. “I don’t just ask what people do. For a lot of people, it isn’t a straightforward answer anymore.” This is certainly the case for Hofmeister, who is a self-described serial entrepreneur. In addition to running The Dostal House, which includes a newly developed leadership academy, she works on building her personal brand, called signedM. One of the ways she promotes her brand is through her blog, where she writes about fashion, beauty, travel and more. It’s a lot to try to fit in one sentence when she first meets someone. Plus, no matter how busy she is, she says her professional ventures don’t define her. “I’m so much more than what I do for a paycheck.”

When Hofmeister knows she needs to make a connection to help her business, she is direct and straightforward. “I go in with my business in mind.” She says people respond better to directness, and she hates that palpable feeling that someone wants something, but they aren’t quite saying what it is. She also picks her events carefully — she knows she’s more likely to meet the kind of women that will support her business at events that honor and recognize women. “Those are the people that propel and inspire me, and the people I want hanging out at The Dostal House,” she said. “I want them to come experience the magic and share their stories.”

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“My advice for folks on networking is give, give, give. You will later receive. But you are really planting these seeds. Some of them will die, and they won’t become anything. Many of them will take many, many years before they pay off for you, if at all.” — Sallie Krawcheck

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Gran

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count by Karen Wickre

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