Women-only networking groups have been on the rise in recent years and it’s still up in the air as to whether the exclusive practice benefits women. The groups range from company affinity and business resource groups to local entrepreneur and industry related groups. Like co-ed groups, offer a wide range of objectives – facilitate mentorship, career advancement, fellowship; develop leadership skills; and as in MAP’s case, help its members return to work. So why restrict attendees to women only? Because women find comfort in commonality and experience a sense of belonging.
I spoke with, Nancy Rice, Director of Operations of Pedestal Technology, LLC (whom I met years ago at a women’s networking function and who referred me to The MAP Agency), if she found the gender-specific events beneficial. According to her, “they create a no pressure space for women to feel more relaxed and speak freely. I tend to have more engaging conversations in these types of environments. As women, we can relate to each other on levels outside of our careers – which opens up more dialogue and makes the engagement more meaningful.” At these gatherings, Nancy has received leads, learned of job opportunities, ways to become more engaged in the community, and met a few friends along the way.
Best Practices to Network Effectively
When it comes to networking, there are a few standard operating procedures to follow – have a purpose and vocalize what sets you apart. Networking to advance your career and gain new leads is a serious matter, which means you will need to step outside of your comfort zone, especially if you are an introvert. Sticking close to the same person or group the entire time may keep you from the person who can change your destiny.
Be intentional about connecting with people. Clear the clutter from your mind about where you parked and what’s awaiting you at home, so that you can attentively listen to and interact with people. You are present to make a connection and build relationships, so focus your energy on the task at hand.
To help you remember the barrage of information and to build upon future encounters with your new connections, consider the following steps. Repeat each person’s name when you greet them upon being introduced. Do not forget her name as soon as the handshake ends. When appropriate, discreetly make smartphone notes about the people you meet – first and last name, profession, hobbies, interesting facts and/or family dynamics. Gathering this information openly may understandably creep someone out.
With the first two tidbits of information, you will be able to find a person and request a connection on LinkedIn the following day (while the event and you are fresh on her mind). The other personal notes will help you recall valuable details so that you can initiate a meaningful conversation when you meet again. Don’t waste time re-gathering this information the next time your paths cross.
Keep in mind that it is unrealistic to think one encounter with a person will result in them vouching for you to the gatekeeper or hiring manager at your dream employer or recommending your business/services to members of their valued network. For best results, attend regularly and keep in touch with your new connections.
Nancy’s Surefire Networking Strategy
1. Research the event – Find out who is organizing the event, location, time, etc.
2. Set a goal or intention before you arrive – Know who you want to meet and what you expect to accomplish. Depending on the type of event, organizers may share who will be attending. Take advantage of social media and plan accordingly.
3. Practice your “elevator pitch” – Be prepared to ask for what you want. If you are looking for a job, don’t be afraid to say that.
4. Once you are at the event, NETWORK! – Make your way around the room and talk to as many people as possible. Share your story and offer business/contact cards.
5. FOLLOW UP – not following up with new connections after an event is one of the worst things you can do; the other is not setting a networking goal to begin with.
Have you developed a fool-proof strategy you’d like to share? Please, do tell. Reach out to me @MaroniesMusings on twitter & Instagram to start the conversation.
Lisa Maronie is a freelance writer (Prose Communications) who hopes to return to corporate communications. She is a wife and mother, photographer, antique and thrift store treasure hunter, member of the Junior League of Greenville and board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upstate. #womensupportingwomen #likemindedwomen #womenmeanbusiness #womenonlynetworking