I’ve attended many networking events. In the days of social media, networking has become superficial, or at least, that’s what it feels like to me. In the rare moments it doesn’t feel superficial, I am often overwhelmed by the number of people in the room and the numerous conversations that begin with “what do you do?” As someone who enjoys to talk, you would think I would love these situations, but I don’t. In fact, I often want to leave before I’m even present because anxiety is real and it’s just not my thing. However, I’m no fool and I recognize it’s not something I can avoid, so I give myself pep talks and leave my house, though not as often as I probably should.
How do I get past this? There are two techniques I employ.
The first one begins with me cheating- I create my own events. Ha! I know, I know. It’s not fair, but you could totally cheat too; no one is stopping you. Cheating aside, you deserve the full answer. I understand that there are others like me who want to connect and need the space and opportunity to do so, but don’t necessarily like the ebb and flow of traditional networking events. I solve this problem, and yes it is a problem, by cultivating experiences that really allow for women to connect. When creating your own events, this doesn’t have to be an elaborate process. It can be as simple as choosing a location and asking 3 friends to invite 3 friends. The idea is expand both your reach and social capital.
This brings me to my second technique. I stop referring to “it” as networking, I prefer the term relationship-building. The idea of relationship-building eases anxiety and allows my brain to operate from a different perspective. I am no longer concerned with what someone does for a living and if I have the most up to date contact information on my business card, because I’m building relationships, not followers or fans. I no longer ask “what do you do," nor do I answer, because I’m trying to decide if we have a future together.
On November 29, 2017, I employed both techniques simultaneously for an amazing group of Real Brown Girls.
I fundamentally believe that if we, and by we I mean intelligent women of color, begin to approach collaboration and connections from the perspective of, “how can I support you,” as opposed to, “what do you do,” we will reach new heights professionally, personally, financially, and beyond.
As we enter into the new year, don’t worry about networking. Focus on cultivating meaningful and reciprocative relationships, and I promise you, your network will be bursting at its seams in due time.