No Boys Allowed: Women-only Networking

May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is a rare but always wonderful day when I get to spend time in the office face to face with Lisa, Cindy, & Maria. Yesterday we were all together and as always, I walked out there having learned something new and feeling inspired. Cindy showed me how to add Volunteer Experience to my LinkedIn profile (it’s under “Add Sections” which is right under the grey summary block).

Maria and Cindy at the Howard County Money Matters Fair in March 2012 at the Howard County Library.

I had a chance to ask the ladies if they had run across anything interesting on the web lately and Cindy pointed me to Tory Johnson’s Women for Hire Site. Tory linked to a Forbes article by Stacy Gordon entitled “Why We Need Women-Only Networks”. Cindy agreed that women-only networking events were beneficial because women do network differently from men and it is a place where women do feel more comfortable. She noted that while you do want to stay career-focused, more personal comments about childcare or work/life balance are receiving differently in a women-only environment.

I asked Cindy that given the fact that the workplace is made up of a variety of people does women-only networking do us a disservice? Cindy agreed there are some drawbacks. All women events are great, especially when you’re just getting started and it is a great learning experience. But you do need to participate in networking events with men to further your career.

She cautioned that if you do the same women-only events over and over, you can get stuck. Over time, these groups can get cliquey and people don’t actually circulate which defeats the purpose of participating. Going to a networking event is not meeting a friend for lunch and you have to expand your horizons if you want to advance your career or build your business.

Cindy recommended targeting networking events based on your goals once you are more comfortable networking. She said you don’t have to hit every networking event and come home with 100 business cards. Find one or two events that meet your needs and focus on making a few real and solid connections at the event. Everyone can spot the serial networker/business card collector a mile away!

I took full advantage of having Cindy and Maria at the same table and hit them up for tips on how to get started networking.

Cindy & Maria’s Tips:

  • Go with a more extroverted person who can help you mingle.
  • Identify the safe groups where you would feel comfortable to get yourself started.
  • Go with a purpose in mind.
  • Its not all about what they can do for you, learn as much as you can about others as well.
  • Prepare your elevator speech in advance.
  • You don’t need to take a 100 cards, just 5 good ones – Quality over Quantity. Take a few minutes to jot down some notes on the back of business cards of how you met them.
  • Follow up – do send a personalized message on Linked In. “Enjoyed chatting with you about…” or a short email. Don’t just use the generic Linked In message!
  • Come with other events and information that you can share that would be of interest to people you meet.
  • Remember – It is ultimately about building a relationship with people.

In the meantime, got any recommendations for great networking events in the area? Have an opinion on all-women events versus the more traditional events?

Posted by: Heather Comstock

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