Awkward-Proof Networking

August 2, 2010  |  

“Wonder Woman Files” is a weekly career column on Madame Noire. Stay tuned for more topics, comment or write us at editors@madamenoire.com if you have suggestions!

Let’s talk about the “N” word.  No, not that one.

I mean the one that can make or break your climb up the ladder of success.  The word that can make many shy Madames cringe: networking.

For a long time I used to think of the word as a hurdle.  In my head, this tall, high hurdle was always waiting to yank me out of the air and quickly leave me in a heap of nerves and jitters.  I think there are so called Jackie Joyners of networking.  These are  Madames who can power through rounds of small talk, wine and cheese, leaving the party all out of the business cards, and purses stacked with new ones.  We too can be like them, because the truth is networking is for every single one of us.  It can be an amazing tool to accelerate your career to the next level or to find a new frontier to explore.

If you need to get over the hurdle to higher planes consider these three tricks to make networking natural:

  1. Bring a wingman: The wingman was a rather ingenious invention by our male counterparts from Mars.  Having someone roll with you can give you confidence and give you an excuse to back out of a conversation that is going nowhere fast.  But careful, if you and your wingman (or wing-madame) are looking for the same type of opportunities, the partnership could become a competition fast.
  2. Two for One: Some of the best networking opportunities often don’t carry the title.  Instead of frantically Googling “professional mixers” keep your eye out for events that genuinely interest you.  Have you been looking to break into non-profit work, for example? If so, check out volunteer opportunities for the organizations that interest you and give them an hour or two of your time.  You’ll be there showing your interest- which will speak volumes over chatter and drinks.
  3. Return to Your Stomping Grounds: Alumni organizations, community meetings, and church groups are often overlooked ways to network.  Even if you don’t know everyone there, you’ll have a fail-safe topic of conversation to go to.  You may not care much what dorm you lived in freshman year or which “Intro to Econ” you took, but to the older, more gray-haired CEO, that commonality can be the spark that keeps your name in mind.  So don’t overlook that next letter or invite that comes your way…amazing opportunities can come from the most ordinary places!

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