There are many guides, tips and tricks available on how to network successfully at various types of events. Networking . . . just mentioning it can illicit many different negative responses including fear, anxiety or stress. I know that it is “good” for me and that it is the “right” thing to do for both my personal and professional development. Of course, that makes it sound more like exercise than anything else. And like exercise, you can’t just do it occasionally and expect meaningful results. It takes practice, learning and even failure at times to figure out what works for you. It also includes finding common ground with others to successfully network in the first place.
There is a well-established principal in social science that humans tend to gravitate to and interact with people with whom they easily identify. In other words, we talk and hang out with people we have the most in common with because it is easier for us. I think you can use that principal as a tactic, and even an advantage, when you are networking. If you remember that you have something fundamental in common with every woman you meet at an event, finding someone to meaningfully connect with becomes a bit less daunting. A crucial way to get networking “exercise” is joining, or starting if necessary, a networking group specifically for women. It may be an organization for women in your industry, your geography, or even your own company if it is large enough. I imagine your experience will echo my own and you will find many interesting, smart and dedicated professional women out there who are willing to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with you. These are all learning experiences you can benefit from both personally and professionally as a result of interacting with those who have walked the same or similar path ahead of you. With practice and experience, and frankly, sometimes just making the effort, you will likely find that your network has grown and you have advanced toward your personal and professional development goals.
Networking is a significant and important aspect of my profession. I am a more effective professional and networker because of the women I have met through all stages of my career. At some point, and often without warning, you find yourself providing advice and talking about your own experiences to someone else. I encourage you take advantage of your own network of professional women, and when the time is right and the opportunity presents itself, to pay those experiences forward.
Thanks to our Power Up Networking Hour sponsor, Harter Secrest & Emery for their support of this event.
Kayla E. Klos is Counsel at Harter Secrest & Emery in Buffalo, NY and has nearly 25 years of experience advising clients on compliance with securities law, as well as general corporate matters.