Two weeks ago I queried whether women in strata feel alienated by the corporate sailing/golf day. This sparked some interesting discussion within our LinkedIn group. I also received some direct emails from women who did not want to publicise their opinions, but wanted to express their views privately.
One theme that resonated amongst the LinkedIn comments and emails was the idea that professional women are simply too time poor for this ‘networking’ stuff. They take their commitments seriously and, for them, time spent away from the desk or office feels like time wasted, leaving them trailing behind their colleagues when they are already struggling to get through as much as possible in a day.
I wrote last year about the importance of making time for personal and professional development. What I didn’t include in that article was advice on how you might best squeeze such events in to an already packed schedule. Here are my four tips on how to do just that:
- Just do it
Send in your RSVP, sign up, buy a ticket, whatever it is…commit. Get it in the diary. When the email invite comes in and you think “that sounds like fun, I’ll come back to that and maybe I’ll go…” you know it’s not going to happen. Think of it like any other office or client meeting: not negotiable. You’re going.
- Choose wisely
Before you do jump right in, just make sure it’s the kind of event that suits you. Is the activity an enjoyable one? Who will be there? What time of the day is it on? In any one month there are many different events around town (especially for women in the property sector), ranging from breakfasts to lunches to afternoon workshops and evening cocktails. Decide what works best for your schedule. Finding the right event will mean you’re more likely to stick to your commitment (see 1 above). Once you find a group or event that really hits the mark for you, sign up to their email list and you’ll always know when the next one is coming up.
If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to women’s networking events and groups, please let me know and I will give you a shortlist of my favorites.
- Follow up
Having attended the right event, at the right time, with the right people, you’re guaranteed to make some fantastic connections. You’ll want to cement those by following up after the event: you took the time to attend, don’t forget to make the most of what you achieved.
The best place to start cementing your connections is usually LinkedIn, and if you’ve managed to snag a business card with an email address, drop your new found contact a personal email too. Let them know how great it was to talk to them and if you can offer something small (even a link to an interesting article you’ve read that you think they might enjoy) send that off too. You will be the one they remember from the event.
- Change the culture
One of the most concerning things I am hearing from some fellow women in strata is that they just don’t feel supported by their workplace when it comes to attending these kinds of events. According to them, it might be alright for the men to take an afternoon off for golf, but if the women are heading out for a lunch, it’s frowns all round. If that’s your workplace culture, it’s time for a change. It’s always hard to go first, but if you’ve built up the courage and attended an event that you thought was valuable, share that experience with your colleagues. Invite them to the next one. Culture change starts with one. There’s no reason why that one shouldn’t be you.
The Women in Strata steering committee will soon be announcing our very own launch event. There’ll be no excuses for missing that one. But in the meantime, start building those networking skills. As I wrote last year: the next opportunity may be just around the corner, but you aren’t going to find it sitting at your desk.