Last night I went to a party that was centered around three things: Cookies, champagne and hob-nobbing with other young female professionals (YFPs. Obviously).
It was thrown by a girl I went to high school with (Girl? Lady? Woman? What’s the right term anymore? Anyway, let’s call her Lisa. Because that’s her name).
Lisa and I spent four years together in our high school’s drama program (If you met me, the drama thing really wouldn’t shock you. Rob tells me I’m quite the Queen of It, apparently.)
Although I hadn’t seen Lisa in 10-years, we’ve connected on Facebook for some time. Turns out FB isn’t just for embarrassing pictures and useless Status Updates (I.e.: “sandyb is in total need of a bikini wax right now. And a leg shave”). Whether you realize it or not, if you’re on FB, people know more about you than you think. Just something to think about.
So there I was, in a room filled with young, ambitious, professional women who, like me, are turning 30 in just a few months. But it’s not our impending jump into the next decade of our womandom that brought us together last night.
We were there to (hold your breath now..) NETWORK.
Word on the street is that, for some YFPs, networking has a bad rep. Somehow it implies that a) You’re only talking to someone to get something; b) You have ulterior motives that all lead back to money or business or flogging whatever it is that you do best; or c) You just like to talk about yourself.
Well, all of the above are true, and also a lot of the criteria for most friendships, dating situations and marriages. So, just deal because networking rules the world.
My opinion is that those who loathe networking probably think they don’t have a lot to say about themselves or don’t give themselves enough credit for what they have to offer. More to the point, these are likely the same people who don’t know how to blend a social setting with opportunity. If this sounds like you, your friends or someone you’re dating/sleeping with, read on. I think I’ve actually come up with something worthwhile to say here (These moments have been rare lately, so soak it up. I can’t produce like this all the time damn it.)
I call this:
The YFPs Guide to Networking (But dudes can use it, too. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that).
a) You’re only talking to someone to get something.
Um, obviously. Even, “Hi, how are you?” has a connotation of, “Ok, now you ask me back.” Even if all you want is an answer to your question, you’re still giving to get. That can be applied from the simplest of questions to the biggest of demands. And there is nothing wrong with this formula. It’s actually quite balanced.
b) You have ulterior motives that all lead back to money or business or flogging whatever it is that you do best.
I mentioned it in a post last week here, but why do we have such trouble giving ourselves a pat on the back anyway? If we can experience something or someone to get us to a level of higher emotional or spiritual growth, it’s ok (yoga, anyone?), yet when we put ourselves into a situation where we can grow professionally it’s deemed as selfish, greedy or (gasp) overly ambitious. I have no idea why we put a limit on ambition, although I’ll tell you that I’ve been guilty of doing this myself.
c) You just like to talk about yourself.
This is a fine line, especially if you are an douchebag. Some people really don’t know how to talk about themselves without sounding like they’d fondle their own reflection if they could. (You’re thinking of someone like this right now, aren’t you?) Let me be clear: Being big-faced is not what networking is about. It’s an exchange of information, in equal amounts. At the end of the day, people want to know about you. That’s why they creep your Facebook page and Twitter account, so don’t be afraid to let people in once in a while, on your terms. But do edit what you say. If Facebooking and blogging have taught me anything it’s that what you put on the Internet is permanent. The same goes for what you put in people’s minds about you, so do use your filters. Nobody cares about how awesome you are (or think you are), they care about how your awesomeness can inspire them to be awesome, too. That’s networking.
I had a spectacular time at Lisa’s last night. It was a great atmosphere with like-minded young women who had genuine conversations about their interests, accomplishments and jobs. If there’s one thing I took away from the experience (besides ass-fattening cookies, he-hem) it’s that I really should surround myself with these types of people more often. I felt incredible and confident last night. Look at that – a social setting gave me emotional satisfaction and all the while I was talking about my career. Hm. Apparently emotional and professional growth do go together, like booze and cigarettes, mayo and pickles, and like Cookies and Champagne.
P.S. Oh, and if you’re into throwing your own little Cookies & Champagne soiree, just Google it. (You know, that online network thing.)
So, do you NETWORK? And, more importantly, how do you feel about combining pickles and mayo? (To be honest, I want to know the answer to both.)