Hello Shenell! I’d first like to introduce myself. My name is Kara and I work in public relations for Ford Motors. I wanted to reach out to you and let you know Ford will be in Chicago next weekend, joining forces with Blavity June 9th and 10th for the EmpowerHER conference. Join us… Wait -Stop- I’m good. The thought of networking was an immediate turn off. The only thing I could think is: How do I ask people to help me; networking is such a needy activity and needless to say, its pointless to connect with someone you will never collaborate with. I know me- I am going to end up in some corner by myself. I remember on day 1 Zim Ugochukwu, founder of Travel Noir shared her experience on networking. She literally said “When it came to networking, I found myself in a corner alone, so I just focused on working really hard on my business rather than networking.” I swear it was like the heavens opened up and Jesus’s light beamed on me. Yep, that’s what I’ll do! That was all I needed to hear. The conference was over for me. After that inaugural speech, I was done! I despised selling myself to someone who may not buy it. I was accustom to people just gravitating to me and eventually we become good associates, there you have it- a connect. In retrospect, I feared rejection. Attending the Empowerher2017 workshop was almost a no go for me, until I realized I had to conquer rejection and find purpose in this gravitational pull I give. I was totally clueless as to what to expect for day 1. Considering day 1 was only three hours, I was for certain it would be very chilled and I wouldn’t have to really talk to anyone. This is great, I can test the waters and prepare to network the next day. As soon as Founder and CEO Morgan Debaun of Blavity, 21 Ninety, and Empowerher workshop took the stage, she introduces herself and says “Y’all already know what I’m about to do.” I’m thinking “Nah Morgan, I don’t” as I look around to see head jesters that agree with me or her. Then she proceeds.. “Those on the right merge to the left and those on the left merge to the right.” Noooo nooo, I wasn’t ready (In my Kevin Hart voice). I spotted the nearest exit which was literally five seats away, but for some crazy reason it was suddenly like six blocks away. Clearly there wasn’t an escape. In every direction, a beautiful Nubian Queen was showing all teeth moving in on me, I’m trapped! There was no getting around entering into the space of others, asking “So what do you do?” I’m stuck and barely moving. I have yet to figure out if the paralysis was due to my fear or the lack of foot space as everyone was charging to the center of the room. I just know I’m over it and prayed it didn’t get any weirder. Welp, the Lord did not hear that prayer. At this point everyone has found a person to sell themselves to and I’m looking in the eyes of this super cute and funky plus size diva. “Hi I’m Alisha.” “Hi Alisha I’m Shenell, I’m a curvy fashion blogger and I’m no good at this networking concept.” Silence… all I could think was, Shenell why does this matter, girl get it together! Seemingly every female was doing great and I’m standing there hungry and hoping my breath isn’t tart. The exercise was definitely breaking the ice. The energy was high and so was the volume from everyone sharing their “How they are living their best life story.” I get closer to Alisha’s ear and ask, “What do you do?” she replied, “I’m Assistant Brand Manager for Ghirardelli Chocolate.” She said chocolate, I thought Snickers. I’m standing there blinking and smiling. Jesus I don’t know that brand. End this now! Suddenly she puts her index finger up and walks off as Morgan returns to the stage. As everyone takes their seats our whole conversation escaped me. Alisha quickly returns and places a business card and chocolate mint in my hand. Of course I did not read her card, but I did acknowledge the mint she placed in my hand. Holup-holup, what she tryna say! I wondered if she smelled my breath, Lord knows I was hungry lol. By the end of it all, day 1 was three hours of inspiration. I knew not returning wasn’t an option. I also knew I needed to devise and test a precise, but simple networking strategy I could commit to.
Kyra Kiles Former SVP Chief Editor, Ebony Magazine “You can be so much more effective when you have goals,” you must have some idea of what you’re trying to achieve so you can actually achieve it. Don’t get immersed in company politics and industry gossip. Do your work, that’s your brand. Make sure everything you is disputable.” -Kyra K.
Samantha Callender, Digital Beauty and Hair Contributor, Essence Magazine
Day 2 was all about redeeming myself and being intentional. Refocusing was something I knew I had to do to make this workshop worth while and most importantly conquer my discomfort for networking. I pulled out my statement dress by FIA Factory, my Akira Asian inspired mules, and my Loeffler Randall bag. I was loaded with pens, paper, business cards, my charger and a whole bag of mints. I bet no one else would catch me hungry. I arrived 20 minutes early and was charged for a cause.
Every woman there represented every shade of Black. It was a re-birthing of Africa and natural hair. Each and every speaker had a success story that made you feel, all things are possible. Black girl magic was live and in full effect. Every She-ro who spoke looked just like the audience she spoke to, us. I embraced every moment. Erica Bennett Senior VP of Allied Moxy confirmed so much for me by saying “When you are mission driven, you realize your work is so much bigger than you.” Geesh she is so right, I was made for this and I’m not going to stop me. I was already geared up for the first half of the workshop but after that statement, just know I put my networking strategies into full throttle towards the end. My 7 strategies are going to make me into a networking natural.
Before going over my 7 Struts to Networking with Ease, its valuable to the process that you adhere to pre-networking guidelines. Be in your season of yes for networking. If you’re not in your season of yes, you will never know if these steps will work for you. For starters get acquainted with the environment in which you’ll be networking, 10 to 15 minutes should be ample time to warm up. Secondly, smile as soon as you hit the door, because you are in high expectation of evolving a little more than you were before you arrived. Wear your most comfortable statement garment, this can be an easy conversation piece. Now let’s get to the networking struts.
Paige Mariah, Blogger and Professional Thriftier
- Law of Interest– Know, “To be interesting you must be interested.”-Dale Carnegie. Being genuine is key. People can feel when you care about their interest and successes. This makes you all the more magnetic!
- Face Value– “No time for fake rhymes.”-(inspired by lil Kim). Often times people feel they have to put on that, “I got it all face” in order to network. You’re wrong. Luvvie, author of “I’m Judging You” stated “Be so comfortable with who you are that you never have to question it.” This is your time to be as idiosyncratic and transparent as you want. According to entrepreneur and marketing coach Danielle Leslie, you could be the “culture add” someone is looking for. “It is wiser to risk an opportunity because I am who I am rather risk an opportunity being someone I’m not.” -Shenell
- The Basics– Keeping it simple should always be considered. Stating your name, where you’re from and your purpose for attending is usually very effective. This is the caveat of a popping conversation!
- You’re Not Needy– Do not think of networking as being needy. Most of the attendants have something to offer that they want you to have-you are a potential client. Trust and believe everyone is in need of someone, even the panelist, after all, that’s why you’re there.
- Don’t Sleep on Your Talent-Some people avoid networking because they feel they have nothing to offer. What you have to offer is time sensitive. Refrain from focusing on what you don’t have to offer, this a distraction. Being a student with good listening skills and a hunger for living your best life is plenty to bring to the table. Time sensitive means you have something to offer whether it be now or later.
- Approach Made Easy– Start off by asking a question (I learned this from a Nubian Queen) but I add, render a compliment- a genuine one. It opens the floor for a multitude of topics. Keep your eye on who is different from you. Opposite energy and personalities can help you learn a lot. When opposites attract it can create business magic.
- One is Enough– Don’t focus on the number of people to network with, but who to network with. One just might be enough.
Lena Waithe, Writer, Producer, and Creator of Dear White People and fellow Chicagoan might I add! “Make 10 bucks look like one million. You don’t have to have a ton of money, just a ton of talent.” -Lena W.
B. Renee, Chicago Based Fashion Stylist
Erika Bennett, Senior VP of Allied Marketing
These strategies were tested theories performed by me for me. The results rendered were absolutely magical and effortless. I dare you to follow the 7 Struts to Networking with Ease for your next mixer or workshop. Arriving equipped and armed with these strategies is a sure way to have you strutting anxiety free and like a networking expert, like I did On day 2. Also I need to hear feedback, I live for it! xoxo
Dress: Mandy off the Shoulder dress
Shoe: Out Of This World Mule
Earrings: H&M (Earrings are available in store)
Handbag: Loeffler Randall
*Refer to FIA Bat Dress Blog Post