Let me be honest, networking is not really my thing. Indeed, I always thought this wasn’t made for introverts like me. I quickly realized that online networking was helpful to hide behind a computer. I also quickly understood, thanks to my internship at ThereSheGoes, the power of offline networking. I used to think it was something too serious, impersonal, very corporate and stressful, but I found out that we could network like we’re going to have a drink with friends, and it completely changed my point of view.
ThereSheGoes particularly believes in offline connection’s power. Naturally, in the times of social distancing, everything happens online, but still, face-to-face exchanges are more valuable than adding someone on LinkedIn.
Digital has shaken up the way we approach networking. With LinkedIn, any professional can now build an online network by simply using the “connect to” button. Time-saving, first contact is less stressful, thousands of like-minded profiles, the platform has attracted anyone who wanted to develop their network by democratizing networking.
It has even become a soft skill we learn at school. Learning how to manage your profile, how to use storytelling to sell yourself, be active, and so on. Have you ever attended a “Learn how to use LinkedIn” course? Well, I have. And I have to say, when you don’t exactly know what a network is (I mean a circle of relation, not a social network), having this introduction is necessary and valuable for the next steps. The theory stating that an individual knows the whole world through his or her indirect network (I know someone who knows someone), is supported with all the social networks available. For instance, the use of different degrees of connection by LinkedIn proves that point. While doing our research for this article, Claire Passy, my mentor, noticed she was connected at the second degree with some big names, like Jessica Alba. It takes only one connection to open new doors.
But then, how to know if we have a good network?
Being connected is great but being connected personally is even better. In fact, 85% of jobs are filled by networking. Exchanging directly with a person is still the key. Reasons are diverse and quite surprising. For example, a general impression is strongly influenced by a handshake. What about the “elbow check” from now on then?
It is therefore essential to take time to meet someone rather than send a connection request? Obviously, in these unique circumstances, taking time to interact online is just as effective and necessary.
Successful networking is mainly about developing personal relationships. Someone likely to benefit your career automatically shares your values, skills and interests, a strong foundation to start a relationship, whether professional or personal. Choosing affinity over anything else creates a more natural connection.
In the end, networking online or offline, you can choose your side, but it seems to me that we should do both.
I discovered, only a few months ago, that thousands of women are getting together to grow their network and boost their careers. For example, the number of professional women networks in France is quite mind-boggling, and surprising, as I never heard of them. 500 according to Emmanuelle Gagliardi’s book listing them and 1377 according to the research I was doing for ThereSheGoes. Whether it’s a network for women lawyers, women in tech, or just women eager to share tips and exchange experiences, there is something to suit all tastes. Together, they help each other, meet at conferences or breakfasts and nurture real professional but also personal relationships.
Mixed networking events may frighten some but being surrounded by women with the same will to connect gives a more friendly and relaxing atmosphere that de-demonizes the very serious, impersonal and corporate image of professional events. Speaking of it all day long at work made me want to try the experience. As an intern abroad, I started looking for an expat women network in Amsterdam on Facebook. I must say, during Covid-19 was not the ideal. Events were mostly online, some met in small groups, but overall this was an all different thing than without Corona. We would most of the time only speak via Facebook or Whatsapp as an alternative to meet in real life, still a nice thing to do as you also make new connections. I came across a conversation with several young women my age that were also new to Amsterdam and a bit lonely, pretty much like me. That helped me take part in the conversation as we already had something in common. I certainly wouldn’t have if it was for a pre-formed group with pre-formed affinities. Anyway, even if we all came from different backgrounds and fields, the exchange was all the same enriching since we share a similar experience. Being an intern abroad, in a city where you don’t know anyone when social distancing is highly encouraged, you have to experience it to understand. I am not saying these women will necessarily help me in my career growth, but at least they broaden my chances as with the connections’ degrees of LinkedIn we talked about earlier: Connections of our connections will become our connections.
Once I’ll be back in France, in my lovely city Lyon, I can already tell I’ll be looking for my network. A network of young, recently graduated women, or women in marketing, or even both, because, the more, the merrier!
See you at the next workshop?