network like a boss
Back in my early freelancing days, I remember being told by a stylist at my hair salon, “Porsha, I don’t know anybody who networks for fun but you.” I thought it was hysterical and also a little bit true. I. Love. Networking. I really, really do. It’s probably rare that you hear anyone say that, as it seems most of the articles I read on career sites are trying to help people relax about the idea of it, but networking is easily one of my favorite things to do...in life.
Why? First, I’ve reframed my thinking—instead of harping on “networking,” which can leave a bad taste for some, I think of it simply as building community. Everyone needs community support. I, for example, needed some mega community support in 2012 after feeling like I’d failed miserably by prematurely leaving D.C. to exit a business I’d built and no longer wanted to be part of. Those were some dark days, people. When my then-boyfriend found me sobbing in a closet about it at the beginning of the 2013 and looked bewildered because “that wasn’t me,” I knew it was time to take action. Shortly afterward, I started working on what would become Ladypreneur League. Essentially as a form of therapy, I started a blog interviewing women entrepreneurs about their views on failure and what it means to succeed. From those actions, a community was born.
Fast forward to today, there are two ways I build community—in-person and online. I believe both are necessary and networking online is fun because you can do it in your underwear!
How I network in person:
Attend events with a purpose
I’m an event-planning lady and what I’ve learned is that networking events should have a purpose. I attend and host events that have an end goal. This could be a skill-development workshop where we’re learning about SEO, a ladies-only Loire Valley wine tasting at your local wine shop, a Williams Sonoma cooking class, a “networkout”—basically, any communal activity that is focused on doing something other than networking. These type of events take away the pressure of feeling like you HAVE to leave with five businesscards or it wasn’t worth it. Who cares about the number of business cards you’ve gotten when you’ve made a real connection—and maybe even a real life friend—with the person sitting next to you?
Greet them online, meet them in person
I’m part of several online lady groups that host once-a-month, in-person meetups. “Boss Lady Cocktail Hour” is a Facebook group that my friend and fellow ladypreneur, Lynne Tanzer, started in 2015. Online, we’d ask for suggestions for everything from the best places to eat in Atlanta to how to deal with a nasty client. Each month, we’d pick a different ladypreneur’s home or brick-and-mortar shop to meet. BLCH is the second group I’ve participated in that rotates its meetup locations among participants in the group. I love the idea of this. The main reason being it fosters business relationships. Often the hostess would provide a discount to fellow group members if we wanted to get our shop on at her store.
How I network online:
I’ve moved around a lot in this adult life of mine and I find that in every new city, it’s easy to know who’s who and what’s what by kind of stalking people on Twitter. As a public relations professional, I’ve used Twitter to connect with journalists who may be interested in covering my clients. I’ve also orchestrated a full blown brand collaboration simply by reaching out on Twitter. I met the amazing Melissa Alam of Femme & Fortune and Fearless Conference because I tweeted about a blog post she’d written that I loved. She responded, we kept chatting, and realized we had A LOT in common. A few weeks later, I was flying to Philly to crash on her couch so we could host an event together! Answering the “how did you guys meet” question with Melissa is always fun, and from 2014 to now, we’ve collaborated on so many things – from a simple Hangout session to rant about ladypreneur things to planning an epic all-woman panel for SXSW 2018 – all thanks to Twitter!
There are multiple online platforms that provide good homes for online communities. I’m part of several Facebook groups, Slack channels and private forums that make my life ladypreneur life much easier.
Facebook - Dream Warriors
On Facebook, I’m in a secret group of over 14K women based primarily in Atlanta, but other cities as well, called Dream Warriors. Dream Warriors is one of the greatest resources I use—I can ask literally anything and get a reply. I was able to secure several event space partnerships for Ladypreneur League in 2014 by asking women in Dream Warriors if they knew of a “Dreamie” with a brick-and-mortar who’d be interested in hosting us.
Slack - Ladies Get Paid
One of my new favorite online communities is Ladies Get Paid. Founder Claire Wasserman has put together a pretty amazing Slack channel chock full of topics surrounding women’s empowerment and asking for more (money and beyond!) in our careers. LGP’s following is primarily based in the East, but what I love about LGP is that there are threads dedicated to multiple cities. The community moves from the interwebs to real life as well—organizers have hosted several LGP Townhalls that cover topics like combatting imposter syndrome.
Private forum - Forté Foundation
Forté is an amazing nonprofit built to help you succeed and a fab community for business (school) women! If you’re looking for a particular type of resource to help you take the next steps in your career (think a monthly report of Fortune 500 companies looking to hire a smart lady like yourself, mentorship and advice from powerful women, forums to connect with the best business schools, etc.), Forté Foundation is the online community you’re looking for.
And as if you needed more incentive to see what all Forté Foundation has to offer - get excited, there’s a giveaway taking place! Head here and prove how you #NetworkLikeABoss for a chance to win items (think a $400 Bliss Spa gift card, a $250 GMAT voucher and more) that could make your networking game more fun!