My First Networking Event: GirlBoss Chicago Collective Meetup
Networking can be scary but networking by yourself can be terrifying. Over the weekend, I attended my first networking event without my friends. To prepare for this event, I read several articles on the art of networking. These articles had the same tips such as, "always have business cards", "always shake hands firmly", and "always send follow-up emails". What these articles were missing was how to get over the anxiety of networking.
Here is how I prepared for my first networking experience alone.
I decided to attend my local Girlboss Chicago Collective's quarterly meetup at the Ace Hotel. As a young professional creating connections and collaboration are very important to being successful. My initial thought was what kind of people I would meet. Are they young or old, will they judge my current employment or lifestyle or would they take me seriously?
After reading the articles online, I decided that I need to start preparing NOW!
I started by Google searching the following:
"Do I need a business card?"
"How to create business cards?"
"Do people even use business cards?"
" AM I WASTING MY TIME PRINTING BUSINESS CARD?!"
I recognized that I needed a creative and eye-catching business card that had keywords and titles such as social media manager, digital content creator, or digital marketing manager. I found a design I liked on online, drafted it up and send it to my local print shop.
After getting my business cards printed, I was ready to pick my outfit. I wanted something business casual but trendy and chic all the same time. I tried everything from dresses to jeans. Then I decided to go with a simple charcoal turtleneck, black slacks, and a pair of black heeled Chelsea boots.
I looked GOOD!
I hopped into my Uber to headed to the West Loop. As I sat in the Uber Pool, my anxiety started to set in. Thoughts of "what do I talk about?", "how do I present myself?", "how do I stay authentic?" and so much more. It ran like a marathon in my head. By the time I blinked, I had arrived at the Ace Hotel and found the table closest to the door for my mental safety and an easy escape route.
I made eye contact with a young lady who is obviously there for the same thing but I quickly looked away and pretended to take notes in my pink notebook. Someone else approached the table, greeted me, and identified herself as the collective moderator. As I started to engage in conversation with the two women, I revealed that this was my first networking event alone. They both assured me that everything was going to be fine but my sweaty hands weren't persuaded.
So I grabbed an iced chai latte with almond milk and the meeting began.
As we started the icebreaker questions, I slowly started to open up. I formed a connection with a group of four women. In our conversations, we talked about the struggles and successes we’re having currently in our careers and businesses. For the first time, I opened up about my struggles at work and seek advice on how to work through them. These four women gave me the best insight that I could ever ask for. It wasn’t the same mumbo-jumbo about following your gut and wading it out. They encouraged me to do what is best for me. I discovered that we allow other people‘s judgments to stop us from doing what’s best for us and our time. In addition, they ensured me that leaving or change my outlook doesn't make me a failure but a power player in my own life. We talked about our recent GirlBoss Moments and exchanged contact information.
My anxiety completely diminished.
I loved my conversations with all the women and hearing their ideas, goals, and current projects were so inspiring and reminded me that there is more to the journey.
I left this meetup with newfound confidence and an outlook on my current situation and future goals.