Real You: Five Common Networking Mistakes

Stopsign2Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, you need to get out there and network! You can build new business, find possible colleagues and learn a lot from other people in your industry and beyond. Check out these common networking mistakes to avoid at your next luncheon. Mistake 1: Waiting for the right time. There is no right time to start networking and making connections. It’s much easier to say, “I’ve been in X industry for five years, and I love it” vs. “I recently lost my job, and I’m looking for a new opportunity.” Get involved now. Google your industry plus your city and see what comes up. There are many general networking groups out there as well.

Mistake 2: Arriving without an elevator pitch. Be prepared with a three-minute pitch about yourself. Who you are and what you do is a perfect start. Be ready to talk about interesting things you’re working on and what you’d like to do in the future. On the other hand, have a short list of questions for your new acquaintances. What do they like to do? How is their company doing?

Mistake 3: Leaving your wingman at home. If going to an event where you don’t know anyone makes you uncomfortable, go with a friend. It’s even better if your friend is well connected with the group. That person can introduce you to the right people.

Mistake 4: Being negative. Don’t trash the competition, and don’t speak ill of your previous company or co-workers, like Pete. It’s a small world out there, and you never know if the person you’re talking to is Pete’s best friend. Remember, everyone likes a positive person. Those are the kind of people they want to work with and hire.

Mistake 5: Not following up with new connections. So you collected 12 cards? Congrats. Now take a minute to write down what you know about each person on their card and follow up with them via email, hand-written note or online connection via LinkedIn. Send them a short note to say thank you. It will go a long way.

Avoid these networking pitfalls, and you will be off to building a great database.

P.S. Don’t leave your business cards at home—ever.

Should You Network Via Email?

I received a question from a woman asking: “Is it okay to network via email?” 

I wish I could start every relationship face-to-face, but it’s just not possible. In this day and age, it’s not uncommon to correspond with individuals who live on the other side of the country—or even in another part of the world—without ever meeting them in person. Thank you, Twitter! Relationships grow and people conduct business this way every single day—and it works. That being said, when you have the opportunity to meet someone in person, do it. This is your opportunity to put your best foot forward. 

After the relationship has been established, corresponding via e-mail, and even social networks, is perfectly acceptable. Always ask, what’s the best way to communicate? According to the Meta Group Survey, 80 percent of people prefer typing to talking. Think about the number of people you can reach through your computer—through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ning and other communities. You’ll be able to maintain and build relationships with ease. So, yes, networking via e-mail is not only acceptable, it makes sense.

Finding the right entrepreneurial community for you

Finding a women’s community that is just what you’re looking for can often take some time. To help you out, I’ve listed a few different online women’s communities that I think are fantastic.

Startup Princess—Startup Princess is a community where women can grow together while learning from one another. If you are looking for a fairy godmother (mentor), this is the place. The site is full of stories from women just like you. Features on the site include a blog, directory of women-owned businesses, videos and more. They recently featured me in a blog post. (Thanks, Kelly!)

Savor the Success—Here women come together and share trials and tribulations about business and life. You can connect with other members through blogs, message boards and events. For those living in the New York or California area, there are chapter events you can attend. Find a chapter near you! In addition to being a networking site, Savor the Success also features a PR Co-Op. Providing tools and references for you to use in expanding your business, this is a great resource.

Metromom—Their slogan is: Connecting Women. Creating Change. The site has a blog and hosts events for members. Events range from free calls to virtual and live events. They also have a marketplace where members can sell goods and post opportunities for other members. In addition to their free community, Metromom also has a paid membership club.

EMwomen—Based in Hot Springs, AR, this community focus is Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. You can upload your blog and join forums and special interest groups. The site also features recipes and cooking demonstrations. They also offer two levels for paying members.

Real You—(Of course I had to include our community.) The Real You community features success stories of women entrepreneurs, member brand boards, podcast interviews and updates, the Real You Chart Creator and more.Each Friday, I publish my tip of the week. Click here to get your weekly dose of inspiration!

Now go out and explore the wonderful world of women’s entrepreneurial communities!

Real You in the Workplace: Act Your Gender

Women in the workplace often try to act like men in order to get ahead. However, this can sometimes backfire and cause more damage than it’s worth. Women just aren’t wired like men. And when women approach others with a male attitude, it can be a turn off.

Instead, I strongly encourage you to be yourself. Don’t put on a male front. We need to be strong and stand up for ourselves, but in the appropriate manner. It’s really the only way that people will take us seriously.

Women also need to remember we are natural networkers. So don’t isolate yourself—even if you are in a position of authority. Ask questions and get involved with mentors and other people in a similar line of work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In addition, don’t hesitate to ask questions. And definitely don’t live in a vacuum. It just won’t work.

Tips for young professionals entering the work force

As summer approaches and graduating caps and tassels begin to fly, many young professionals are entering the workforce. So to all you young professionals, congrats! You have made it. You should be very proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

Now that you are in the workforce, there are multiple ways to start rising to the top.

  • Start building your personal brand. Your skill set, attitude and social aptitude make up your product—you. After all, you had to “sell” yourself to get this job. Now it’s time to think about how you’ll get to the next level.

So, here are a few things to consider as you move forward.

  • Identify the top five things you want your superior to say about you in a reference letter. Then, strive to be those things.
  • Be personable and connect with others. Email is obviously an efficient way to communicate, but if you show up in person from time to time, you have a great opportunity to build on the relationship.
  • Volunteer. If there’s a project that’s up for grabs, take it and use it as an example of what you can do when given the opportunity.

As you jump into the pool head first, I know times are scary but you will succeed. You have to believe and know that you will succeed. Good luck and have fun!

Building a Professional Network

We always hear that building professional networks is vital to success, but it should also be noted that your network should reach beyond family and friends.

Family and friends are great, and most of us would be lost without them. They create a great support system in a wide variety of situations—including helping you fulfill your dreams. However, if you’re talking business, you really need to expand your network. Most women rely on family members as their primary network, but these individuals don’t always have access to meaningful business information—like new leads, business experts or financial advice.

Your contacts should be people who will help you develop your competitive advantage. You need diversity of opinions and backgrounds, so as you build your network, try to include individuals with varying backgrounds and expertise. Ideally, it should be people who don’t work for you. That way you can benefit from different perspectives and ideas. You can begin by joining and participating in social media sites and joining local professional networking groups. So, get out there and start reaching out.

Tweeps & Business Pages vs. Networking Parties & Business Cards

Are you feeling the pressures of networking through social media but don’t really know what that means, let alone how to do it? If so, you are not alone. Just be honest about it.

I love it when people are honest. It’s great to be able to admit both your strengths—and your weaknesses! And learning to incorporate social media into your business’ marketing plan in the New Year is a great step. If you entered the business world before the Internet, you know and feel the dramatic changes that are occurring almost daily. Every industry is facing these changes and the challenges and opportunities that technology brings.

The key to social networking is to apply it to your business in a genuine fashion. Women are natural social networkers. We always have been. We build and maintain communities across the country through volunteerism. I don’t know about you, but when I look at my kids’ schools, the volunteer ranks are full of women. Still. That’s social networking in the real world.

It’s no different online. What I recommend is to start networking online on a business-specific, direct connection site like LinkedIn. I like LinkedIn because everyone on it is there to make business connections. So start there. And then, invite your contacts to join you. I believe this is the future of networking and the future of powering your business. You and your computer and an Internet connection are unstoppable. So don’t be afraid. Start small. But think big.

If you want to take it a step further and join Twitter, check out for another post about marketing your business on Twitter and feel free to follow me!

Benefit from Networking Events

With limitless networking opportunities, it is important to understand how to benefit from them. Whether it’s online, at a volunteer meeting or at a formal networking event, here are a few important tips to remember.

  • It is critical to network with different people— people who you don’t work with, who are at different experience levels and have different backgrounds. This will help give you diverse perspectives.
  • You have to approach them; don’t expect anyone to come to you. If approaching someone you don’t know is difficult, try practicing. Write it out, talk to a mirror, video tape yourself—whatever works for you. Remember, people respond best to authentic conversation. Have your elevator pitch ready, but genuinely mention your business in conversation.
  • Follow the basic rule of conversation: Give and take. Ask open-ended questions and truly listen. People will remember those who take the time to care. You should be focused on building relationships, not the number of hands you shake.

A simple, genuine conversation between you and a stranger could open many opportunities. Just look at it as building a relationship, not building your business.

For more tips, check out this article on ways to maximize networking opportunities.

Never leave home without a business card

You’ve heard it said that first impressions are everything, and in many cases, it’s true. When you’re out there pitching your business and selling yourself, you need to be prepared to articulate your message on a moment’s notice. Having your business card handy will simplify the process. In the meantime, practice what you want to say the next time you need to ask for business. Keep it short, perhaps a sentence or two, and be sure to include the key points—your name, your company name, what service you provide or what product you sell, and finally, how people can find you. That’s where the card comes in. Have it ready—always!

Hopefully you were able to attend last evening’s RYI event at the Wexner Center when I hosted a panel of professional women from Central Ohio, and together we discussed how women have a unique ability to infuse philanthropy into their business. If you arrived early, you were there for the networking reception—the perfect example of an opportunity to meet other professional women and share your story. Of course, there are similar events taking place across the country all the time. Don’t miss them. Be there. And don’t forget your business cards!

Stay tuned for similar networking opportunities by checking the Real You Web site.

Finding the right professional organizations for you

Connecting with like-minded individuals is a great way to grow your business and your personal network, but we all seem to be strapped for time with work, family and other activities. That’s why it’s best to only join organizations that have meaning to you. Start by visiting several groups so you can determine which ones are right for you. Then be selective, because attending too many meetings, or joining a long list of organizations, is the opposite of real.

Once you find that perfect fit—an organization that turns out to be exactly what you’re looking for—volunteer your time as a leader. Why? Because you’ll get the most out of it that way—and so will the organization. Leaders who give their time this way quickly learn that the benefits far outweigh the input.

Check out this website for great professional organizations in your area! Have you found an organization that speaks to your passions? Tell us about it, we’d love to hear from you!

To learn more about finding your passions, check out Real Fact Two in Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials For Women Entrepreneurs.

The Almighty Power of Networking

Networking is not just important, it’s absolutely necessary. In whatever stage of the game you are—whether you own a company or you’re working for someone else—networking with other individuals is essential because you never know who can help you move up or help you move on.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Get over being intimidated. Leaving your comfort zone is never easy, but you can practice at home by role-playing what you’ll say when you meet people. Get your elevator pitch down.
  • Go with a friend. If you know someone who’s really involved in a group or organization, tag along. She’ll be sure to introduce you to her circle.
  • Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. It might happen the next time you’re in the cafeteria. Introduce yourself to that person from another department—the one you see occasionally—but neither of you ever speak.
  • And don’t fret; it gets easier!

To network with other women online check out the share forum on, it’s a great way to get started. We’d love to hear from you!

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Things to consider before starting a business

Before bringing a great business idea to life, you must prepare yourself for what’s ahead. There are many things you can do, but begin by connecting with people. First, find a mentor, a person who can teach you the ropes and share personal experiences at the same time. Learn from this individual. Why is she successful? What could this person have done differently?

Of course, you may have to step out of your comfort zone. For instance, the next time you’re riding the elevator with a co-worker you don’t know, introduce yourself. It’s critical to develop relationships, so start immediately!

Do you have a fantastic mentor that you want to tell us about? Go ahead, we’d love to hear about the real people in your life! For more on mentors and networking check out my book, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs.

Women need to stop competing…

And start helping each other. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about, and I discuss it in my recent interview with Carrie Runnals, author of Words-To-Mouth blog and co-host of TheDivaCast. We also talked about women as natural networkers and the gifts we bring to the business world.

Click here to listen to the podcast.