Last week I was honored to speak at the Women in Fund Finance’s networking event. On the eve of the Global Fund Finance Symposium in New York, more than 100 women gathered to build connections and share experiences. The energy in the room was palpable as the attendees circulated and found common ground with their peers throughout the industry.
Networking often gets a bad rap. People think of it as a transactional exchange — a conversation with one goal in mind: “What can you do for me?” In this session, we turned that concept upside down. In my work, I’ve seen the very best mentoring relationships develop when people have reciprocal learning. So instead of thinking of networking as a way to benefit yourself, I challenged the group to think of it as an opportunity to think about what you have in common and what you can do for other people.
We described techniques for listening and learning from the other person, and sharing of yourself. It may feel counter-intuitive, to ask how you can help someone else, but that’s what will make a quick conversation at a conference turn into a meaningful connection for the future.
We challenged people to move beyond the standard questions of “What do you do?” and “Where do you work?” and ask things like, “How did you get into this career?” “What is your greatest challenge?” and “What would you do if you weren’t in Fund Finance?”
We found people who:
- Earned the same degree from the same school
- Shared a love of rodeo!
- Were first generation college graduates
- Were expecting a new baby
- Dreamed of becoming a television meteorologist!
We heard laughs, shared inspiration and emotional stories. And the feedback summed it up– one person said:
“I’ve never met so many wonderful women and I actually became good friends with a few… Networking is a bit intimidating but…the event made it so much easier that it felt good.”
Next time you find yourself at a professional event, instead of dreading the small talk, work yourself into the mindset of connection. It will change the way you communicate and you may find that you’ll make new friends in the process.