I took a new job at a competing television station ten years into my broadcasting career. It was a wonderful opportunity, high profile, more money, and I liked my new boss. He appreciated my talent, and it was a relief to finally feel valued by management.
A second reporter was hired. On his first day in the newsroom, my boss invited him to play a round of golf with other male members of the management team.
My heart sank. I did not play golf at the time, but I knew I was missing an opportunity to connect on a personal level with my managers. I did not speak up or ask to join. Twenty-five years ago, I chalked it up to a “guy golf” thing.
The social exclusion did make me question what I was missing by not having this informal opportunity to get to know my superiors, and for them to learn more about me outside of work.
When I left my television career and before I formed my business, I attended networking events. It was a full-time job trying to figure out the landscape of the local corporate and non-profit world and where my skills fit in.
It was like speed dating, quick conversations, and an exchange of business cards, hoping your five-minute elevator pitch resonated and would eventually lead to a call.
It never did.
The demographics of the gatherings got younger and younger, leaving me feel disconnected, and wondering how thirty years of experience became so trivial.
I transitioned to the coffee, muffins, and fruit circuit. It was not any better. Instead of drinking bad wine I ate breakfast.
About a year into my career search, I met a woman who invited me to a meeting where female business owners all gathered to “connect and raise each other up.” At this point I had been toying with starting my own small business and was exploring how to monetize my skills as a video storyteller.
I was a professional speaker but when asked to introduce myself, and tell the group what I was currently doing, I panicked.
“Hi, my name is Robin, a three-time runner-up for high-level jobs. I currently stare at my computer, pick my daughter up from school and have no idea what to do next.”
Instead, I said, “Hi I’m Robin, a former broadcast journalist, now pursuing my own video content business.”
No one laughed or dismissed the idea. They were impressed and believed me.
For one-year, I attended every monthly meeting. The forum was all about true connection and figuring out to help each other personally and professionally. These women were the seeds that helped grow my business from an idea to reality.
When you start seeing other women as an important part of your networking journey, you will discover how empowering it is.
It was during those meetings that I met an attorney. She had a client who wanted videos for his website. Her recommendation led me to my first long-term client.
I look back on that time and I’m grateful for the women who made the transition from employee to owner easier. Those meetings would lift me up and energize me for days. I didn’t need wine or a pastry, I had a group of positive, like-minded women who motivated me.
You don’t need to play golf to get ahead in business, but I now understand the importance of time spent fostering relationships through shared experience.
As women, we need to cultivate our own game.
Just play nine
If you feel you are too busy to network due to obligations to your family, elderly parents, or the dog, consider caregiving for yourself. Create a plan to deepen your professional or personal relationships. Focus on a once-a-month connection with a friend, colleague, or client. Be intentional and thoughtful with your time. Trust me, you have an hour or two to spare.
The 5 wood, driver, and sand wedge
It takes all the clubs in your bag to play golf properly. It is the same with networking. Leverage your social norms by inviting people to do something in a comfortable and convenient setting. Take a walk with a neighbor, join a co-worker in the coffee line, or invite someone to try a new restaurant after work. Knowing how people like to connect will allow you to start conversations more easily.
Have a good caddie
A good caddie carries your clubs, gives advice, and helps find your ball when it lands in the rough. Have one or two professional friends and invite them to recruit one or two of their friends out to breakfast or for happy hour. My one friend introduced me to nine other professional women out of my work and social circles. They are an email or a text away, thanks to one simple invite on a Tuesday night.
Madeline Albright once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Relationship building is a critical part of any job.
Find women in your life who are ready to play.
Robin De Wind is a former Rochester broadcast journalist who now runs Robin De Wind Media Group, a video content marketing business. Learn more at rdwmediagroup.com.e