In any industry, who you know, and who knows you, can be critical to your success, therefore networking forms an inevitable part of your career progression. However, surrounded by mostly men, this can sometimes prove challenging – and in unexpected ways.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others”
My personal challenge has been finding that professional balance between my masculine and feminine persona. Surrounded by men, a tendency can develop to want to ‘be’ more masculine, but as someone who is naturally very feminine, this can quickly leave me feeling really inauthentic. If I am too much in my feminine though, there’s a risk I am not viewed seriously enough, and perhaps attract the wrong type of attention.
It’s a double edge sword – women who display more “masculine” traits, are likely viewed as leaders, but are disliked. While women who display more “feminine” traits, are liked, but less likely viewed as ‘natural’ leaders.
The networking playground
I am extremely ambitious and love meeting new people. Networking at business events, I want to engage and develop my professional network. But unfortunately, the line between professional and personal is not always so clear cut.
There have been times where I think I am making a new contact, be they a potential client or referral, only to quickly realise that they are not viewing me as an equal, but rather a prospect in a very different manner.
These situations are highly uncomfortable, and can be really disheartening. My female peers share this frustration, we want to network and develop our personal brand in order to support our success, yet are met with these ridiculous hurdles that ever more highlight the fact we are still operating in a mans world.
I haven’t yet figured out the right thing to do in these situations. To date, I have relied on humour to deflect and quickly move on. What I do know, is that I don’t allow myself to become too disheartened when this happens, and remind myself that these situations are thankfully the exception.
I am always learning, but I hope that through sharing my story, we can collectively support and understand one another better.
If you have ever had a similar experience I would love to hear how you handled it. If not, then I hope my story at least provides another viewpoint from which to ponder this beautiful, crazy life from.