If you’re reading this then you’ve heard of Women in Environment (WIE) and likely, you are looking to (buzzword alert) “network”. WIE’s Linkedin Group has more than 1,000 members as of April 2016 (*slowclaps*). That is 1,000 environmental professionals mostly located in the Portland and Seattle area whom you can interact with online – but what about offline? WIE’s greatest strength is that it provides a platform to network with these members in person (you remember what “meeting someone in person” is, right? Hint: It’s that thing you did before Facebook)
WIE has networking events, lecture series, and a mentoring program all of which provide opportunities to meet WIE members. Attending a networking event is a great place to start. Never been? Give them a try! I went to my first networking event last fall. I’ll share what it was like.
20 minutes prior to the WIE networking event - Anxiety level: 6
I nervously scan my emails confirming the location of the WIE event. I secretly hope a work emergency will come up so that I have a good excuse to skip the event altogether. No such luck. I grab my business cards and realize my outfit has no pockets. I guess I will hold them. Before I leave the office I do a last call to my co-workers to come with me. They all have tight deadlines tonight; I go alone.
Arriving at the event - Anxiety level: 8
There are a lot of members already at the event when I arrive. More members walk in behind me. I note that WIE has a strong following. After attaching the adhesive backing of a nametag to my shirt, I wonder what to do next. At the center of the room is a table full of cheese, crackers, desserts, and wine. I make a beeline for the plates. Holding my business cards becomes difficult as I try to balance a wine glass and a plate of cheddar in my hands. A woman by the brownies smiles at me. “Where do you work?” I ask. We start talking. Fun fact: Everyone one is here to network – don’t be afraid to start conversations.
Half hour into the event - Anxiety level: 2
Networking is proving easier that I thought. I have ditched my small pile of business cards on a back table so I am more comfortable as I maneuver around the room. More WIE members have arrived and the room is loud with voices and laughter. WIE board members welcome everyone. Afterwards, small groups of WIE members organically form. These groups aren’t cliquey; I shuffle up to one circle and quickly the members shift to make room for me. We learn names and chat.
End of the event - Anxiety level: 0
As the meeting winds down, I feel proud of myself. Not only did I finally commit to going to a WIE event (alone!), I also had great conversations with a dozen professionals in my field. I tell myself that I won’t be as nervous for the next event – and I will wear an outfit with pockets for my business cards.
So here’s what I learned…
I had feared the WIE event would be full of awkward eye contact and two-sentence- long conversations, which was not the case at all. I was able to have meaningful conversations with women in the environmental field who I hope to be in contact with in the future. It can feel a bit uncomfortable striking up conversations with strangers but the more you do it the easier it gets. Just remember everyone at the WIE event is there to meet people.
Come to the next WIE networking event and see for yourself.