Thanks to intelligent networking, Jacqueline Zimmerman’s company, JetsetPrivate Air, recorded a growth of 220% … [+] Increase in sales during the pandemic.
Courtesy Jacqueline Zimmerman
A passion for travel and adventure – and a shared alma mater, Barnard College – was the connecting link for entrepreneurs Margot Kong and Jacqueline Zimmerman. After meeting at a virtual alumnae networking event during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, the two forged a connection that was shaped by “Thelma and Louise” and would immediately bear fruit for each other’s businesses.
“Not only did we have the college connection, but we both worked on Wall Street and left the financial world to pursue the travel and adventure world,” said Kong, founder of luxury travel consultancy Travel unparalleled. “Because of these shared connections and experiences [Zimmerman, CEO and founder of JetsetPrivate Air] I took my call after the event – and a few conversations and emails later we booked private jets for our now mutual customers. “
Margot Kong, founder of Journeys Unparalleled
A transfer from Kong’s office became one of Zimmerman’s key customers, causing their company to grow 220% in sales during the pandemic. “I later had clients looking for a unique destination wedding and sent them to Journeys Unparalleled,” adds Zimmerman. “So far it has been an amazing journey that would not have happened without her [Kong], a Barnard connection and their world class team. “
We all know that social networking is critical to career advancement, whether we’re looking for our first job, climbing the corporate ladder, or starting a new business. But what network style is most effective for women today? Is it the quantity of our connections or their quality? Should we paper the world with our business cards or instead concentrate on a few well-considered emails or calls?
But first: Has the Covid-19 pandemic ruined our networking opportunities anyway – and if so, why then? It turns out there are a lot of reasons to care. The network has moved into the virtual realm, making it completely safer and more convenient than ever to jump into an event.
For one thing, the Barnard Entrepreneurs Network (BEnet) sees strong advantages after switching to offerings for the home last year. BEnet was founded in 2013 by alumna Christina Lewicky and initially offered Barnard graduates to discuss their business trips and share expertise in interviews, on panels and at dining tables – but online during the pandemic.
BEnet founder and Barnard alum Christina Lewicky
Courtesy Christina Lewicky
“We have reached a wider, geographically diverse audience with our events, invited speakers from all over the world, used our social media extensively to disseminate information, and got creative by bringing our valued alumnae entrepreneurs and their companies online have presented, ”says Jennifer Perusini, chairwoman of BEnet. “Even after returning to face-to-face events, we hope to continue to incorporate some of these virtual elements to broaden and broaden our engagement.”
Think quality over quantity
It turns out that effective networking, especially for women, is about substance (not fluff) and the quality of our connections. A 2019 Harvard Business Review Study The number of MBA graduates found that both women and men benefited from playing a central role in student networking groups. However, women who managed to rise to the top of the corporate ladder also tended to have an inner circle of close female contacts.
The study’s authors suggested that such an inner circle may be key to overcoming the cultural and political hurdles many women face when seeking leadership positions. That’s because the women in your circle can share private information on everything from an organization’s attitudes towards female leaders to interview tips, negotiating strategies, and the like.
“I rely heavily on my inner circles of connections, many of which I met at school and others many years later,” says Kong, noting that these women have become her clients, mentors, soundboards, and collaborators. Although she already has a core group, she is open to expanding it. “I firmly believe that a solid network is essential for an entrepreneur. This means maintaining a strong inner circle of friends and professional contacts as well as expanding existing and developing new networks. “
Expanding your circle through networking groups and events with like-minded women can be coincidental, explains BEnet founder Lewicky. “One of the benefits of developing a broad network that includes connections for others is that it can create long-range paths to wonderful and unexpected places,” she says. Through BEnet, Lewicky reached out to a Barnard alum to help a childhood friend switch careers. This resulted in this alum advancing in an unrelated arena and then helping a second alum in another unrelated industry. “With just one connection, three women were able to advance in three industries.”
Jettison The idea that networking is “flat”
After “quality over quantity,” the second golden rule of brilliant networking is to ditch the idea that networking is what calculating, cold, transactional people do. Done right, networking can actually be the opposite – it can satisfy the longing we all have for a warm and authentic human connection. Who doesn’t want to be seen, heard and appreciated?
“I have a tight circle of professional contacts, especially with other founders and CEOs, who have been invaluable to me in building my career,” says BEnet member Lauren Salz, co-founder and CEO of Sealed, a start-up helping homeowners afford energy-efficient upgrades. “This is something that I had to cultivate very consciously. Being a CEO can be a lonely job. One of my greatest realizations over the past few years is that most of the problems businesses face don’t just apply to them, and that it is hugely helpful to have a close group of people who have been on similar trips. “
Fellowship and a tribe to count on aren’t shallow and can develop in ways that feel natural to you. So, especially during Women’s History Month, in the spirit of women helping women – go ahead and make the most of your circle of close female contacts.
But don’t think of this circle as something closed and inflexible. Whether you want to work in an alumnae organization or join a group of local businesswomen, there are ways to nurture and expand your network of content connections in thoughtful ways.
The point is not to toss business cards at everyone within striking distance, but rather to take a considerate approach to building quality relationships with the people you connect with naturally.
In other words, keep it real – and be open to expanding your circle.