Last week I went to a Girls in Tech talk about women entrepreneurs and venture capital. There was a comment made in the crowd about why women seem to lag men when it comes to networking. The comment, made by a female, was essentially that women look to build and rely on deeper relationships and are less likely to use their loose connections for networking. Men, on the other hand, can meet another guy just a couple of times and have no problem reaching out to each other for advice, a favor, or to pitch them on a deal.
That really rung true to me, especially after a handful of professional interactions I’ve had with young women who just joined the local tech scene. Two were the same exact situation. I had a phonecall/meeting with a student who wants to come to New York and work in startups. I told them to stay in touch and let me know if they needed any help. Both students graduated, and nearly by accident I discovered they had both moved to New York City and had been here for months before I ran into them. Neither reached out, but both were aware that I was around and were either following me on various social networks or knew what I was up to. It was a head scratcher that they didn’t reach out.
In another situation, I chat on IM with a junior editor for a tech blog on a regular basis. I mentioned offhand about being a professional contact and she mentioned that she didn’t really think of me as a professional contact—despite the fact that we talk casually on a pretty regular basis. She probably wouldn’t have ever reached out to me for any advice or a favor—yet I’m probably one of the best connections she has to someone in tech that she doesn’t actually work with.
Jen Bekman echoed the importance of being able to reach out to these types of connections, and used ourselves as an example in a conversation afterwards. We’ve run into each other a handful of times, don’t know each other particularly well, but neither one of us would have any problem reaching out for a professional favor, question, or recommendation. I think that’s been an important part of her success so far.
If you have aspirations of a great career in startups, tech, entrepreneurship, etc… or really any industry, take some time to make a list of the most interesting, influential, or inspiring people you’ve met over the last few months. Even if all you did was shake their hand—make a note to yourself to not wait until you become besties but to actually reach out to these loose connections. Forget the “but they don’t know me that well.” It’s the internet. No one really knows each other *that* well, but we’re all pretty loosely connected to each other. Reach out, say hi, offer value… but don’t let those loose connections slip away!