If you’re trying to establish or redirect your career, I’m sure you’ve been told that you should attend networking events. Finding a job is “all about who you know” so you have to “just get out there” and meet people in your industry. But if you’ve never been to an event like this, it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone there. It’s hard to know what to expect or what you might be getting into. This Saturday, I finally overcame all the intimidation and attended my first networking event: Women in Technology’s Empower Her Summit. It was a wonderful, inspiring, informative day, and I’m so glad I went. I wanted to share my experience for those people who might be on the fence about attending an event like this.
As attendees filtered in, the room began to hum with introductions and exchanges. Women from all aspects of tech were there, from web design, software development, to engineering to cyber-attorneys. Within the first ten minutes of mingling, I met someone in a career field adjacent to mine—one that I’ve been trying to break into. She introduced me to some helpful resources and we exchanged business cards. Networking works! And it’s so much easier than I expected!
Once everyone arrived, the info workshops began. There were two consecutive sessions, each with three workshops to choose from. All of the options sounded useful and interesting, ranging from “dress for success” to “negotiation tactics,” but I had to choose only two. I attended the Resume & Interview Workshop first. This workshop featured Fran Gerrard, a human resources professional and recruiter who has looked at more resumes than she probably cares to count. She knows what catches a recruiter’s eye, and what will be immediately passed over. She had so many wonderful tips on both content and formatting.
After she spoke, Carole Stizza, an interviewing specialist, broke down for us the structure of interview questions that may not always be evident from the way they’re asked. She clarified what interviewers are really looking for and how best to frame and market your skills to make your qualifications clear to the interviewers.
The second session I attended was called “Crafting Your Professional Narrative” and was led by Camille Stewart and Allyson McDougal, two wonderful women from WIT. They taught us how to tell the story of who you are as a professional, and to use that story to market yourself and direct your career in the direction you want it to go.
After a delicious lunch (and more networking time with a wide variety of driven women), we had the pleasure of listening to our keynote speaker, Emilie Aries of Bossed Up. Emilie created Bossed Up to help women craft successful and sustainable careers by promoting a healthy work/life balance to avoid burnout. Emilie delivered a relatable, useful speech about assertive communication. She clearly defined the difference between aggressive and assertive, explained how to establish healthy boundaries in order to take care of yourself, and how to tread that fine line between assertiveness and likability—because in the professional world, whether or not people like you can often have real impacts on your life.
The WIT Empower Her Summit was so much more than I could have hoped for. I was surrounded by so many ambitious women, carving out their own places in the world. Every session was jam-packed with useful information to help you go farther in your career, and take charge of the direction you go. I have zero regrets about attending. I now have a pocket of business cards belonging to people I intend to reach out and connect with; I have pages of useful notes and resources that I need to research further; and I have a rich experience that I can share with others and (hopefully) convince more people to take the leap to attend similar events. I highly recommend the Women in Technology group, for those in the DC area who fall into that category. But look for groups of people that you have something in common with, whether it is a professional women’s group, or a professional organization in your field. Find events near you. Go! You’ll thank yourself afterward.