This might be a little off topic for my blog, but it is an issue that I have been thinking about as a young professional, as I am still brand new in the work world, and thus… here we are.
As mentioned in a previous post, I have devleoped a fascination for PR by following some local Tallahassee PR pros and bloggers. One such blogger, Niki Pocock took on the gender/networking topic in a recent blog titled “Want to do lunch? The Gender Differences” and sparked some great comments/conversation… all from females. In the post she lists some potential factors that might influence one’s decision to meet up with a professional contact, and proposes that the issue needs some further clarification. I thought it very interesting that there were no comments from males on the post, so here’s my two cents.
For me, a generally social person who can get along with anyone, meeting for lunch is a great way to develop professional friendships and find out new things about new people, something I enjoy doing very much. However, being that I am married, there are some guidelines that I tend to follow when networking with females. If at all possible, I don’t do lunch one on one with females who are not my wife. Involving a third party is always a good practice in my opinion. Keeps everyone at ease and the conversation doesn’t have to revolve around two people. Also, if there is or ever has been any hint of flirtation, I would be more than hesitant to set up any kind of meeting, professional networking be damned.
Also, and I might be kind of old-fashioned here, I avoid mixing alcohol with professional contacts whenever possible. There’s just too many varibles when inhibitions are lowered, and I find it more important to honor my wife than to “have a few” for the sake of networking.
From my point of view, as a young, married, interesting and good looking fellow ;), best practices for bridging the gender gap in professional networking are as follows: GIG (go in groups), AA (avoid alcohol), and KIIS (keep it informal, stupid). That said, I think there may be a different set of rules that apply when the meetings are strictly business-related and not just for networking’s sake. Those rules, I do not know because I have never had to deal with that situation yet! Yikes!
To add another layer to the conversation I recently read and enjoyed Mikinzie Stuart’s post on Real Friends Vs. Social Media Friends. It will be interesting to see if/how my gender networking guidelines adapt when meeting people “professionally” online first and developing communication lines before even meeting face to face! (Like the time I ran into Lauren Novo and Kristen Cadenhead at a Theatre production here at FSU. Turns out we have a mutual friend, a co-worker of mine!)
I will say one thing though, it is usually easier for me to get along with and have interesting conversations with females, probably because my wife is such an amazing, strong women; she makes it easy for me to feel comfortable around all the other amazing, strong women in the working world! (And I’m not much of a sports guy, limiting the amount of things I can talk about most other guys with. Just being honest!)