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Girlboss Rally Review – November 11, 2017 in NYC

As I write this, I’m currently sitting in LaGuardia airport waiting for my flight back home to Toronto. I could be playing around on an airport iPad, buying an overpriced meal or cracking open my current read (The Power of Moments, if you’re curious) which I’ve been meaning to finish. I tried to “relax” and soak up my last few minutes of my New York City weekend but quite honestly, I can’t stop thinking about the day prior. My first (and certainly not last) Girlboss Rally experience. I said it on Instagram and Twitter and I’ll say it again, I had an amazing time!

In a world where we are surrounded by photo filters, staged photos and fake social media personas, it was so refreshing to have a completely authentic look into the reality of inspirational girlbosses, both full-time entrepreneurs and corporate women alike. 

I have received tons of questions about my experience so I’ve done my best to put together an extremely comprehensive review. Remember that these are my open and honest thoughts. I paid for my rally ticket, flight and hotel with my own money and I’m not receiving any compensation in any shape or form for this review. There are tons of conferences these days and my hope is that this post will help you in the future as you make decisions on what to attend. With that being said, grab a drink and a snack and get ready to read! 

girlboss rally review

Why I decided to attend

I read Girlboss in 2014 shortly after it was released. I had recently graduated from my PR post-graduate program and was currently an intern at a social media agency. Like many recent grads, it was a really confusing time. I wasn’t sure which direction to take my career but I knew what kind of person I wanted to be. The book came into my life at the perfect time giving me the courage to go forward with the idea that I couldn’t stop thinking about – this very website that you’re reading right now – Do Well Dress Well. I read Girlboss in July/August and by December of that same year, I had officially purchased my website domain (Note: I didn’t actually launch until February 2016 but purchasing the domain was a huge step for me!)

girlboss rally

Despite the impact the book had on my life, I almost did not attend because of the cost. 

The rally was not cheap by any means. There were two options – $475 for General Admission (GA) and $700 for VIP. Take in mind, these prices are in US dollars which makes it even more expensive for a Canadian like me. Considering I would also have to pay for a flight to NYC, 2 nights hotel accommodation, transportation to airport + food, I opted for a GA ticket which came to roughly $600 CDN. 

So how did I justify spending over $1000+ for this? 

1. I admire Sophia Amoruso’s resilience. 

She is fresh off the heels of a bankruptcy, divorce and Netflix show cancellation – all of which were very public. In what seems like no time at all, she leveraged the immense success of Girlboss to launch Girlboss Media. I was intrigued to be around someone with this much determination and commitment to “redefining success.”

2. I want to build DWDW into a multi-faceted platform like Girlboss Media

Her platform is built around offering great content in various forms – website, podcast, books, events and a non-profit foundation. This has and continues to be my goal with DWDW considering there is nothing like this in Canada currently. I wanted to soak up the knowledge and inspiration needed to continue pushing forward by learning from Sophia who has managed to do so quickly and flawlessly. 

Now, before I get into what I liked and what I felt could be improved, if you’re looking for absolute perfection, the Girlboss Rally is not it. But, that’s exactly what made it great. It was imperfectly perfect. Let me explain:

What I Liked

  • The quality of speakers were by far the best I have ever experienced and I’ve been to TONS of conferences and networking events. They were diverse (not only in terms of race but their careers – some are full-time entrepreneurs and some are killin’ it in the corporate world) and so down-to-earth. Each speaker seemed genuinely excited to be a part of it but also committed to giving the audience REAL advice. I would describe the Girlboss Rally as a “no fluff zone” meaning that the conversations weren’t just fluff – they went beyond the standard “Work hard!” or “Just be yourself!” and I am so grateful for that. I don’t know about you but I roll my eyes whenever I hear boring advice like that.

 

  • Whoever did the decor for the venue deserves a raise because it was amazing. As soon as I walked in, I felt like I walked into a different dimension. The pink lighting, inspiration quotes all over the walls, creatively designed posters…all of it was just great. 

 

  • Everyone in that room had a story, a vision or an idea bigger than themselves. It was so inspiring to be in a room with women like myself who are looking to leave a unique mark on the world. Whenever someone would stand up and ask a question, they would often start by introducing themselves. They would say some amazing thing that they’re doing (for example, one girl is going to be a doctor next year but is also running a startup right now) and immediately the room started clapping for her. The energy in the room was electric and I wished I could package it up and bring it home with me to open on those days I’m uninspired. 

girlboss rally

  • You were able to join the Facebook group prior to attending so you could chat with attendees beforehand. Interacting with them made me way more excited and I was able to connect with some awesome women!

 

  • With that being said, I attended alone but did not feel alone. Everyone was so friendly and down-to-earth and we all helped each other take awesome pictures.

 

  • The startup studio allowed you to participate in an intimate session to gain some actionable knowledge on a particular area. I went to the one on Venture Capital and I found it SO helpful and I walked away with some resources that will be so valuable when I’m working on pitch decks in the future.

 

girlboss rally review

girlboss rally review

girlboss rally review

girlboss rally review

What Could Be Improved

  • I’m not a coffee drinker and I was disappointed that tea wasn’t provided. It was a little misleading as I stood in a line to grab a tea as the sign from the beverage sponsor said “Coffee and Teas”, however, only coffee was available at the event. 

 

  • The event was split into two buildings. VIP guests had their lounge in the main building where all the sessions were held and GA guests like myself had their lounge and food provided in building 2 which means we had to walk outside in the freezing cold to get there. It was only a 2 minute walk across the street but I was a little annoyed by this as I had put my winter coat in coat check as I didn’t want to be carrying it around all day. It would be great if they could find a larger venue so that this wouldn’t have to happen. However, this wouldn’t really be an issue for me if the weather was warmer.

 

  • That being said, if I wanted to grab a snack, I would have to leave the main room (and risk losing my seat near the front), walk outside, enter building 2 to grab the snacks and walk back. It would be great if snacks were available in the main room, especially for GA ticket holders. It’s a long 12 hour day and having convenient access to fuel would be great!

girlboss rally review

girlboss rally review

girlboss rally review

  • I was underwhelmed by the merchandise available for purchase. To be honest, I would have been willing to spend money on a shirt and/or tote bag with just the simple Girlboss logo on it but, surprisingly, this wasn’t available! Instead, the merchandise had some quotes on it which isn’t usually an issue for me except I wasn’t a fan of the language used. I don’t use curse words on a regular basis so I was a little put off by a totebag that said “unfuckwithable”. For some people it may not be an issue but that just doesn’t fit me or my brand. 

 

  • The giftbag didn’t consider international guests. Knowing that airport security is no joke, I quickly went through the gift bag before leaving my hotel to check for any “liquid” items. I had to leave behind a bottle of sauce, sunscreen and a box of Flow Water as it would have been thrown out at the airport. I would say they could avoid liquid items all together or potentially have separate gift bags for international attendees. 

Giftbag Reveal 

So, what was in the gift bag?! I decided that it would be a lot more fun to record a short video to show you so here it is! (P.S. I recorded it really quickly and it is not high-quality at all but thought I could show you better than I could tell you!)

Overall, despite the fact that I had to leave 3 items behind in NYC, I’m pretty pleased with the gift bag! 3 books, a bunch of coupons, some beauty items, snacks, affirmation cards and a water bottle.

What did I takeaway from the event and would I recommend it? 

Absolutely.

I think we all get to a point in our lives where “success stories” are no longer enough. We want real, actionable insights and we actually want to hear failures so that we can try not to make those same mistakes. If you feel the same way, the Girlboss Rally is for you. 

The success that we see from people we follow online is one-sided. There’s always another side we don’t see. The ugly stuff. The feelings and the failures. This is the stuff that the Girlboss Rally brought right to the forefront in a comforting and reassuring way. 

For example:

Did you know that Gabby Bernstein, New York Times Bestselling Author and Motivational Speaker, was a drug addict by age 25?!

Also, Kathryn Minshew, Founder of The Muse heard “no” 148 times before she got her first “yes!”

Being a Girlboss is glamourized. Instagram (and social media, in general) can fool many women into thinking it’s all inspirational quotes, writing ideas into a cute notebook and grabbing brunch. Yes, inspirational quotes were prominent at the venue but not without the speakers stressing that we just need to DO the work. 

What we see online can cause us to convince ourselves that we need to imitate the “success” of others. This is not true at all and the Girlboss Rally reassured me that I don’t have to change who I am to be successful. We can and we should redefine what “success” means to fit what makes us feel good.

“Success is an inside job. Turn your search for success inward.” – Gabby Bernstein

We shouldn’t be wearing our all-nighters, being stressed or busy as a badge of honour. In fact, as Gabby Bernstein says, we should take these things as a sign that we need to slow down in order to speed up. She also reminded us that we don’t need to be THERE right now. We need to stop working ourselves to the bone as if success happens overnight. We need to just focus on taking intentional small actions towards where we want to be. 

The rally also provided a timely reminder that being a “girlboss” does not = full-time entrepreneur. You can be a boss whether you’re a student, full-time or part-time entrepreneur or killin’ it full-time in the corporate world. Being a business owner is not for everyone. 

In the program, they described the event as a love fest. I agree and I would go as far as to say it was a lovefest of our imperfections and our failures. So often, we’re encouraged to just brush them off, get back up and run forward while pushing our failures to the outskirts of our memory. 

I was really moved when Sophia said:

girlboss rally review

Now, I don’t know if this was intentional but notice how she said she’s carrying it. She didn’t bury it, she didn’t throw it away. She’s moving ahead carrying her baggage and she’s doing a pretty amazing job at it.

 

If that’s not inspiration enough to love and embrace your failures, I don’t know what is. 

For additional content:

Here’s a recap of my tweets: #GirlBossRally NYC Recap – November 11, 2017

If this post has intrigued you in anyway and you’d be interested in attending next March in Los Angeles as part of a group, fill out this quick form and I’ll remind you when 2018 tix go on sale and we can plan to attend together! 🙂


I Tried Bumble BFF For 7 Days. Here’s How It Went

Remember when it was easy to make friends?

When we were much younger, we were able to go up to someone in our kindergarten class, sit down beside them (maybe hold their hand?) and immediately become best of friends. No icebreakers, no coffee meetups to get to know each other. Genuine friendship in an instant.

Those were the good ol’ days.

bumble bff

Photographer: Victoria Stacey from Florals and Teacups

I can’t help but reminisce on how making friends used to be so natural. It was so effortless that we probably never thought twice about it. Fast forward to our adult years and well…making friends is now just like any other task on our to-do list. It’s now something that we actually have to work at.

Well, networking apps like Bumble BFF seem to be on a mission to make this easier. We’re all busy with work and other priorities that finding like-minded friends can be difficult.

Having had prior success making friends on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, I instantly became intrigued by Bumble’s new foray into the friendship arena (it originally started as a dating app).

In case you’re not familiar with Bumble, it’s a social and dating app that is changing the way that people date and make friends. You’re able to view different profiles and ‘swipe left’ to pass and ‘swipe right’ to connect.

After continuously hearing about it, I decided that I would try the app for myself for 7 days. By the way, this post is not sponsored in any shape or form. I genuinely was curious about whether I could really find friends through the app and thought it would be worth a try. Other than your usual social media apps, I’ve personally never used any type of social or dating app to connect with people. I met my husband before apps like Tinder came on the scene so downloading Bumble BFF was completely new territory for me!

Here’s how it went:

Creating my account

Like any social app or site, upon signing up, you’re prompted to set up your profile. What’s interesting is that you have to have a Facebook account to sign up as your information is pulled from your Facebook profile. I believe it’s also a way that they can verify your authenticity. My name, age, previous school, location and job title were all pulled in from my Facebook page so that I just had to fill in the gaps – photos and a short bio.

I never thought that I’d struggle with writing my bio but for some reason, it made me nervous! I wanted to be able to explain what I do while also describing what I’d be looking to get out of a friendship. After a few minutes, I finally settled on something I was happy with and moved on to uploading photos. Your profile photo from Facebook is pulled into the app but you have the option to add any additional photos. I quickly went through the photos I had on my phone to find a few decent ones and added them to my profile.

Curious to see my final profile? Here are some screenshots:

Swiping for matches

Once my profile was finished, it was time to get swiping! Remember, this was my first time ever using an app that allows you to swipe for matches so I found myself taking it really seriously. I wasn’t able to just nonchalantly swipe left or right (well, unless they had a really strange photo) but instead I found myself really reading people’s profiles to see if we really had something in common. I’m not sure if this is the case on dating apps but I should also mention that even if you ‘swipe right’ on someone, you can’t actually connect with them unless they ‘swipe right’ on you too. Eventually, I really got into it and then my husband became intrigued and started to give his feedback on who I should swipe right with!

If you’re wondering what I was looking for in a potential friend, that’s a good question. I didn’t exactly have any criteria in mind when I began swiping. However, after a while, I began to figure out somewhat of a pattern in the type of people I would be interested in meeting up with. I wanted to find females in my local area (in or near the city of Toronto) that were either a side-hustler like myself or a full-time entrepreneur. Not to say I’m not interested in being friends with anyone who doesn’t fit that profile but there’s a sense of relief that comes over me when I find people that are going through similar business experiences as me.

One weird thing I did experience though – even though I had selected in my setting that I was interested in matching with female BFF’s, there were a number of men that ended up in my selections! I’m not sure if that’s because they didn’t indicate their gender on Facebook (because remember, that’s how your profile is set up) or it was just a glitch. I don’t have anything against male friends (although I don’t have very many of them) but at this time, I was simply interested in finding a few cool females to hang out with.

bumble bff

Photographer: Victoria Stacey from Florals and Teacups

My conversations

So, how many matches did I end up making? I don’t have the exact number but I think I had about 10-15. Not bad, right? But want to hear the strange thing…I didn’t really end up connecting with them! On Bumble BFF, after matching with someone, if no one initiates the conversation within 24 hours, you can no longer contact each other. I found that I was always the one attempting to break the ice which was a little bit frustrating. I did have a few ladies that reached out right away but for the most part, unless I made the first move, the connection didn’t happen.

I found that a lot of people were really interested in the fact that I run a blog and host networking events. Almost immediately after the usual “Hey, how are you?”, I was asked about my site and how I got started. It was a helpful icebreaker for me so I would recommend finding some unique things that you can put in your bio that will intrigue potential matches.

There were actually quite a few people where after a short conversation, we decided that we should meet up for “coffee”. I had set a date and time with two separate people but both meetups fell through! I was given excuses from being sick to being double-booked so I never ended up meeting anyone in real life. I’ll admit – at first I was really annoyed but I haven’t completely given up on the app’s potential and I continue to swipe every couple of days to see who I’m matched with.

Conclusion

Overall, despite my failed attempts at meeting up with a few women, I still found myself liking the app. I genuinely enjoy learning about what businesses or passion projects that other women have and I liked being able to read different profiles – even if we didn’t end up matching. I actually found that if people had their Instagram handle in their bio, I would make an effort to look at their Instagram profile – sometimes I even followed them.

I know that many people would say that connecting online is a lot easier than when you’re face-to-face. I’m not sure if I can say that I find one easier than the other. Both can sometimes cause me a little bit of anxiety, especially in the “break the ice” phase. However, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s definitely value in creating a diverse networking strategy for yourself. In other words, you can’t just meet people solely online or in-person. You have a much better opportunity to connect with different types of people if you take a diverse approach to how you meet them.

If you haven’t already and this post has intrigued you at all, I encourage you to try Bumble BFF out for yourself! It doesn’t cost you a thing (except for your time) and you never know, maybe you could make some valuable connections! Just make sure that if my profile pops up, you swipe right! 😉

4 Ways to Effectively Use Social Media at Conferences

With conferences these days getting more and more expensive, when we do decide to make the investment, it’s safe to say that we want to get the most possible value out of the experience. The best way to do this? Use social media.

social media at conferences

To listen to an audio version of this post, click below!

It may sound like a way to be anti-social, after all, you are there to connect and network with people in real life! However, by using social media the right way, you can end up making even more in-person connections and strengthening your personal brand at the same time.

Here are 4 ways to effectively use social media at conferences:

Track and use the conference hashtag

Most conferences these days will create a unique hashtag that encourage attendees to use in their online conversations. Don’t just wait until the day of the conference to start using it! Not only should you search the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram before purchasing a ticket to help you determine whether to attend but even after purchasing your ticket – regularly check the hashtag to connect with your fellow attendees! You can make plans to meet up and you’ll find that you feel much more comfortable as you’ll already know a few people!

Join the conference Facebook group

Some conference organizers like to create a Facebook group where attendees can get to know each other before the event. If this is an option – definitely take advantage of it! Use the opportunity to introduce yourself to do others and learn more about your fellow attendees. I was able to join the ‘Girlboss Gang’ Facebook group after purchasing a ticket to the NYC Girlboss Rally and have found it to be a really great experience. Especially as someone who typically attends conferences alone, I’ve been able to connect with some awesome like-minded women and it has made me even more excited to attend!

social media at conferences

Live tweet during sessions

For me, live-tweeting continues to prove itself as a valuable networking tool time and time again. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) You can easily connect with other attendees and foster conversations around the session topics 2) It enhances your personal brand as you continually share insights during the conference and in turn, you position yourself as someone worth following.

Another helpful tip? Engage with the conference speakers online! If possible, before their talk begins, ensure that you have their social handles and you’re following them so that you’re not scrambling to find it mid-tweet. While they are speaking, tweet out insightful learnings and direct quotes, making sure that you quote them correctly and attribute credit by tagging them. The benefit of this? The speaker(s) will more than likely see your tweets after and either like or retweet them for their entire audience to see. Your tweets will not only help your brand but it will help theirs too – it’s a win/win! You can also add a little extra to your tweet by including photos and/or videos as they get much more visibility and engagement online.

Create follow-up content

When the event is over, don’t let your online engagement stop there. Use the post-conference momentum to create an insightful wrap-up summary that reviews the event and highlights your key takeaways. This can take the form of a blogpost (on your own site and/or a post on Medium), video, podcast or a single post on Instagram or Linkedin. Wherever you choose, share it across all of your networks, tag the conference and any mentioned speakers and whatever you do, don’t forget to include the conference hashtag to ensure maximum exposure!

In a nutshell, using social media will help you to get the best possible experience and value out of the conference. Be sure to update your social profiles before you attend (bio, headshot and website link, if applicable) as your social media activity will bring lots of eyeballs to your profile – I’m sure you want to make the best possible impression!

Creating Successful Collaborations: Everything You Need to Know

“Two heads are better than one.”

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

It’s safe to say that whatever quote you grew up hearing, you know that in order to truly be successful, you need to work with others. Regardless of the industry you’re in, finding the right people to partner with will ultimately boost the trajectory of your success.

Click below to listen to an audio version of this post!

To make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s define the word collaboration:

A collaboration is two or more people working toward shared goals

creating successful collaborations

In order for a collaboration to be successful, it can’t be random. It has to be calculated, strategic and mutually-beneficial. This means that you can’t just go to anyone and everyone and say “let’s collaborate!” (more on why that’s ineffective later) but instead, you should spend time brainstorming before you begin reaching out.

Want to start creating successful collaborations? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself first:

What are your current goals?

For example: boost your brand awareness (this can be your personal and/or business brand), land a job, build your network, increase your followers/audience, increase sales

What value do I have to offer?

This is key. For collaborations to be effective, you need to both give and receive value. So, what can you offer? Think about your expertise and potentially the audience and connections that you have access to and can bring to the table

Who are some key people in and outside of my industry that I could partner with?

Perhaps you’ll already have some people top of mind or you may need to do a little social media research to find new people to build relationships with.

Once you have your goals, value and potential people in mind, it’s then time for the fun part – coming up with collaboration ideas! Of course, they would differ depending on who you’re collaborating with but here are a few to get you started:

  • Write a joint blogpost on a topic that you’re both interested in
  • Co-host an event (I’ve done this multiple times with my business bestie!)
  • Create a physical or digital product together
  • Co-host a podcast and/or webinar
  • Organize social media takeovers (one of you takes over the other’s social media account for the day – you get exposed to a new audience and they get content and engagement)
  • Co-host a contest or giveaway

creating successful collaborations

Unfortunately, a lot of people skip the brainstorming step. Instead of being strategic about who they partner with, they end up telling anyone they come across that sounds interesting “let’s collaborate!” The main problem with this approach is that it sounds too generic. But also, what does it even mean? That type of message leaves a lot of questions in the receiver’s mind.

In order to receive a positive response to whatever you’re asking for, it’s important to be specific with your ask – and this applies to anything, not just collaborations. In your initial message, you should include:

  • Address them by their full name
  • Introduce who you are and the value you’d like to provide (to immediately pique their interest!)
  • Give them a genuine compliment
  • Briefly describe the collaboration idea (highlight how it would be mutually beneficial)
  • End with a call-to-action (ask for their feedback, a time to meet in-person or chat via phone or Skype)

Want a message template that you can use to effectively pitch collaboration ideas? I’ve created a free guide! Click the image below to download your free copy!


So, let’s say you’ve done the initial work, you’ve pitched your idea and the other person is on board. How can you ensure that your collaboration is as successful as possible? Here are 4 key tips for success:

Do your research

Once you have a list of people in mind, spend some time researching them to ensure that they’re the right fit. Watch any videos they may have posted lately, scan their tweets and review their posts. Is their image aligned with yours? Is there anything controversial that could potentially tarnish your image? Is there anything they are working on that fits well with your brand? Doing your due diligence is extremely important as the collaboration must make sense to your audience – you don’t want them questioning why you’ve partnered with a particular person!

Be professional

Treat your communication with a potential collaborator like you would in any other professional situation. Address them by their name, use full words and sentences and contact them via email. If you’re unable to find their email address, you can send them a quick message via social media asking for the best email to contact them at.

Clearly outline deliverables

Once you’ve both agreed that a collaboration makes sense, you should take a moment to write out exactly what each person will be responsible for and key dates. For example, let’s say that you’re collaborating on an event. Make a to-do list of all your key tasks, assign a person to each task and the dates they need to be completed by. Doing this will allow you to easily see if the work distribution is fair.

Hold up your end of the bargain

A collaboration is only as strong as it’s weakest contributor. If you decide to let the other person do all the work (but still try to benefit from it!), not only will you very likely ruin the relationship between you and the other person but it will become obvious to your audiences. If you will be unable to commit to the collaboration for any reason, it’s best to be completely upfront and honest with the other person as early as possible so you can try to postpone for another date or call it off completely.

creating successful collaborations

But when it comes to the importance of collaborating, don’t just take my word for it. I asked 3 entrepreneurs about their thoughts on collaborations and why they are key for success:

“As a blogger, collaboration is a key component of keeping my content fresh, interesting and relevant. Whether it’s working with guest bloggers, graphic designers, photographers, or other creative talent, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with producing a high volume of content for my readers without successful collaborative efforts. In order to be truly beneficial for both parties—it’s important to communicate the shared value, parameters and timelines. Be open and flexible. Ofter more than you ask for. It will always be returned 10x over.”

Alethea from See Girl Work 

“One of my favourite things about collaboration is the community it allows me to build. Whether I’m collaborating with a brand to showcase why I love them to my online audience, building relationships with local small businesses for my events, or working with friends and other like-minded individuals to put together something great, it gives me a sense of belonging and the foundation of building a community around my passions.” 

Victoria from Florals and Teacups

“Collaboration means partnership. It means working together with other business or brands to create a final product to demonstrate skills or to further brand reach. Of course, sometimes collaborations can be just for fun, to shake loose the creative juices and create something for portfolio. There are a lot of things to consider for creating a successful collaboration, but here are my top four pieces of advice: Be respectful of the other person’s time and skills (paying attention to little details will show the other person that you understand they are busy and that their time is valuable. Plus it will more than likely increase the likelihood of getting a response!), approach individuals who align with your brand’s values, remember that “mutually beneficial” is not a dirty word (be sure to outline how the partnership could be useful and valuable to the other person’s goals. And please don’t say, “It’ll be great exposure,” because that is not a finite deliverable or necessarily worthwhile for an established business and don’t passively wait for a collaboration if you want one. Be the idea-maker and driving force behind a collaboration. Don’t just wait for other people to approach you. Get out there, knock on some doors (virtually of course) and ask!”

Laura from Gooseberry Studios

 

Hopefully this inspires you to start dreaming up your own collaborations! Remember, collaboration divides the task and multiplies the success. Find the right people to partner with and it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make for your brand.

Don’t forget to download your free copy of the Well Done Collaborations guide! Get your copy here: www.dowelldresswell.com/resourcelibrary

Why You Need Allies, Sponsors and Mentors in Your Network

In 2014, I attended an interview at an internationally known marketing and advertising agency. I was still 2 months away from completing my full-time Public Relations post-graduate program but I had seen the job posting online and thought it would be perfect for me.

A few weeks later, I received an email to come in for an interview. I remember walking in and feeling nervous yet really confident. I knew my stuff, I had some great practical experience and I had my portfolio in hand to prove it.

The interview finished and then I was told something along the lines of…

“We’re really impressed by you and we’d love to offer you the job…but you’re still in school!”

I was crushed but yet I don’t really know what I was expecting as I still had 2 months left before I finished my program. I wasn’t about to “drop out” so close to the finish line either. So, they told me to keep in touch and email them when I finished school.

Click below to listen to an audio version of this blogpost!

Fast forward to being a few weeks away from finishing my program (thank goodness!) and I decided to follow up again to see if there were any open roles. I received a response shortly after from the hiring manager I had interviewed with and in a nutshell, she felt that I had so much potential and even though there weren’t any open positions, she wanted to share me with her network and if I’d be ok with that.

…Um, yes, of course!!

So, this woman who I had only met once (and talked to for no longer than an hour), sent out an email to her network saying how much potential I have and if they have any open roles, they need me on their team.

I didn’t know it then (I honestly just thought she was extremely nice!) but I know it now, this woman was a sponsor – a very important person that everyone needs in their network in order to truly succeed.

We often throw around the word “network” without much context or thought to the roles that the people in our network play yet there are 3 key ones that you absolutely need to get ahead – allies, mentors and of course, sponsors.

Here’s who they are and why you need all 3 for professional success:

Allies

According to this Zen Workplace article, an ally is someone who proactively offers help and support to help you achieve your goals.

An ally goes beyond just a friend you have at work. You’re able to have open and honest conversations about salaries and career advancement because they genuinely have your best interests at heart. They will also work to push forward your ideas and ensure your work is noticed. If you work in a male-dominated field, it’s also recommended that you also have a few male allies that you can trust to really boost the trajectory of your career. These male allies should recognize their privilege within your workplace and industry and genuinely be committed to helping you succeed as well.

Mentors

By definition, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. As described in this Levo League article, mentors set aside dedicated time in order to offer up career advice and share wisdom and experiences to their mentees.

I’ll be honest – I’ve never had a mentor. Sure, I’ve had people here and there that have set aside time to share their insight with me but never a formal mentor/mentee relationship. I know that a lot of importance is placed on mentorship and I’m sure there is lots of value in it but typically they can only take you so far. They succeed at boosting your knowledge and confidence by sharing their experience and insight but I’ve learned that sometimes there can be a gap between equipping you with this knowledge and actual opportunity.

Sponsors

A sponsor is someone that is willing to put their name and reputation on the line to vouch for you. They share you with their entire network to help you land opportunities.

According to Jo Miller, Founder of Be Leaderly, “A sponsor sees how your strengths could add value in areas of the business you’ve not yet had exposure to. Due to their influence, sponsors can open more career doors than you ever thought possible. And they can see a vision for your career that is bigger than you could ever imagine.”

The interesting thing about sponsors is that you don’t necessarily find them – they find you. After all, I definitely did not know that my interview would result in me having a sponsor!

As this article in Forbes says, “finding a sponsor is far more difficult than finding a mentor. Generally, young professionals choose their mentors, whereas sponsors choose young professionals to bet on.”

Author Bonnie Marcus talks about this idea of being “sponsor ready”.  Essentially, this means you have to consistently perform at a high level and always make a good impression so that you’re a person that a potential sponsor would have no worry about associating themselves with you. Think about this the next time you go for an interview. Even if you don’t get the job, if you make a positive enough impression, you could end up with a valuable career sponsor.

Now, you may be wondering – what value does a sponsor get? Well, it’s a 2-way street. You get access to a potentially hidden network and they become known as someone who has access to high-potential people. They become a valuable asset to the people in their network.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have people that fill multiple roles. In fact, that’s probably the best case scenario to have – someone that not only dedicated time to share their insight but believes in your potential so much that they vouch for you in front of their network.

But, remember – it’s important to pay it forward so just as you seek to fill the roles of allies, sponsors and mentors in your life, look for opportunities for you to play these roles as well so you can make a lasting impact on someone else’s career.

How I Host Networking Events as an Introvert

If you asked 16 year old me if I would ever host a networking event (or any type of event for that matter), I definitely would have asked you if you’re crazy.

Me? Host an event? Speak in front of people? No way.

For most of my life, I was known as the small, shy girl. Even in my final year of high school, I had someone write in my yearbook, “Hi Chanèle! I’ll always remember you as the small, shy girl.” Still to this day, I’m not sure if it was meant to be a compliment or an insult.

Here’s a picture of me at 15/16 years old!

Either way, for the longest time, I never made any effort to change this. I’m an introvert and I just have to deal with that, I’d tell myself while I would longingly admire people who could speak in front of crowds with ease.

Until of course, I entered an industry where networking is absolutely crucial to success and I all of a sudden became determined to create more of a legacy than just being the “small, shy girl”. Despite the anxiety I felt around these situations, I forced myself to attend. With my sweaty palms (and let’s be honest – my armpits, too), I’d walk in and although it would take literally everything inside of me to stop myself from running back out the door, I’d stay and attempt to engage in conversation.

But then of course, my anxiety would flare back up as I think about all the different dilemmas we’re faced with at the average networking event. Should I go get a drink? Ok, I can’t get a drink and a snack or else how will I shake people’s hands? Who should I talk to first? I don’t want to sound corny…think of something smart to start the conversation, Chanèle! These people are talking in a group, should I insert myself? I’m ready to leave, how do I end the conversation?!

As I think back to the many events I have attended, most times I would leave with nothing but the feeling of serious overwhelm. I would barely make a single connection! The room would be so crowded that you’re not even really sure who is there and the host has made no effort to help their attendees make meaningful connections.

As an introvert, attending a networking event requires so much emotional energy. To have to deal with the anxiety and sweaty armpits and still leave without receiving any value – what really is the point? I could have just stayed home and read a book, I’d tell myself as I’d make my way home after yet another pointless event. It’s no wonder that many people I speak to say that they “hate” networking.

Instead of just deeming networking to be a lost cause, I took this anxiety and frustration and together with my business bestie Jem Castor, we created our own events – the networking events we always dreamed of. I had just launched Do Well Dress Well earlier in the year and I was excited by the idea of adding this “offline” element to my brand.

The goal was simple: to create an intimate space for young professional women to come together and make meaningful, long-term connections. On Sunday, August 6th 2016, ideate was officially launched. You can read the full recap of that event here.

This picture was taken just a few minutes before the first event started. I may be smiling but

behind this smile, I was holding back a whole lot of nerves!

I don’t think I need to go into detail on the level of nerves I had leading up to the first event because I’m sure by now, you could just picture it. I mean, I thought I was bad when all I had to do was simply attend an event but to actually organize AND host my own event?! I think my husband had to give me at least 10 pep talks during the week leading up to it (thanks Chris!), I didn’t sleep the night before and I honestly thought I would pass out while waiting for the first few attendees to show up.

Well, they did show up and women from across the Greater Toronto Area have continued to show up for ideate events ever since.

It has now been one year since the initial event and this past Sunday I hosted our 5th event – an anniversary brunch. What started off as just an small idea has become a full-fledged, diverse community of young professional women. Many of whom who just like myself would call themselves introverts yet have found comfort and value in the relaxed networking environment that we’ve created. It’s an event that has become a favourite of both introverts and extroverts alike.

During the pre-event registration, we gather information from each attendee including a short bio and social media handles. Prior to the event, this information is sent out to each registered attendee via a Google doc so that everyone is able to get well-acquainted before they even walk in the door. Many of our events have also started with a group networking activity. As J. Kelly Hoey says in her exceptional book Build Your Dream Network, we need to stop committing “random acts of networking“. “Effective networking requires purpose and preparation.

ideate networking continues to receive such positive feedback on how welcoming our events are, the overall professionalism and of course, the small guest list that allows each attendee to meet every single person and make real connections. Although we have new guests each time, many of our attendees are repeat guests and for me, there’s no better feeling than when I see them hug and say “Hey, we sat beside each other at the last event! So nice to see you again!”

Through creative programming (we’ve done everything from brunches, lunches, DIY activities and panel discussions), we regularly come together for themed discussions. From work-life balance to personal branding and discovering your “why”, the conversations that happen at an ideate networking event are open, honest and meaningful. It truly has become more than just your average networking event. It’s a community or as I like to call it, a sisterhood.

Introverts are often led to believe that our “quiet” nature is a weakness. As Susan Cain says in her book Quiet, “introversion has become a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” Yet some of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions have come from “quiet” people who tuned into their inner workings to uncover treasure. Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss are all known introverts yet have still made some of the most significant contributions to society. Introverts are often led to believe that we’re unable to change and our “quiet” nature is a weakness.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself during this process it’s that I may dislike chaos but I flourish in a community. Large groups and aimless small talk…not my thing. Small groups, meaningful and deliberate conversation and building community…that’s when I’m at my absolute best.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get a little nervous before each event and I just can’t seem to stop the nervous sweating. (Although, here’s a pro tip I’ve learned: wear a sleeveless top to a networking event so you don’t have to worry about sweat pits). But, not only have I added “networking event host” to my resume in the last year, I’ve also become a speaker who has spoken for organizations like Royal Bank of Canada, City of Toronto, Avanti Women and Young Women in Business Toronto. 

Coincidentally, just a few weeks ago, life came full circle. I received a message from a high school acquaintance that said “Wow, I remember you from high school! You were such a shy girl and now look at you!” and instantly, the biggest smile came across my face.

I did it!

If this is what can happen in just one year, I can’t wait to see what else the future has in store.

6 Tips for Effectively Using Direct Messages for Networking

Some of my most meaningful connections, friendships, career opportunities, event sponsors all share one thing in common…the relationship started with a direct message (DM) via social media.

Crazy, right?

For those who may be unfamiliar, a direct message (most commonly referred to as a DM) is a private message sent to a user via any social media platform. You can send DM’s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

The thing is, DMs often get a bad rap. 

Photographer: Gooseberry Studios

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10 Common Networking Dilemmas (and How to Solve Them!)

You know – it’s no wonder that most people say they don’t like networking. Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event? From finding one to go to, to researching to see if it’s even worth it, figuring out what to wear, starting and exiting conversations…and the list goes on. Talk about major effort, right?

 

 

Lucky for you, I’ve spent some time putting together a master list of various networking dilemmas that occur before, during and after the event to make your life a little easier:

Have you ever realized how many decisions we have to make just to attend your average networking event?

Before the event

I don’t know how to find events near me! 

There are always events going on – you just need to know where to look! If you’re in the Toronto area, I do my best to post local events on my Event Calendar!

You can also check out sites such as Eventbrite and Meetup and most people list their events there. I also highly suggest doing a local Twitter search and of course, Google! I’ve written an entire post that walks you through how to find local events. Read it here.

How do I know if an event is worth my time?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you looking for a new job?

Are you trying to switch industries?

Are you looking to meet new people?

 

Always research to find out if the event is aligned with your current goals before you invest any time and money into an event.

I don’t have anyone to go with and I don’t want to go alone!

I know that having someone with you can help ease any anxiety but sometimes your best connections can be made when you’re alone! Sometimes when we attend with someone, we end up sticking with them the entire event which can hinder our ability to really connect with new people. But if you really do want someone else with you – let your network know! Post on social media that you’re attending the event and ask if anyone else is going. You’ll hopefully get some responses and can make plans to meet up. This is also where having a business bestie can come in handy!

I have no idea what to wear!

Although the dress code will vary depending on the event you’ll be attending, you should look polished and professional no matter what! Here’s my go-to networking look for a business casual environment:

  • Blazer or cardigan
  • Nice shirt
  • Statement necklace
  • Dark wash jeans
  • Pumps

I’ve also written a specific post on what to wear to a summer networking event. You can read it here.

I’m a student and/or unemployed so I don’t have a business card. What do I do?

You definitely still need to bring a card with you. Instead of a “business” card, you should create a personal brand card! This should have key information such as:

  • Your name
  • Email
  • Social Media Handles
  • Areas of expertise

Creating your business cards: If your budget allows, you can hire a graphic designer to create them for you. If not, I highly recommend Canva – it’s a FREE online design platform and they have templates for everything – including business cards!

Ordering your business cards: I’ve found Vistaprint to be amazing for business cards and they usually come very quickly

 

During the Event

I never know how to introduce myself in an interesting way!
It’s important to create a short elevator pitch for yourself that you can use in any situation whether it’s a networking event or you’re in an actual elevator!
Some tips:
  • Be natural (if you pretend to be someone you’re not, it will be obvious!)
  • Explain what you do in clear, basic terms
  • Highlight how you provide value through what you do
  • Give just enough to leave them asking more
I highly recommend reading the book Brag to not only get better at introducing yourself but effectively promoting yourself without sounding cocky. It’s one of the best career books I’ve read!
 

I want to start a conversation with someone but I don’t know what to say to break the ice!

This is probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts about networking, especially for introverts. How you break the ice does depend on the type of event but some conversation starters you can use are:

  • What did you think of the panel or presentation?
  • Is it your first time to one of these events?
  • That’s a great [insert item name here; necklace, shoes, shirt, earrings, etc.] you have on!

I really want to leave but I don’t know how to end the conversation without looking rude.

Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you may think. I typically recommend being honest (unless of course, you’re just leaving to go home and watch Netflix) but there may be other reasons why you want to leave the conversation. I created 4 scripts that you can use for different situations which you can find here.

After the Event

I never end up making real connections at networking events!

There are a few reasons why this could be happening:

  • You’re not doing your research beforehand to see if this event can help you meet your goals
  • You’re attending with a friend that you already know and sticking with them during the entire event instead of having your own conversations
  • You don’t ask the right questions
  • You’re not attending the event with the right energy (For example, did you have a bad day and your body language isn’t too friendly?)
  • You don’t follow up afterwards

You get out of it what you put in. Make a plan before, during and afterwards to ensure that the connections you make last beyond the event.

How do I keep in touch with the people I meet after the event? 

Knowing how to network successfully is pivotal to success in our careers. However, in my opinion, what we don’t hear enough about is what do after you network. Of course, what you do before and during the networking event is important but unless you’re strategic about what you do afterwards, what was the point of even going? What you do after you attend a networking event (of any kind) is what will make the biggest difference in your career.

I shared my tried and true tips for what you should do after you attend a networking event here.

You really do have to put the WORK in networking in order to be successful. Some of it is easy peasy, some is a bit anxiety-inducing but if you’re committed, the end result is definitely worth it.

Have a dilemma that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below and I’ll update the post with my advice!

P.S. Bookmark this post as I’ll be updating it regularly (and you can quickly take a read before attending events!) and send to a friend who could use the tips!

5 Steps to Getting Event Sponsors

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to host 5 networking events and by the second one, I was able to secure support from various sponsors. Yes, the events were still relatively new but the numbers don’t matter as much as value. Without value, it doesn’t matter how many attendees or social media impressions you have. You may think that your event is “too small” but it may be exactly the type of event a company is looking to support.

But, let’s be honest – reaching out to sponsors is nerve-wracking! Between finding the right people to contact, drafting the emails, waiting patiently for responses (you’ll probably refresh your emails every few minutes) and dealing with rejection, landing sponsors is not easy. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned since organizing my own events – nothing worth having comes easy and you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to reach out to potential sponsors but if you successfully land sponsorship support, it can truly help to elevate your brand.

Here are 5 tips to help you get event sponsors:

Create a strong sponsorship package

It’s imperative that you have a short yet concise document that you can share with your sponsors that highlights exactly why they should get involved with your event. Here are the key things to include:

  • Who you are and your expertise (what’s your background, why are you passionate about this and what makes you qualified)
  • Details on past events (attendee numbers, photos, positive feedback – highlight your growth!)
  • Attendee demographics (describe your attendees by age, interests, location, professional background, etc.)
  • Benefits of sponsoring your event (a.k.a. What value can you provide them?)
  • Testimonials
  • Sponsorship options (will you provide pre-set packaged opportunities or customized options?)
  • Contact information

Research and create an outreach list

When it comes to sponsorship, don’t just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks – in other words, don’t reach out to anyone and everyone and take whoever responds. You need to be specific in terms of who your ideal sponsors would be so that it makes sense for your event. Take time to research and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What brands can best integrate into your event and provide value?
  • Who has sponsored events similar to yours?
  • What brands do our attendees like?

 

Create customized emails

Once you have a targeted list, it’s time for you to start your outreach. I highly recommend trying to find emails for a specific person – emails sent to a general mailbox rarely ever receive responses. If you can’t easily find the best contact from the company’s website – don’t get discouraged! Here’s what I do:

  • Look up the best contact on LinkedIn
  • Once I have the first and last name, I research to find out how the company structures their email addresses (for example – is it firstnamelastname@company, firstname.lastname@company, etc.)
  • The quickest way to find out how the company structures their emails? Search for a recent press release and check the contact details at the bottom!

Before you start reaching out, it’s important to know exactly what type of support you would like from them. Take some time to brainstorm some ideas so that if they ask you what you have in mind, you can respond right away. Be direct yet reasonable in your requests.

Your emails need to be short but valuable and from the first few sentences, you need to make clear what’s in it for them. Start by addressing them by name and then briefly introducing yourself, what you do and the value you provide. Let them know your package is attached for them to review and be sure to end the email with a call-to-action so that they’re more likely to respond – you could ask to set up a call or a meeting to provide them with more details.

I also suggest creating a tracker so that you can keep a record of all the emails you sent out, what date and the responses you receive. This way, you’ll be able to effectively follow up.

Keep the communication lines open

Once a sponsor has agreed to partner with you, it’s important to openly communicate with them both before and after the event. Provide them with all of the event details and update them on any changes that may occur. Also be sure to respond to all emails within 24 hours.

Follow-up

Your follow-up after the event is extremely important. If you’re able to maintain the relationship, you could potentially have a permanent sponsor! Within 48 hours, send each sponsor a thank you email with pictures and stats from the event. I also suggest sending a handwritten thank you card within 7 days to really show your appreciation for their support.

Now, let’s be honest – you could follow all of these steps and still receive a No. If you do (and it’s very likely that you will receive a few of them – that’s just life), do not let it discourage you. Move forward and continue reaching out because you’re sure to find the right company that completely believes in your vision and will help to take your event to the next level.

Would you be interested in an e-Book on all things event sponsorship, including more proposal tips, screenshots from successful sponsorship packages, email templates and more? Leave me a comment below!