A Special Message to the Ladies Attending SES Chicago: Woman to Woman

funny pictures of cats with captionsI see you at the keynotes. I see you at the sessions. I see you in the expo hall during the day.

But at night, when I go to the networking cocktails, it's a testosterone festival.

Maybe you're rocking it so much that you don't need to network. Maybe you feel so good about the economy that you're not worried about your job. Maybe you love working for the man so much that you never want to start your own company or become an indie consultant.

But on the off chance that you do want to advance in your profession, but you're curling up in your pjs and watch reruns of Sex and the City instead of hangin' at Kitty O'Sheas, we need to talk.

Sure, the sessions and keynotes are a great way to learn stuff, but it doesn't amount to a hill of beans if you don't have clients, are busting out a bunch of manual work instead of streamlining your process with awesome search tools, or are out of a job. All of those things could happen unless you get your butt down to the bars.

By networking alone, I am seeing the potential for my non-SEW 2009 work to bring in thou$and$ more. That's a different financial scenario than you'll hear by flipping on the cable news channels and crying in your Cheerios (no matter how cute you look in those flannel jammie pants!).

So, how do you do said networking?

Step 1. Go down to the bar.
Step 2. Put a drink in your hand. (non-alcoholic is fine if that's how you roll)
Step 3. Walk up to someone you don't know.
Step 4. Stick out your hand for a shake and say "Hi, My Name is (fill in the blank) and I'm from (fill in the blank with your company). What's your name?"
Step 5. Listen.
Step 6. Ask questions about that person. Get them to talk about themselves.

What kind of questions, you may ask? Well, first you're off to a good start by just asking that very question to me. Here are more:

1. Where are you based? (i.e. Where do you live?)
2. How long have you been in your position?
3. How many people are at your company?

Pay attention to those answers and get curious. Turn your curiosity into more questions and you're golden.

If you're really drunk brave, you'll pull a harmonica out of your coat pocket and say, "I dare you to go up and play with the band." (What? That sentence seemed like it came out of nowhere? That's because you weren't down at the bar last night.)

Seriously, though, I'm not going to lie to you. Some people will be snobby. Not many, but a few. Wrap up your time with them and move on to more laid back people. Your time is valuable and spend it with people who make it worth your while.

Oh - and the more you do it, the easier you'll be. Once you've met a few people - you can look for them and hang out with them at future cocktails, lunches, etc. You'll inevitably meet who they know and expand your network.

You just have to get started. So get out of the pjs, into some jeans and down to the bar. Don't worry, Sex and the City will be on again tomorrow night. Same bat channel, same bat time.