If I were given a report card on my personal bling, I’d get a C-. I see that this omission from my physical presentation is a flaw when it comes to networking. But that will change.
I have taken the Plain-Jane approach to life, worn the utilitarian necklace that doubles as a bottle opener, the bracelet that you use to amuse a small child waiting in a doctor’s office.
However, by being so modest, I see that I have made myself a little difficult to approach for networking.
But let me back up and begin at the beginning.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the amazing She Talks Technology conference in downtown Vancouver. The event is designed for networking and a friendly vibe flows through each event.
And yet, I felt a little shy.
Networking, despite the constant messages we get (“go and do it”) is hard. It‘s awkward, even in the best of situations. We are completely reliant on the kindness of others to accommodate our questions and tentative openers.
I found myself feeling lost in this sea of people I didn’t know, but wanted to. Like a bird, my eyes were drawn to the fascinating pieces of jewelry worn by the women around me.
I discovered I could, with complete sincerity, talk with women about their jewelry and that gentle, non-threatening beginning gave us a great start for larger conversations. I began by simply complimenting (honestly) a piece of jewelry (normally a necklace) and asking about it. That led us to a fascinating story: the artist/crafter who designed the jewelry, the child who gave it with some help, the trip on which the piece was purchased. Jewelry is like a tiny window that you can look through to see the much larger landscape of a life. That window is truly an opening.
It seems that you can leverage a little interest in a colourful stone or a catchy setting to take you to a comfortable place to talk about your work, your project, your career, whatever. A little bling goes a surprisingly long way.
As the wearer of jewelry, you can help others by having something for someone to remark about. As a result of that conference, I committed to buying interesting pieces of jewelry (not expensive) for wearing to such business events. My decision was reinforced when I participated in MAPLE 2.0’s November 24th Briefing for Treasure Hunting. The interesting jewelry worn by participants offers additional ways to connect. You can see some of the pieces in the photos of participants.
The options for gaining interesting, non-pricy items are varied: I can buy small pieces sold at local craft fairs that are everywhere this time of year. Almost everyone knows someone who designs and sells jewelry. Items from these independent creators are designed with care and love in an old-world way that is environmentally-friendly. When you buy from them, the money goes directly back to the person who made your item. The whole exchange feels spectacular.
OK, so I’ve covered 50% of the population. Now, what can I say to men? Well, commenting on jewelry applies to them too. As for wearing it, generally men are less likely to wear items that get compliments. But they like them as much as women. For men, perhaps gadgets are the jewelry equivalent. A stylish phone case, a retro pen; these are items that men have given consideration. They prompt stories, too.
We wear or carry with us particular things because we feel they reflect us in a positive way. What better way to start talking with someone than to ask about one of their personal symbols?
Do you have a great networking story that started with a little help from jewelry or a gadget? Let us know in a comment.
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About the Author: Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.