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May 2, 2016
The Digital Transformation: Women, Networking & Mentorship

Creative social media skills are no longer just useful for your social life. They are taking the front seat in networking and mentorship too. Digital is evening the playing field and allowing women the chance to network outside the traditional boys club. Turning digital networking creativity into lasting mentor relationships is they key to success.

I am speaking on a panel next week as part of the Boston Business Women’s Innovation Conference and it got me thinking about networking and mentorship today.

Boston Business Women started as a Facebook group founded by Kristina Tsipouras, Megan Marini, and Anna Tsui who were frustrated with the current networking options for women in Boston. The group has morphed into a 3,000 member Facebook community, that hosts numerous events. Its first annual Innovation Conference even attracted Arianna Huffington as the keynote speaker.

Networking, as Sheryl Sandberg eloquently points out in Lean In, is often associated with grabbing drinks with the guys after work, and somehow over beer and stale peanuts, men form new business relationships and deals. But digital is opening a whole new world for women to jump into networking headfirst.

Take the Innovation Conference, for example. Tsipouras knew she wanted Huffington as the keynote speaker. But rather than scraping her rolodex and glad-handing, she took to Instagram. Insightfully realizing that many high powered people have others manage almost all of their social networks except for Instagram, Tsipouras direct messaged Huffington (a few times...) and landed her as a keynote speaker for the conference.

So what does this mean for the future? Networking is no longer who you connect with at the next meeting of the “right kind” or the invite to stale peanuts. Networking is digital and scrappy! Find that person you have in common with someone on LinkedIn and ask for an intro. Digital evens the playing field ladies so take advantage of your naturally more creative skills and get scrappy. There are so many resources from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter.

DIGITAL'S INFLUENCE ON MENTORSHIP

If we can now network online, what does this mean for mentorship? Sheryl Sandberg reference No. 2 (sorry, not sorry): please do not ask someone to be your mentor. This is like asking someone to be your friend: if you have to ask you probably aren’t friends.

So, then how do you develop a mentor in an increasingly digital arena? Questions are the key. A mentor is someone who has experience and knowledge that you are seeking. So ask them good, thought provoking questions. Push them to think and help you to problem solve. If you have a fantastic mentor, they are likely extremely busy - so ask the most critical questions at pivotal times in your career or company. They will respect you for respecting their time.

A mentor, however, must be interested in you as a mentee. A personal example: I am a young start-up CEO with a lifestyle business and a background at tech-based startups. My company, Alice's Table, is committed to building a company that facilitates women creating their own events businesses under our umbrella. We are capitalizing on the multitude of women interested in flexible lifestyle careers and driving them toward fulfilling work under a national brand.

When I speak with women about my business, they understand the immense scalability of the model - before I even dive into projections. But men often just see it as a “lifestyle business.” It’s not until they take the time to see that Mark Cuban wouldn’t sneeze at the numbers that they get interested. However, the time and energy it takes to get most men to even to sit down with me about the idea isn't always worth the effort.

In short, if the ROI isn’t there, don’t invest! There are plenty of mentor prospects. Don’t get stuck on someone who isn’t interested in you.

The bottom line? Use your creative social media skills to your advantage and get networking. Convert the people you admire most to mentors through the right questions and you will build thriving business relationships.

 


Alice Rossiter is Founder and CEO of Alice’s Table.

Image via Shutterstock