Networking With Purpose… And Prowl?

I am obsessed with networking. Sorry I’m not sorry. As a young professional who is still trying to figure out what her career path will be, I find networking to be extremely helpful. Attending networking events gives me a way to market my skills and myself in a proactive way that adds a face, personality, and story to my list of qualifications. And so, as LinkedIn often instructs me to do, I try to go to networking events as much as humanly possible.

The cover of Business Networking and Sex, by Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker, and Frank J De Raffelle Jr.

The cover of Business Networking and Sex, by Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker, and Frank J De Raffelle Jr.

My most recent networking event was through a Local Levo group, a community of professional, mostly Gen Y women, seeking advice, inspiration, and the tools needed to succeed. And I just absolutely LOVED it. This intimate group of passionate and genuine women truly revitalized me and reminded me why I am so enthusiastic about advancing women’s leadership: women inspire me.

We discussed our dream careers, how we got into our current work, corporate culture, and how everybody should read Lean In if they haven’t already. I told them about the work I’m doing to promote the 9 Practical Women’s Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career, and we even passed around our smart devices so we could send LinkedIn connection requests to ourselves from each others’ phones. What can I say? We’re Millennials, that’s how we roll.

I was in networking heaven.

As we were sharing stories, one of the women mentioned that men often do not take her seriously because of her looks. She expressed to the group her feelings of being judged before she could even demonstrate her capabilities. I saw inherent assumptions on behalf of her male colleagues that, because she is gorgeous, that must mean she can’t possibly be a smart, capable, and a highly qualified woman. I mean beautiful AND smart? Psssht, that’s just crazy.

I thought about interjecting a personal story about a time I was hit on by a guy at a networking event. I was going to tell the group how that had never happened to me before. I was going to tell them that I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone would show up to a networking event and rather than wanting to talk about my start-up nonprofit, was actually way more preoccupied if I was single or not (umm, thanks?). I was going to tell them that this really annoyed me and made me feel uncomfortable and confused. I was going to tell them that I hadn’t been to a “co-ed” networking event since because I was freaked out. I was going to tell them that this experience made me feel as though I was not being taken seriously because of my looks.

But I held back.

And it turns out that this may have been a good thing. Why? Because later in the conversation, the topic arose of using certain networking events as ways to find eligible men. My gut reaction: OMG WHAT?! I am a feminist and would never, ever do that! I didn’t go to college to get my MRS degree and I DO NOT go to networking events to find eligible bachelors.

But then I thought about it. I listened. And I heard what my fellow female colleagues had to say.

Now, this is a group of highly motivated, self-starter women who put their careers first and are not satisfied until they are in a career that they LOVE and are getting paid (quite well) to do it. What better place to find similarly motivated men than at a networking event for young professionals?

I mean, it’s not like all sense of wanting romantic relationships goes out the window because you want to be a career woman. Reminder: it’s 2013. These women just want a relationship AND a career. Novel concept, I know. I’d hardly even call that wanting to “have it all” . But rather, simply wanting to have a life.

I think there is a giant grey area between what Victoria Pynchon of She Negotiates calls Why it’s ok to flirt your way to the top” and “Your Slacker Boyfriend Would Probably Like to See You Fail”.

Is the exploration of a potential romantic relationship at networking events – with smart, career-driven, sociable, confident, and like-minded individuals – nonprofessional, or does it actually just make sense?

What do you think?

Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think of using networking events not just as a way to excel professionally, but also personally and romantically if the chance arises.

Kaitlin writes about current events, pop culture, and innovative ways to promote gender equality through online advocacy. Read more of Kaitlin’s posts here.

About the Author

Kaitlin Rattiganis a recent graduate with an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Gender and Peacebuilding. She is a firm believer in social media as an effective and meaningful tool to promote positive societal change. Never underestimate the power of 140 characters. Kaitlin is a voice for the Millennials, a constructive disruptionist, an advocate for women’s leadership, and is a believer in challenging and expanding the definitions of what it means to be a feminist. For gender-analytical fem-tastic commentary on current events, follow Kaitlin@KaitlinRattigan. Do you have an issue you want highlighted on The Movement Blog? Is there an area within women’s leadership that you feel passionate about and want to share with a wide audience? Feel free to send Kaitlin a DM or Tweet to@KaitlinRattiganwith the hashtag #Women2025 and let’s keep the conversation going and work together to propel women into their equal share of leadership positions by 2025.