What happened when I met Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black.
When I returned home from Los Angeles to NYC, I promised myself I’d do a lot more networking. Networking is essential for career success. And I pride myself on being a go-getter, hustler and all-around driven Latina professional who loves to collaborate with other women. Networking, or ‘playing the game’ as some call it, would be a peace of cake, right? Right.
So imagine my surprise when I felt like a fish out of water at Valerie Lora’s birthday brunch at Lima’s Taste in NYC. Just weeks ago, I sat at her table, trying my best to mingle with other successful Latinos. Radio personalities, fashion designers, spa owners: you name it, they were there. None other than Dascha Polanco (Dayanara Diaz) from Orange is the New Black was sitting across the table. And I shrunk.
This isn’t uncommon. According to a LinkedIn study, men are more savvy at networking than women. It may have to do with how aggressive men are when networking in comparison to women. Women are more sociable, but men go out of their way to connect. It may be because of perception.
“‘…when women network aggressively, they’re believed to be doing it solely for career trajectory,'” stated Amy Fulenwider, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine, “‘…but when men go out of their way, it is perceived to be genuine.'” via Business Insider
So, how do we as women fight this perception? We are often judged far more harshly than men in business. How do we overcome this to network effectively? Here are some things that I learned when meeting Dascha Polanco at Valerie Lora’s birthday brunch.
1. Connect with everyone. That means to chat with anyone who will listen. Because I was too intimidated initially to speak with Dascha, I connected with fashion designer Jhoanka. We exchanged cards, follow one another on Instagram, and hope to work together. Maybe she will even dress me one day.
2. Don’t see all women as friends. This is hard for women, as we tend to fall into this BFF syndrome. We go to an event and befriend every gal that we meet and want to do business with them. Some female relationships, however, are just good for business. Others make great friends. If you’re fortunate, you can meet a woman who can fill both roles. Network while keeping this in mind. Learn to distinguish between a business connection versus a friend connection.
3. Be present and genuine. In the end, you have to sell yourself when networking. In order to do so you have to be present and genuine. That’s what I did when I found the cojones to speak to Dascha that day. We chatted and took a photo together. All my intimidation washed away once I realized I just had to be my fabulous self. And she was so great and humble.
That’s the final rule – don’t think that others are bigger or better than you. You are as much of a big shot as whomever you meet. No one is better than anyone. We all want to be happy and successful. We all need to eat! As a matter a fact, I bumped into Dascha days later at a local restaurant in Washington Heights, only days after riding the elevator with Selena Leyva (Gloria from Orange is the New Black). I spoke to Selena immediately. I learned from the birthday brunch and opened my mouth. I was myself and felt really confident.