As I've been a busy bee writing this networking book, I decided to engage a random group of individuals from the various groups that I belonged to.
I had interviewed quite a few people to understand their networking stories. I was delighted by the stories of humour and success, but also quite shocked at the other ones that I heard too.
There were a few individuals that told me how they met someone at a conference and had a follow up coffee ‘meeting’. In the middle of the coffee meeting, the person asked this individual out on a date. One individual graciously declined by stating they had a partner, and steered the conversation back to professional networking.
This individual proceeded by asking the potential contact for additional suggestions on where they would be able to find roles in a particular industry. The potential contact said that they’d only offer access to their connections, if they would go out on a date.
This story happened in the summer of 2018. Others, that I interviewed had shared similar situations. Another individual was invited to the potential connection's actual office as there was a possible internal role. Unfortunately, this individual was propositioned and would get the referral if they went out with them. This incident happened just last month, January 2019.
These stories are awful and shouldn’t be happening. But, unfortunately, it still does happen. These incidents are happening to both sides, not just women. There are men that are also impacted as well. This is not one sided.
If you find yourself in an uncomfortable position, feel free to notify the other participant that you're uncomfortable. It could be a cultural communication gap. In some cultures, some people stand closer to others, where in other cultures they stand farther apart. It could be simply a communication gap.
Here are some other suggestions on how to possibly handle the situation. These are some tips that others have shared, and hopefully, these suggestions will help mitigate the situation:
- When setting up the follow up meeting have a clear agenda and email them to ensure that there is clarity around objective. The intent here is to re-affirm that this is a professional meeting and it’s in writing. It is important to ensure that expectations are aligned from both sides. If the individual says, they were hoping to get to know you personally, one can clarify if this is a date.
- If you're networking for job opportunities, try not to look overly anxious about timelines of finding a role. The intent here is to not give them the idea that you’re desperate for a job and not to give them more power. Explain that you’re looking to explore different employment options and that you’ve got a few that you’re looking at. If they probe more to find out what other options are, you can simply state that you’re unable to disclose because you’ve signed an NDA agreement (Non-Disclosure Agreement).
- If they start asking personal questions, divert the questions back to being professional questions. “Ha! Let’s keep it professional here; my partner doesn’t even know those answers”. You can make up a partner, how would they know? The intent here is to take make it clear that you're not interested and this is not an option.
I really hope some of these techniques help defer any unnecessary and uncomfortable situations. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this and if you have any other tips to share on how to keep it professional. Please share.
Getting closer to finishing this book! I've definitely included this as part of the book.