Business travel always seemed to be exciting to me. Getting on a plane, staying in swanky hotels, attending fancy business affairs to hear inspirational speakers, it all sounded like fun. Although I’m an introvert, I enjoy meeting new people and seeking out new connections. Connections may be minor, like we both work in Diversity or we both like Star Wars. Or I may meet someone sitting in the hotel bar who has an affinity for whiskey and we discuss the benefits of peat or smoke or oak flavors. And many times, I make connections that lead to friendships that last beyond LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Social networks grow out of a variety of channels and the ideal connection lead to real life, real time human connections.
Networking was not a skill I learned at a young age. But networking is critical to success in corporate America. Once I discovered that promotions and coveted assignments often went to people less qualified than me, I realized that I needed to develop a new skill and learn how to flex the networking muscle. There weren’t Crossfit WODs to teach me how to network, I just took baby steps towards becoming more comfortable with it. It really helps that I honestly believe that everyone has an important story to tell with a lesson for me to learn. Some lessons are life-changing while others show me examples of who I do not want to become. And my daughter is an extrovert with a capital “E” so watching her curious and fearless nature with people provided me an excellent example.
But now when I attend a swanky work dinner or fundraiser, I set a goal to meet two or three new people. These people may be important connections for my company. Doing this under the guise of “it’s part of my job” has benefitted me both professionally and personally. When I was being considered for the promotion to Director of Diversity, my internal network was thin compared to the other candidate. However, I had
mentioned in passing to a few people in my network that I was up for a new position at work and thought they would wish luck, nothing more. To my surprise, letters of recommendation from presidents and CEOs of non-profits and thought-leading companies in Diversity filled my email in-box. That felt good. Reading their opinions and thoughts about who I am as a subject matter expert, diversity advocate and a professional provided a boost to my ego. I kept thinking how I knew I was the most qualified candidate for the position, what was the debate over? It came down to the other candidate’s internal network vs. my external network. My external network proved my credibility and knowledge base. Now, my external network leads to speaking engagements and invitations to join committees and nominations for external board of director roles. So having a week or two of back to back business trips is a part of my career.
Tonight is an awards dinner event by a diversity business consortium who recognizes financial services companies doing innovative and ground-breaking work in diversity. I look forward to seeing friends and gleaning ideas for how to continue
to advance the field of diversity. Tomorrow I’m providing diversity education for a group of our business partners who provide communications support to my company. Before I jump back on a plane, we will work on a new presentation that will set the tone for how our company sees the value and contributions of diversity and inclusion as we move all of our HQ locations to Plano, TX. In my mind, this presentation is mission critical to this transition and developing the culture and work environment for the company’s future.
So I need to buy shoes appropriate to wear during slush storms and a proper winter coat for these trips. But I love my career so very much that I will tolerate jet lag and wet feet to do it and travel LAX to JFK to LAX today and tomorrow.
This business travel marathon is sandwiched in between personal trips, as well. It started with Walker Stalker Con San Francisco #WSCSF, which was also my daughter’s 17th birthday. I will write about that next. So many feels about this past weekend, like a good introvert, I’m still processing all that happened.