Harness your network recap

Cast Your Net Wide When Networking


By Suzanne Cohen


In late August, over 50 women (and a couple men) experienced the give and take of networking in action at SheSays Chicago’s Harness your Network event. We learned how to make and nurture connections plus activate our networks at the Chicago Edelman office. The evening began with eating, drinking and mingling with friends old and new, followed by panel discussion with audience participation. Three lucky raffle winners received gratis wine bottles, courtesy of Marry Ellen Jensen of Media Bakery. (Use code HRNSS to get a special discount on photos with Media Bakery!) We wrapped up by delving deeper with our panelists and making plans to meet with new contacts.

During the networking hour, we admired the room with a view. Thanks, Edelman!

Thanks to our wonderful panelists for their practical advice and insight! (L to R) Erin Gardiner (Senior Vice President, Edelman Chicago’s health practice), Travis Kessel (Director of Recruitment, Edelman), Barb Lack (Communication Consultant Specializing in Content Strategy, Management and Development), Kris Petersen (Technology Entrepreneur and Morsel CEO/Founder)

In today’s multi-faceted world, we rely on digital and social media to keep us connected and abreast of what’s happening in our business and personal lives. However, face time is still important. According to Travis, “The people who draw the most value are those who make longer-lasting, deeper (not shallow) connections.” Aim to be genuine and relatable. If someone likes you, they’ll remember you and be more willing to help. And establish the connection long before you ask for the favor.

Other tips:

  • Show interest in others rather than talking too much about yourself. Be interested, not interesting. Get to know people who are interesting and engaging for who they are, not for what they can do for you.
  • Approach events with the mindset of giving, not taking. Try to help.
  • Networking isn’t a transactional thing. It’s about relationships.
  • Attend an industry event outside your industry—you may learn something new and stand out.
  • Focus on the quality, not quantity of contacts.
  • Search for LinkedIn groups in your interest areas. Join and actively engage in their discussions or attend a live event.
  • Write handwritten notes to follow up after meeting. 
  • Proofread your résumés for typos. Your work represents your brand.

Kris Petersen, who founded several tech companies and received a 2011 Chicago Ideas Week Fellow Award, believes scrappiness produces results. Case in point: He built DealsGoRound to trade and resell Groupons and other deal vouchers that hadn’t been used. Since Kris built the site for fun, and without corporate protection, he wanted to stay ahead of any potential legal problems. Using elbow grease to find something unusual about Groupon founder, Andrew Mason, he emailed him, with the subject line of “Eighth Grade Wrestling Rookie of the Year”. Yes, Mr. Mason saw the email, met with Kris, and a relationship was born. This outreach led to meetings with Groupon executives, and eventually Kris became an Entrepreneur in Residence at Lightbank, a venture capital firm owned by Groupon executives. A year later he left to pursue DealsGoRound full-time, raising $1.5 million in venture capital funding in the next year. Bottom line? Initiative counts!

Take it from the pros:

Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman know a thing or two about networks. And no, we don’t mean television. In this video, over coffee with Jerry, Sarah shared her experience helping Jimmy Kimmel’s daughter “change her life”—by smiling rather than frowning. After all, since a first impression may be our only impression, we ended the evening practicing our handshakes and putting our best faces forward. Watch the video, which takes up the mantle handshaking at about the 9:30 mark.

Take the reins, ladies and gents—harness your network! Also be sure to read this great recap by attendee Amanda Elliott! A special shout out to Anuli for securing such fab event space and providing food and drinks for everyone! See what our audience tweeted with this Storify by Anuli. #HarnessYourNetwork

Network with us:

Curious about SheSays Chicago? Contact us at for more information about our events. We want to hear from you (How’s that for networking?)! SheSays is a global, award-winning organization that helps women succeed. We run a free mentorship program and events for women in creative and marketing fields. The Chicago chapter is led by Jen Lemerand (@UpsideDwnGlsses), along with team leads Anuli Akanegbu (@akaanuli_tweets), Ashley Charleson, Suzanne Cohen (@suzannecohen01), Julie Goldsberry (@julieofthewolfs) and Beckie O’Connor (@roc_onn). Tweet or follow us at @SheSaysChicago.

(photo credit @briahna31 on Instagram)

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