Editor’s Note: We asked female entrepreneur Ariadna Jacob (who started Influences.com and the Influences mobile app which is set to launch in the iTunes app store this fall) for some business networking tips for attractive young women. Here’s what she had to say:
The reason no one gives attractive people tips for networking is because it seems like a superficial problem to have.
Young, attractive entrepreneurs (especially women) are being stereotyped, hit on and mocked at networking events every day.
Since successful entrepreneurs rely on building their network and cultivating business relationships, I was happy to shed some light on this “good problem to have” that is, inherently, still a problem.
1. First and foremost — know your sh*t.
There’s nothing worse than living up to the stereotype that attractive women don’t work hard because they’ve gone through life with the perks of being pretty. The only way to circumnavigate this ridiculous stereotype is to consistently expose your sexiest body part: your mind. Imagine what the Big Bang Theory storyline would be like if Penny were to school Sheldon on X-Men trivia and the movement of subatomic particles. Similarly, if you know you’re going to be around a bunch of SEO and analytics geeks, make sure “Penguin, Panda, link bait and link juice” are part of your vocabulary - you’ll instantly become the bell of the freakishly nerdy ball.
2. Don’t dress like a sorority girl on fraternity walk arounds.
It may have been a good idea to dress in tight, revealing clothing, cake on the MAC makeup and apply false lashes when you were trying to be selected for a popular sorority in college- however in the business world- the more you dress like an attention starved college freshman, the less people will trust you as a legitimate business person.
Make a trip to Express or Banana Republic and get yourself:
- A knee length pencil skirt
- A loose fitting blouse & undershirts
- A suit (fitted slacks and a blazer)
- A classy, fitted dress (perhaps one size larger than what you normally wear — especially if you’ve got voluptuous curves)
Don’t shop at BeBe, Guess or Forever 21 and expect to find business appropriate clothing- I should not have to explain why. Remember, you don’t have to dress like a conservative politician - just wear stylish clothes you are comfortable in and don’t over- do it.
3. Play nice with other girls.
Often, your worst enemies at networking events will sadly be other women- especially the ones threatened by how young, attractive or charming you are. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring these women or worse- acting like you’re better than them. The best thing you can do is figure out a way to be non-threatening and extra friendly. My dad used to say, “Kill ‘em with kindness. The worst they could do is tell everyone how annoyingly nice you are.” And it’s true.
Bonus tip for making girlfriends: Compliment another woman on her business, her experience or her intelligence. As snotty, evil or caddy as she may seem, she’s still a girl and she’s probably fighting a similar battle.
4. It’s a boys club, so be one of the boys.
Colleen Decourcy, Global Co-Executive Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy (one of the largest, most prestigious ad agencies in the world) may have said it best when she wrote in a 2012 Digiday Confession piece:
“I didn’t sleep my way to the top. I smoked, drank, and workaholic’d and off-color joked my way there. Talent and a good book weren’t enough. You had to have talent and be one of the boys.”
I too understand what it’s like to grow up like one of the boys. I grew up playing office (mimicking my dad), teaching snowboarding lessons, editing video and hacking code. This gave me a golden ticket into the boys club. Knowing how to not take things personally, not be dramatic and exude confidence at all times – those are all things you’ve got to learn if you’re to be accepted in the man cult. If you’ve watched the Man’s Guide to Women (Crazy/Hot Matrix) on YouTube – my tip is, be a unicorn.
Caution: Never forget Tip #3
5. Own your niche.
I once read a book called Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries. It made a big impact on my networking strategy going forward.
When people talk about you, you want them to say, “Oh hey, that’s that social media marketing girl,” or “Have you heard about that girl who’s building an app around inspiration?” The game changes when others clearly understand who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. People will connect the dots and make introductions for you, opening doors to partners, mentors and investors.
6. If you get hit on, don’t lose your cool or worse — lose your confidence.
Let’s face it- you’re an attractive business woman. You’re going to get hit on. Honestly, would you rather men not be attracted to you? I doubt it.
After the fourth, fifth or hundredth time a colleague or potential investor treats your business meeting like a date- don’t let it make you question whether you are good enough or smart enough to be taken seriously. In fact, the more uncomfortable situations you overcome, the better you will be at building meaningful business relationships. Don’t worry your pretty little head- instead, arm yourself with some witty comebacks. The quicker you can brush off awkward advances, the sooner you can get back to working the room.
Remember, if someone blatantly or consistently disrespects you- you don’t want to be doing business with them anyway.
7. Don’t let haters get you down.
When I was twenty-two, I started a social media consulting company that managed MySpace pages, websites and e-mail for nightlife venues. Nightclub owners knew little about digital at the time, so I capitalized on the niche and landed some significant accounts. But imagine how hard it is to network in your industry after a jealous manager of a business you work with starts a rumor that you slept with the owner in order to land the account. Not only was I mortified because the owner was three times my age, I felt ashamed even though the rumor was the farthest thing from the truth.
Believe it or not, things like this will happen to you. Don’t whine and complain or raise eyebrows by calling people out, in the end perception is reality – and you want to be perceived as “one of the boys”. Just understand that haters are always gonna hate – get over it. Prove everyone wrong with amazing work and always respect yourself so that no matter what people say, you can hold your head up high as you walk straight to the bank.
Finally, if I could go back in time and give myself some solid advice – it would be this.
8. Be Yourself.
You’ll never be able to please everyone and not everyone is going to like you, so be yourself. Whether you’re looking for a developer, a partner, a mentor or an investor – if you’re genuinely passionate about a project, others will sense your potential. The universe will end up working in your favor, trust me on that one.