If you’re an entrepreneur or trying to move forward in your career, you already know networking is essential for career advancement and personal growth. Having strong relationships can help champion your brand and open the doors for more opportunities. However, for racialized people, networking can be frustrating and sometimes challenging.
Let’s discuss some of the reasons why it’s harder for racialized people to network, why it isn’t you, and what you can do to get the most out of this necessary tool to thrive in your success.
Invest in Professional Networking, on your terms.
It’s well known today that systemic racism and discrimination make it challenging for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour to network. We may be excluded from professional networks due to a lack of access to opportunities, education, or resources, and the biggest one: pre-existing intergenerational connections.
We also face barriers such as unconscious bias, stereotypes, and microaggressions from potential networking contacts. These experiences can make it difficult for racialized individuals to build and maintain professional relationships, which are often critical to career advancement.
To overcome this barrier to networking, seek out networking events and organizations that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. It should be reflected in their staff, board members and membership – beyond a mandate. In addition to Tribe Network, for general networking and mentorship, check out incubators at the Universities that are open to all ages, such as TMU, U of T and York. For women-specific networking opportunities, check out The Forum and Coralus (both are national organizations).
This ensures you are working with others who are serious about their goals, but you also have an organization that is accountable for mediating or checking in with both parties to ensure your mentorship or experience is respectful and equitable. Some of these organizations accept people in cohorts, and others have paid memberships.
🔥 TIP: Oftentimes, organizations may have a sponsorship program, so don’t let cost be a barrier that limits you from accessing a potentially life-changing opportunity.
Leverage "Networking Across" - Technology is your Ally
Networking events and organizations may not be welcoming or inclusive to racialized individuals, especially women. How many times have you heard the statistic 33% of major deals are done on the golf course? Select events may be held in locations that are not accessible to everyone, or the networking organization may not have diverse representation or leadership. This can make us feel unwelcome or uncomfortable and less likely to participate in networking activities.
So where do we find safe spaces to network? Connect with like-minded people on social media, in workshops/memberships or coaching groups where you are likely to meet people who are just as hungry as you are and are more likely to collaborate, pool resources and provide honest feedback about their experiences in your industry.
Issa Rae made such a great point when she mentioned we should be practicing “networking across” not just focusing on networking up. No one will “hustle” harder than your peers who are looking to achieve their goals and face similar barriers to you.
Imposter Syndrome has nothing to do with you, it’s the system.
Racialized individuals may also struggle with imposter syndrome, which can make it difficult to put themselves out there and connect with others. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of not belonging or being undeserving of success, and it is often experienced by individuals from marginalized communities who feel like they do not fit into the traditional mold of success.
“We’re more likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don’t see many examples of people who look like us or share our background who are clearly succeeding in our field.” – Emily Hu
As racialized people we are taught hard work equals success. But as we know, this is not guaranteed. Most often, we see many individuals with little experience receive opportunities mainly because of their network. Work to overcome imposter syndrome by focusing on your strengths and achievements and seeking out mentors and sponsors who can provide support and guidance in navigating spaces that are traditionally white and male-dominated.
Despite these challenges, networking is essential for your career advancement and personal growth. Networking can help you gain access to new job opportunities, mentors, and sponsors who can help navigate complex spaces. It can also provide a sense of community and support, which is especially important when we feel isolated or excluded from mainstream networks. By seeking out inclusive networking opportunities, leveraging technology, and working to overcome “imposter syndrome”, you can build more meaningful professional relationships that help you advance your career.
About the Author
Nadine M. Woods is a social entrepreneur, advocate, bra innovator and founder of Mayana Genevière, an ethical intimate apparel line committed to empowering women’s health and well-being.
She specializes in a decolonial approach to fashion and leads with purpose through her groundbreaking designs and initiatives that are transforming the industry and inspiring others to join the movement toward equity and inclusion. Speaker, writer and philanthropist, Nadine brings a unique perspective and dedication to change, creating a more just and equitable future for all.