After my most recent trip to London I’ve been thinking a lot about leaning in as an expat woman. As expats, our little black book of contacts may be thinner than back home and whether we’re looking to promote our business, hunting for work, or just searching for answers to the many questions we face in a very foreign country, it’s essential to get out and meet new people. Having worked abroad and travelled for business I know that it can be daunting at first. It’s hard to make the right connections while respecting local sociocultural norms and not coming across too pushy.
I recently spoke with Joy Lo Dico, Founder of The Trouble Club, a private members club based in London with a mission to enliven minds, expand friendship circles and ‘build a society of smart and engaged people who share the same interests’. Joy is also an editor and writer at the London Evening Standard newspaper and familiar with the pressures on women in the workplace. I asked her for a few tips on how to network as an expat woman.
We all know how important it is to ‘lean in’ but is there a risk that a pushy attitude could scare people away instead of building a network?
Joy: People tend to respond incredibly well to enthusiasm – a gently ambitious approach and an expansive world outlook. Lean in, sure, but don’t lean forward into someone else’s space. What you have to realise in many social and work situations is that people are looking to build connections and so it doesn’t usually require too much effort when it’s done with aplomb.
What can women do to network and be taken seriously in male only business environments, for example business groups, events and forums etc?
Joy: As a woman’s group we don’t have that problem. If you are in a predominantly male group you have one advantage already: you will stand out. Use that – people will come and talk to you.
The other thing is to speak up, which may seem intimidating, but its great for your own confidence. Although you might feel you are in a minority you’re there by virtue of your professional or intellectual qualifications, so show them off.
Any tips for overcoming shyness and getting your face and brand out there into the public?
Joy: Well, there are two things. One is to go brazenly into the centre of the room which will either create fame, or notoriety. The other is to recognise that the people around you, men as well as women, also feel shy, and so if you are in a room with them go and seek out those people and you will become the most popular gang very shortly.
In terms of getting your face and brand out there the first thing is simply to show up. And the second is to show up again. And again.
The Trouble Club is a private members organisation offering a programme of talks and debates, dinners and private evening across select venues in London. While men are not excluded, the overwhelming majority of members are female. Membership is £45 for six months.