Modest Networking – How to network effectively as a Muslim woman

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You want to find a fitting mentor, get in touch with the best collaborators or be confident to connect on networking events:

I’ve put together a quick guide for you to keep your values and convince people of your talents. This is made for you especially sister! The episode will make you understand how to network effectively while keeping your modesty, communicating confidently and leaving a positive impression on anyone you meet.

Leave your comment:
1. Which rule can you most identify with and why?
2. What are the top 3 skills you think one should have when practising modest networking?

How to practice modest networking

A lot of times I’ve been asked how I behave in situations where I want to establish business relationships, connect to other creators to collaborate, or gain contact to business leaders.

You will hear me saying this at the beginning of this episode – you need to grab one book that will change the way you interact with people. This book has the most horrible title in the world, while it is one of the most sold books in the world. The first time I got aware of it, was in 7th grade when I saw my brother reading it and you bet me I mocked him (must have been the worst little sister you can imagine). Now, I review it yearly to remind myself how to build long-lasting relationships of any kind.

The book is (and I still have the scrappy old version from 7th grade) “How to win friends and influence people”. It’s been a book that surprised me in every single way, one because it has stories from multiple historic people in it – from Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens to Steve Wonder and many more – the book’s from 1937 but was updated regularly.

It shows you very diverse business situations, in which great leaders connected to people. And here are some of the techniques you can apply to your life (mixed with some personal accounts of my female Muslim 21st-century experience):

Be genuinely interested

What does this mean “genuinely”? Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean acting fake and asking a question only to be able to answer it yourself. Like, what business are you in? Because you know I’m running this company that is doing blablabla. Or asking, so how was your last job? Because mine was horrendous, can’t believe I took so long to decide to leave blablabla.

Nope.

It’s about asking people questions that they wouldn’t expect from you. Questions that are purely about them. But that is still relevant to professional interaction.

  • Why did you navigate into this job?
  • What was your experience in this field until now?
  • Are you struggling with this issue that is recently relevant in your industry?
  • Where would you like to transition into and why?
  • I can see you are very passionate about XY, what do you think drew you to do this particular project?
  • what inspired you to create this business?

Ask questions, that they usually don’t expect people to ask, and be curious about what viewpoints they have on things. It really doesn’t matter if it really is your goal to speak about this particular topic, but trust me.

If you show genuine interest in people, they will show genuine interest in you.

Compliment

Being human, we have several blessing and several imperfections we face in our daily lives. One of them is our ego. We loooove to expand our egos, especially towards others we meet the first time.

Being human, we must learn how to take advantage of our knowledge, one being that we are all most interested in talking about ourselves. So how can we invert this knowledge for the purpose of networking? We think about how we can make others talk about themselves, how can we make them expand their s, and not even let them do it, but encourage it?

You’re dealing with humans. We, humans, love our egos. So get people to talk about themselves. You’ll win.

Compliments.

And not the cheap ones like, Aw I love your shoes (although that still works among us women) but try to dig deeper:

Talk about the strengths of the person you meet, admire their attitudes like confidence, positive energy. Ask them about what they love and what they’ve accomplished, their business (that you’ve obviously researched on), their sports (you noticed they just completed a charity marathon), a particularly interesting interview of them in a newspaper (don’t only know the prestigious name of the publisher but know what they talked about and mention it) or anything of that sort or after a talk for example, point out how they made you think more critically, or ask them about something they said in detail so they can elaborate on what they know.

Let them showcase their own accomplishments, strengths, expand their egos. Give exclusive attention to the person you are speaking with!

Have a positive attitude

We all know, we are struggling (especially in the West) in a lot of ways of establishing our full selves into work. The business field is not built to support our identities as Muslims and further as women, or people of colour. I get it, we have a lot to fight against as we go an pursue a career.

But do you really think people enjoy hearing your struggles all day? Yes, they need to know what its like in your skin, we have to raise awareness for the backlash and challenges we face regularly for things to change. But not in networking. Not if you want to create a professional connection to someone that can eventually be a part of your journey OUT OF your struggle. That can eventually be part of your victory.

Be positive. Answer in terms of challenges you face only when someone SPECIFICALLY asks you for it. But keep it short and most importantly: change the topic not to what holds you back, but what can bring you further. Talk about what you’re aiming to achieve. 

Smile, Be light and bright. Don’t you think other people have their own issues? They might have an annoying client, marriage problems or a sick mother. WE all have our battles to win. Do you think in this case, someone feels lighter and well about interacting with you if you remind him how bad you have it? NO

Even if you don’t feel like smiling. The person in front of you might go through a major crisis. They need you to smile. They need your positivity to not only feel connected to you but to always remember that you make them feel good. That you light up a stressful day or doubts, that you are the person they want to interact with to feel better and be visionary, inspired.

People like people who are positive, who smile.

A smile can change so much. You know what I mean. Be honest. You know how powerful it is. Practice honest and authentic happiness. And if you feel insecure, sad or stressed before you even enter a meeting, give yourself a fake smile. It is scientifically proven that the act of smiling releases endorphins, which gives you a feeling of joy and tricks your brain to eventually make you smile naturally.

Try it in your next conversation! While the person in front of you is speaking about something that excites them, or they find interesting, start smiling and maybe nodding (A LITTLE bit) and see how the person transforms into a smiling bubble of joy because she feels you are genuinely interested in what she says.

Of course, now we need to talk about where not to apply these rules. Namely with men.

Networking with males

Sisters, I am not telling you to avoid men 100%, it’s almost impossible in our “modern times” and especially when networking in a Non-Muslim environment.

These are really my own rules, and I know that many women out there have different ones, but these are the least I would like to give you on your way to have a thought about what kind of standards you’d like to set in your life.

Don’t target them

But don’t mix with them. What I mean with mix is, don’t seek them out of the crowd, don’t approach them yourself, especially not when they are around your age. It is different for men who might be old, let’s say about 10 years older than your dad. Then, you can actually aim to create a genuine mentor-mentee relation to them. But still, be aware to NOT apply the rules of smiling and complimenting to them AT ALL. Yes you can genuinely have a positive fae, like you would have when you school youneighbour’srs daughter in algebra, but understand the way you smile to avoid any wrong signs.

Personal details

Will come to this again in the next point but for now, the only personal detail that you might want to bring into a conversation is that you have a husband. Don’t push it into their face like, Yes so I have a husband and he is working in … NO. Let it flow in naturally like, currently I am exploring new roles in Dubai, as my husband and I will be relocating in January. Thats really the only thing to reveal, else – change the topic. No ones business what’s your personal status.

Your business is nobody’s business.

Keep it short and professional

If you talk to the male, keep it short. Don’t mumble on about personal experiences you had, don’t reveal too much of your personal situation, where you live or what you do on a daily basis. If you want to keep it professional, imagine everything to be a 100% professional. A rule of thumb: speak the way you wanted a female employee to speak to your husband. Short, straight-forward, no unnecessary storytelling and no loud laughter or excessive body expressions.

Keep your distance.

Literally, keep at least one meter between the male and you. You want to avoid (especially at events) that someone bumps into you and you get thrown at him (in a very dramatic way of saying it). You can bridge the physical distance by using your hands to talk, but don’t come physically too close to the man.

Timing.

Don’t ever reply in the evening, unless it’s an urgent email. If its a text, wait until the next day. Reply in the mornings and consider time differences. You don’t want to be in their personal space / meaning communicate with them while they are at home but always within office hours.

No WhatsApp

Another rule if possible – Take their phone numbers if you can to talk on the phone, but don’t add them into your WhatsApp. Unless you have a pure work-phone Whatsapp, then add the “office hours” in your description of your profile, so they understand it functions like any other office device. You don’t want them to feel like you are their friend they can text whenever they want.

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Be honest

A last rule I’d like you to engage with, is your level of honesty.

Compromises

We know as Muslim women in the workplace, there is always a certain type of having to defend yourself within relations to co-workers or in networking situations. We are discussing this point in our “How to find a mentor” episode, but for now circle this: Don’t you ever think of compromising high standards for anyone in business. What do I mean? Compromising on handshakes (episode), on clothing, on working within borderline-haram industries, on attending late-night meetings etc.

What always always works best is, if you clarify things from the beginning. An example: if you allow your daughter candy until she’s 10, you will find it very hard to ban sugar from your home and create a healthy food routine for her. But, if you raise her with the mindset of grabbing fruits, nuts or dates for sweets instead of candy from the beginning on, she will understand the standards you’ve set (at least for the home) and go along with your rules way easier, right?

Make things obvious from the beginning, don’t shake hands in the first meeting and then be surprised if it gets harder and harder to reject them afterwards. If you tell them in advance, they might even inform your future colleagues and you can all avoid an awkward situation. If you tell your consultants or recruiters you are not interested in promoting company projects with alcohol, underwear or violent videos games companies etc., they will look specifically for industries and companies that have high standards and you will automatically avoid a lot of negative acquaintances in your interview or career link-ups etc. If you present yourself like a person who has high standards and values, collaborators and brands will ask you to partner up because they are looking for your range of people and they will automatically pay and treat you according to how you present yourself to them.

Knowledge

Another guideline I’d  like to end up with, is your understanding of your own skills, knowledge and capabilities. We are not perfect. But when we want to leave a good impression, we always aim to at least appear to be.

Don’t

Don’t try to act that you know it all. Prepare, YES! Gain some more knowledge before you go to an event, before you meet a potential mentor, before you go to a business meeting. But understand your boundaries of knowledge.

WE said it before, your Number ONE rule is to make the other person feel important, valued and respected. That includes that you let them know how much you can learn form them. Don’t act dumb no! But understand that one of the most powerful phrases you can say is : I don’t know.

Followed by But I would love to gain your expertise. Could you tell me more about this? or I don’t know enough about this matter, but I will dig deeper and come back to you on this one.

  1. Will make the other person like an expert in this field. They will tell you what they know, so even when you go back and research yourself on this topic, you know what new things you can bring to the table.
  2. Will make the other person see your level of dedication to learn. This is one of the most powerful skills you can have as a human and that everyone who is genuine and intelligent will value in you more than anything= Your thrive to be a learning machine.

To sum up:

  • Be genuinely interested : ask questions
  • Compliment : be a good listener
  • Have a positive attitude : smile
  • Be honest

And now, I would love to hear from you:

  • Which rule can you most identify with and why?
  • What are the top 3 skills you think one should have when practicing modest networking?

Leave them down in the comments and share your diversity with us

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