Technology has been a game changer when it comes to helping us get what we want, when we want – we can have it arrive at our doorstep, our fingertips, or in front of us for coffee, or a happy hour drink. The days of attending after-work networking events, where people stick on a name tag, shake a slew of strangers' hands, collect enough business cards to fill up their pockets, are becoming obsolete, even when we want to connect with industry professionals and investors.
Whether we're looking for a new job, new hires, or new investors to back a company that we've put a ton of our own sweat equity into over the years, it can all be done on a mobile phone, in your pajamas, drinking wine coolers on the couch.
However, with this new ease of making fast online connections, also comes new playing rules. How many emails are too many to send a person you're eager to meet for coffee? Is it okay to friend a potential investor on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and follow them on Instagram?
At the expense of looking too desperate, unprofessional, or on the border of receiving an online restraining order, here are five rules to follow when going online to network.
1. Three Emails Max
You may be determined to get a yes or no response from someone you're reaching out to via email, but keep your cool. Send two follow-up emails max and make sure they are spread out over 7 days. People are busy and email is something that begins to pile up. Eventually, people sort through their email and respond to the requests they are interested in. If you're eager to find out if someone opened your email or it went directly to their spam folder, you can install an email tracking plugin (such as: Mail Tracker) to your inbox.
2. One Social Message
Think about it. How many times do you check your DMs on Twitter and Instagram? You may just skip checking it altogether if you have a history of getting spam messages non-stop.
3. Follow on Your Favorite Social Media Platform
You may think you'll get on a person's radar if you follow them on every single place they are "social" on. You may come off as a stalker if you hit the follow button on all social media platforms at once, so instead do it gradually. Start by following the person on your favorite social media platform and then every week, follow them on one more place.
4. Get an Intro If You Can
Since it's easy to grab the contact information of anyone you want to chat with in the world (sometimes even celebrities) the best way to get noticed or get a response from a person is by introduction. Use LinkedIn to find out who you know is connected with that person and ask them to make an introduction for you.
5. Keep a Distance
If by chance you do notice that the person you want to meet is attending an event that you are also planning on attending, be sure to say hello in person. But be careful of rubbing them the wrong way by saying you knew they were going to be there thanks to their post on their private Facebook page.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.