Brown Bag Event Teaches 5 Tips for Effective Networking

Post by Jennifer Leopoldt (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

Networking can be intimidating, but with the right advice and mindset, anyone can succeed. That’s what participants learned at the DePaul Women’s Network fall Brown Bag Luncheon, “Effective Networking for Success,” on Oct. 24, 2012.

DePaul’s MBA Career Management Team: Jennifer, Christa and Brooke

Three members of DePaul’s MBA Career Management Center team—Christa Hinton, Brooke Gugat and Jennifer Kopczynski—led female faculty and staff through a presentation about how to prepare for and perform better at networking events. You can find a copy of their networking presentation on the DWN website.

1. Recognize your barriers. What keeps you from networking? Find out what is stopping you and work past that. The presenters gave a few common examples of what people say:

  • “Networking is a waste of time.” Hinton, assistant dean and director of DePaul’s MBA Career Management Center, disagrees. She urges people to put a positive spin on attending events. “Make yourself promise to stay until you find something worthwhile. And you will find something worthwhile,” she says.
  • “I’m shy.” It may be difficult, but try to push through feelings of shyness. “You learn a lot about yourself during networking in addition to learning about the other person,” says Kopczynski, assistant director and career specialist. There are also ways to ease your anxiety at the event. Gugat, an associate director and career specialist, suggests volunteering at an event so you have an easy opening for talking with people, coming early to scope out the room, or spending time in the food line so a conversation starter is built in.

2. Create your story.

Participants took time out to write their own stories.

Thinking up an “elevator pitch” before an event can help you from feeling like you don’t know what to say. Use a few simple steps to create one:

  • Write down answers to these questions: 1) Who are you? 2) What do you have to offer? Why should they be interested in you? 3) Call for action: The ask.
  • Practice what you’re saying with different people and change your story based on their reactions.
  • Don’t expect to instantly create a relationship with someone just by meeting at a big networking event. Instead, follow up afterward and ask to get to know someone through an informational interview.

3. Be comfortable with yourself. Participants at the event wanted to know how to handle certain etiquette situations at business events. Hinton urged them to be honest and polite.

  • If you don’t want to shake hands, explain so tactfully by saying something like, “I would shake your hand but I’m sick so perhaps we shouldn’t. It’s nice to meet you, though.”
  • Hinton also urged people to be true to themselves. “If it’s not you, don’t do it. But if it is you or you want it to be you, practice it.”

4. Start networking anytime and anywhere. A few Brown Bag participants took the opportunity to get to know one another and share similar interests. Networking does not have to be scary. It can be casual and fun and can happen anywhere.

5. Reach out to DWN. At the end of the event, DWN President Christine Gallagher Kearney encouraged participants to reach out to any member of the group’s planning committee. DWN board members are good contacts for networking and welcome questions from faculty and staff at DePaul.

DWN President Christine Gallagher Kearney

The event was designed to give participants a few networking techniques they could use going forward. Most of all, DWN Brown Bag Chair Erin Higgins encouraged people to just go out and network, despite any worries or fears, because they could gain experience and look back with clarity: “You did it. You didn’t die. It’s going to be better next time.”

Did you attend the event? Please feel free to leave a comment about what you enjoyed or the lessons you learned about networking. We’d love to hear from you.

Top Ten Lessons Learned About Creativity

Post by Lark E. Mills (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

In a previous post, I outlined a comprehensive recap of Lin Kahn’s three part workshop, Creativity and Adversity: Overcoming Workplace Challenges on 9/25/2012, 10/2/2012 & 10/9/2012. Because it can be easy to forget all we’ve learned, I put together this top 10 list, a resource you can file away and return to when you need to be reminded of your creative potential. 

1. Everybody Has Tremendous Creative Capacities

  • You are 100 percent creative but you have internal and external blocks that prevent you from tapping into your creativity.
  • “You cannot use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” –Maya Angelou
  • “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” –Pablo Picasso

2. Creativity Is Not Just for the Arts

  • “Creativity is a function of everything we do. A big part of being creative is looking for new ways of doing things within whatever activity you are involved in.” –Sir Ken Robinson

3. Creativity and Critical Thinking Go Hand in Hand

  • In A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, he explains that genuine creativity is more than coming up with fresh ideas; it also involves evaluating those ideas to determine if they make sense.

4. Creativity Is a Disciplined Process, Not a Single Event

  • “Creative work requires applying and balancing three abilities [synthetic, analytic and practical] that can all be developed.” –Sternberg and Williams
  • “A creative process may begin with a flash of a new idea or with a hunch. It may just start as noodling around with a problem, getting some fresh ideas along the way.” –Sir Ken Robinson
  • The Graham Wallas Model for the creative process involves four basic stages: (1) preparation: intense research and study on the problem; (2) incubation: thoughts about the problem are left dormant, allowing subconscious ideas to emerge; (3) illumination: a sudden, intuitive insight about the problem emerges; and (4) verification: the idea is tested, evaluated and validated.

5. Creativity Transpires through Collaboration

  • The great scientific breakthroughs have almost always come through some form of fierce collaboration among people with common interests but with very different ways of thinking. […] collaboration, diversity, the exchange of ideas, and building on other people’s achievements are at the heart of the creative process.” –Sir Ken Robinson 

6. Creative People Are Persistent

  • “If you hear a voice within you that says, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gough
  • “It is through dogged determination that highly creative persons take their energies and translate their dreams into realities.” –Leslie Owen Wilson

7. Creative People Are Divergent Thinkers

  • JP Guilford identified three aspects of divergent thinking: (1) fluency: the ability to come up with many solutions to one problem in a short time; (2) flexibility: the capacity to consider many alternatives at same time; and (3) originality: the difference between a person’s ideas and those of most other people.

8. Creativity Can Be Taught

  • We can learn to practice divergent thinking, which involves envisioning multiple ways to solve a problem.
  • In A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson, he distinguishes between teaching creatively (making content interesting by connecting it to student interests) and teaching for creativity (encouraging students to experiment and innovate through critical thinking).

9. Passion Fuels Creativity

  • “It’s a fundamental human truth that people perform better when they are in touch with things that inspire them. […] People often achieve their best work when they connect with a particular medium or set of materials or processes that excites them.[…] If you combine a personal aptitude with a passion for that same thing, then you go to a new place creatively.” –Sir Ken Robinson
  • When we are doing things based solely on extrinsic rewards, our creativity is stifled. When we are working form a source of intrinsic motivation, our passion levels go up and space is created to let creative juices flow through us.

10. Adversity Can Serve as a Creative Muse

  • “Drawing and painting are one of the things that give me a release and allow me to relax and clear my head and put things into perspective. You can never completely get over loss, but whenever things start to pile up, you can either collapse under pressure or you can get stronger.” –Aaron Maybin
  • “Negative emotions can inspire us rather than overwhelm us.” –Leslie Owen Wilson
What lessons have you learned about creativity? What is one of your favorite quotes about creativity? We’d love to hear from you.

A Networking Story, by Megan Gentille

Guest Post by Megan Gentille (Assistant Director, DePaul University Internship Program). Here, Megan Gentille describes how she networked her way toward landing her dream job. 

Discovering a passion

Graduating from Miami University with a bachelor’s in Psychology, I moved to Chicago seeking opportunity. I began my career as a receptionist at a mid-sized staffing firm in the Loop and worked my way up to a PR and Marketing Communications role. During my five-year tenure with the organization, I started a job-readiness workshop program for recent graduates and professionals. Through facilitating this program, I learned I truly loved helping others navigate the job search process. With this newfound passion, I began searching for full-time opportunities that would allow me to advise students and recent graduates on career-related issues. I focused my search on the higher education industry, specifically, DePaul University.

It started with one contact…

I had virtually no contacts in higher education, but did know one former co-worker who was currently employed in DePaul’s Career Center. I reached out to her for an informational interview to learn more about her role at DePaul and the industry as a whole. She was gracious enough to oblige my request and at the end of our time together, I asked her if there was anyone else to whom I should speak. She provided two to three names, and my informational interviews continued. After each phone call or meeting, I asked for referrals to other higher education folks. When all was said and done, I had spoken to approximately 25 different professionals from various universities and colleges around Chicago.

As a complete outsider to higher education, conducting informational interviews was a truly invaluable resource for me. With each conversation I gathered more insight into the field and into potential employment opportunities, and I was amazed by people’s willingness to volunteer their time and expertise. I didn’t enter these conversations looking for a job but simply to gather information.

The payoff

After several months of conducting informational interviews, I received an email encouraging me to apply to an opening within the Career Center. To make a long story short(er), I landed the interview and was offered a position with the University Internship Program. I was thrilled!

Put yourself out there

The best tip I can offer to someone who would like to start networking is simply to put yourself out there and ask questions. Be persistent and remain open to speaking with anyone and everyone. Not only will you become more informed, but you will meet all kinds of interesting people! Before each informational interview, be sure to research the person to whom you’re speaking and come prepared with questions. And then, just enjoy the conversation.

Be open to learning

Networking can be frustrating and tiring at times, especially when you’re actively job searching. Approach each conversation as an opportunity to learn something new. With that attitude, amazing things can happen!

– Megan Gentille, Assistant Director, University Internship Program

Creativity Workshop Recap & Resources

Post by Lark E. Mills (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

I recently completed Lin Kahn’s three-part workshop, Creativity and Adversity: Overcoming Workplace Challenges on 9/25/2012, 10/2/2012 & 10/9/2012. Each session was packed with dynamic conversations and kinesthetic activities. Lin put everyone at ease by creating a comfortable learning environment. For those who attended and for those who did not, here is a session-by-session recap along with links to resources that we used in class.

Session I: Internal Resources

First off, Lin assured us that we all have the capacity to be creative. She asked us to identify internal and external blocks that stifle our ability to tap into our natural ability to be creative. Blocks like self-criticism and being discouraged by others can hold us back from expressing ideas and taking actions. Next time you are feeling stuck, determine what the block is for you and try to push past it.

Next, Lin led us in our first of many creative exercises. She first prompted each of us to describe creativity in a single word. A few words people mentioned were free, childlike and innovation. Then, we each created a movement to represent our word for creativity. Finally, we seated ourselves in a circle to create a beautiful, choreographed chain of all the movements. Only those who were there in person will understand the pure amazement we all felt as we collaboratively created something truly original.

Creative Exercise

After the exercise, participants shared how it made them feel to create a unique movement. Here are some answers people provided:

  • It felt healing because I did something I didn’t think I could do.
  • It felt uncomfortable and scary, but that was OK because I survived.
  • I felt rejuvenated because I was able to come up with a movement spontaneously on the spot.
  • I felt a flow like we were all allies.
  • I felt empathy for each person in the room.

To conclude the first session, we watched an interview with Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Robinson explained how we are educated out of being creative which is a shame because we do best when we are doing what we love.

Excerpts from video:

So many people [adults] have no idea what they are capable of doing…. who are convinced they don’t have any real talent …who spend most of their lives doing things they aren’t very interested in, bumping along the bottom in a vague state of depression and feeling they don’t have any special gifts or abilities at all. And yet I meet all kinds of other people who love what they do and have found something in themselves that’s transformed their lives. And I think we all have those talents. We all have those gifts … many people are steered away from them almost  systematically by the way they’re educated. And I think it is a tragedy. I think it’s a tragedy for them and I think it’s a tragedy for all of us. It is a huge waste of human talent.

People have misconceptions [about creativity]. One of them is that only special people are creative. This simply isn’t true. To me that would be like saying only special people are literate. […] People think […] it is only about the arts but you can be creative about anything: math, science. […] Creativity is about having original ideas […] that have value. […]To be creative you have to do something.

Session II: Interpersonal Communication

Lin started the second session by asking us to identify interpersonal problems that occur during difficult exchanges. Here are some of the responses:

  • Not feeling heard
  • Misinterpretations
  • Anger / Aggressiveness
  • Resentment
  • Egotism
  • Anxiety

Stay Curious; Don’t Conclude

Lin explained that when we have these difficult exchanges, we need to stay curious instead of making conclusions. Furthermore, we need to listen with the intent of empathy and speak authentically in a neutral tone.

Creative Exercise I:

Next, Lin led us in our first creative exercise. We each created a unique movement to represent the word curious and a unique movement to represent the word conclude.

a participant making a gesture for "conclude"
Participant making a gesture for conclude.
participant making a gesture for "curious"
Participant making a gesture for curious

Through the movements, we collectively came up with the following words to describe curious:

  • Engaging the brain
  • Moving forward
  • Co-listening
  • Giving space

Through the movements, we collectively came up with the following words to describe conclude:

  • Closed book
  • Moving down
  • Putting up walls
  • No voice and cut off

As Lin put it, movement does not lie! Movement enhances our understanding of words. Go ahead and pick a word and try this exercise right now!

Creative Exercise II

abstract drawingFor the second creative exercise, we each created an abstract drawing to represent an interpersonal conflict that we are currently experiencing. As we described our drawings in pairs, we began to understand the importance of the basic human need to feel understood and heard. As a result, we realized that we can tap into this human need in order to bring out the best in others.

To conclude the session, Lin shared the following interpersonal tools from the book You Are What You Say:

5 linguistic vitamins:

  1. Make a clear request.
  2. Decline with dignity and respect.
  3. Listen to assessments not as truths.
  4. Convert complaints to clear requests.
  5. Keep your promises and take care of your broken promises.

Linguistic Tools:

  • Proactively praise others.
  • Empathic, non-accusatory language:
    • It seems to me…
    • Let’s…
    • When you ____, I feel ______
    • Use “and” not “but

Session Three: Paradigm Shift & Critical Response Process

Lin started the final session with interpersonal tools. According to the book, You Are What You Say, there are only five types of linguistic actions.

  1. Requests (seeking someone else’s assistance)
  2. Promises (a commitment to fulfill someone else’s request)
  3. Declarations (utterances made by someone with authority)
  4. Assessments (judgments; not truths)
  5. Assertions (facts backed up by evidence)

Room Set Up

Next, Lin explained the concept of experiential learning and room setup. It is important to be aware of how our environment can affect communication and our learning experiences. Lin intentionally arranged the seating in the room to be different in each session. Why did she do this? It enables us to gain multiple perspectives. It enables us to re-frame our thinking and possibly experience a paradigm shift.

According to the book Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations, subtle messages about power and equality are emitted according to the type of table used for a meeting or gathering.

Round Table: People seated at a round table are united and equal.

Square Table: People seated at a square table are equal but separate.

Rectangle Table: A person sitting at the head of a rectangle table has the most power; and the power diminishes the further a person is seated away from the head.

ABC Exercise: Paper Sculptures

Next, Lin led us in an article reading about The Albert Ellis ABC Model. This model demonstrates how a change in our beliefs can help to shift a negative interpersonal situation to a positive one.

A = Activating Event

B = Belief

C = Consequent Emotion

Lin asked everyone to think of a difficult interpersonal situation (an activating event). Then, think about our current belief of this event and the emotion that is causing us to have. We shared some of the feelings that this event caused us: frustrated, sad, mad, angry, etc.

Stop! Check Your B!

paper sculpture  paper sculptureNext, Lin gave us all three pieces of plain white paper. We were instructed to sculpt one piece of paper to represent the activating event. Next, we were to sculpt the second piece of paper to represent a new, neutral belief about the activating event. With the third piece of paper, we were to sculpt a representation of our new, positive consequent emotions that resulted from the newly formed belief. The purpose of this exercise was to use creativity to transcend our way of thinking until we achieve a paradigm shift.

Critical Response Exercise

After completing our paper sculptures, Lin led us in a four step critical response process. We all had the opportunity to practice providing motivating feedback to one another.

Participant describing her paper sculpture
Participant describing her paper sculpture.

Each person was given the spotlight to describe their paper sculpture

 three women listening
Curious Listeners

Thus, everyone else had the opportunity to practice curious and empathic listening skills. Next, one person responds by giving feedback in the four following stages:

  1. The respondent states what was exciting, compelling, meaningful, memorable or evocative.
  2. The artist is given the opportunity to ask the respondent questions and the respondent answers.
  3. The respondent asks a neutral question about the artist’s work.
  4. The respondent asks permission of the artist to express her opinion about their work. If artist accepts, responder states her opinion.

two women laughing women interacting and laughing

Overall, we not only learned a lot but also shared lots of laughs! The critical response process exercise was excellent practice for interpersonal communication. I look forward to implementing it in my everyday life, and I hope that you give it a try, too.

If you attended the workshop or not, please feel free to leave a comment. We would love to hear from you! What are ways you introduce creativity in your own life?
Check out this related post: Top 10 Lessons Learned about Creativity