While many people are daunted by the idea of working a room to develop professional contacts, the key to successful business networking is actually quite simple, according to Juliette Mayers, executive director of multicultural marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. In Mayers’ view: You just need to have a vision.
“You have to set goals and figure out how you are going to achieve that vision,” said Mayers, who was the featured speaker at the recent Merrimack Valley Commonwealth Compact’s (MVCC) Diversity Works Speaker Series. In her talk, “Critical Connections: The Art of Networking,” held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, Mayers offered practical advice and shared examples from her own experience.
The author of “The Black Women’s Guide to Networking: Advance Your Career. Grow Your Business!” Mayers described her “unlikely” journey from her early childhood in Barbados, where she lived with her mother and two sisters in a two-room shack, to her life as a successful Boston businesswoman and author. Though her mother, a waitress, had little formal education and few connections, she possessed a clear vision for her daughters to succeed: Get educated, build careers and create a strong, supportive family life. Her mother’s example of developing a clear vision and working hard to bring it to life is a lesson Mayers has never forgotten.
Mayers told the crowd of 35 attendees that merely showing up at a business event and handing out a stack of business cards is not effective networking. Business people should set specific goals and figure out who they need to meet to help them achieve those goals, she said.
“You have to network with purpose,” she said. “Align your activities with your plan and manage your network.”
Building a network with multicultural contacts can be challenging, she said. “Race, age and gender dynamics influence how people connect,” she said. “You have to build bridges and find common ground.”
Mayers’ talk was the second in a series that the MVCC launched earlier this year. Established in 2010 by UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College and Lowell General Hospital, the MVCC is addressing ways to make the region a location of choice for people of color.