Networking 101 + Best Networking Groups For Women: Chicago Edition

Career Enrichment, Confidence, Overcoming Fear
02/01/19 - Randi Hill

If you don’t know much about me, my name is Randalyn and I just moved to Chicago a few months ago to work at Ama La Vida. I don’t know about you, but networking in a place you’re familiar with always feels more comfortable than networking when in a new city. So here are few of my favorite networking tips to help you restart your network when you move.

1. Have realistic expectations.

If we’re being honest, you can meet a lot of great people at networking events, but you probably won’t meet the CEO of a huge company just by chance. Most people that you really want to meet are too busy to attend most networking events or are invited speakers who don’t stick around to mingle. Which brings me to #2.

2. Get connected in other ways.

Join meetup, slack channels, facebook groups, attend community events and make it a point to make one new friend at every event. The beauty of making friends is that everyone you meet has friends; you can easily go from no friends to having a full-blown community without much time in between.

3. Identify your interests!

When it comes to networking most people get overwhelmed because they have nothing in common with the people they are trying to get to know. The easiest way to avoid not having something in common with people is to attend groups focused around your interests. Find groups that were created for photographers, hikers, yogis, etc. Also – reach out to the Alumni network of your school. Chances are you know one or two people in the city!

4. Leverage your background.

Every person is different, and because of that, you have interesting stories to tell. Spend some time picking through the memories and find a few key stories that reveal something interesting about the way you were raised, how you got to where you are, or how you used to have an irrational fear of revolving doors. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Now identifying these memories can be hard so I recommend asking yourself questions like:

  • What is an experience I had that few people have ever experienced?
  • What’s an ironic situation that got you to where you are today?
  • What is one thing you can do that few people can & how did you learn to do it?

5. Ask good questions.

I recently read a book, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate; the premise is quite obvious but the concept is a little wider. Basically, it talks about learning to identify and reframe the things you inherently hate. I used to hate networking because of the shallow small talk that ensued. Now, I think it’s great because I learned to ask questions that matter.

Don’t be afraid to ask people different questions. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Tell me about how you got into the career you’re in.
  • How do you like to spend your free time? (Who knows, maybe you have the same hobbies!)
  • What is one book you think everyone should read and why?

Looking for more networking tips? Check out this video by ALV Coach Danielle on how to networking best practices!

So, now that you have all the networking tips, let’s talk about networking groups in Chicago. I love groups that cultivate community outside of the work world. Most of these groups have professional events along with personal events to help you achieve success in the areas you choose. These groups leave me feeling productive, inspired, and most of all ready to come back!

Networking Groups

Group Name: EvolveHer
  • Where you can find them: @evolveher
  • What’s the Focus? A creative workspace that evolves the way women connect, cultivate, and collaborate.
  • Why we like it: Other than the space being absolutely gorgeous, they offer so many programs and classes to their members it’s crazy. Leadership development, yes, please. Yoga, double yes, please. Beyond that, if you’re looking for a women-focused workspace just outside of the Loop, this is the one for you.
Group Name: General Assembly
  • Where you can find them: @generalassembly
  • What’s the Focus? Helping people pursue the work they love.
  • Why we like it: Every month they host a Women In Tech breakfast, they have 5 amazing speakers and they each give a lighting talk. They also offer a class for basically anything you would ever want to learn. Also, they sent out an email a couple weeks ago that talking about ditching networking and focusing on building a community in 2019. (They are geniuses!)
Group Name: Ms. Tech
  • Where you can find them: @mstechgroup
  • What’s the Focus? Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship
  • Why we like it: In addition to phenomenal networking and educational events, Ms. Tech has one of the strongest virtual communities we have been a part of. Post any request in the Facebook group, and you are bound to get 10 helpful responses or volunteers.
Group Name: 1871
  • Where you can find them: @1871chicago
  • What’s the Focus? Technology and Entrepreneurship
  • Why we like it: 1871 is a tech and entrepreneurial hub here in Chicago. This place has a special home in our hearts here at ALV because we were part of their WiSTEM accelerator for female founders. Whether you’re looking to be part of an accelerator program, finding a new coworking space or simply attending a free event, 1871 has it all.
Group Name: She Says
  • Where you can find them: @shesayschicago
  • What’s the Focus? A creative networking group for men and women!
  • Why we like it: Did somebody say free events? Oh yeah, She Says did! With all their events being free they are super low investment, so find a city near you and give one a try. You may be surprised, I bet you’ll love it.
Group Name: Built In Chicago
  • Where you can find them: @builtinchicago
  • What’s the Focus? Built in Chicago is focused on connecting people who love tech and are rooted in Chicago.
  • Why we like it: Shopping local has been the trend since oh i don’t know, 2010. Naturally built in Chicago is the top of our list because they connect us to some of the best tech companies rooted in Chicago. Also – with events bridging networking, to coding, to presentation skills they are sure to have an event that sparks your interest.
Group Name: Creative Women’s Co
  • Where you can find them: @creativewomensco
  • What’s the Focus? As the name implies, they are focused on helping women in the creative space, connect and develop their skills, passions, and art!
  • Why we like it: As a self-identifying creative, I love it because most creative groups are specific to one form of art. Creative Women’s Co is for any and all creatives of all levels, it’s a very open and welcoming group to step into.
Newsletter signup - newsletter-signup page
Want to receive our thoughtfully crafted emails and updates to help you grow, challenge yourself and take action? Enter your details below. No spam, we promise!

Related Articles

In today’s competitive job market, mastering the art of managing up is essential for career advancement and success. But what exactly does it mean to manage up? And how can individuals navigate this skill to thrive in their professional lives? Understanding why managing up is hard can shed light on the intricacies involved in fostering […]

Read More

Can you relate? You’re right out of high school or college, you’ve got the whole world ahead of you, you’re daydreaming about your new career and feel like you have a myriad of career choices in front of you. It feels all lined up, everything is in place, there’s a plan. And then life happens […]

Read More
women networking

Does the idea of working to develop strong networking skills make you feel uncomfortable? Many people react to the idea of going to a networking event with as much enthusiasm as taking a test – a test that they don’t know how to study for. And when you approach networking as if you’re a product […]

Read More