Everything I’ve been told about being a successful woman has been anchored in sisterhood.
Over the course of your career, you travel with the same cycling cast of coworkers and power players. That woman you worked for as an intern? You’ll bump into her when you’re 28, when you’re 42, when you’re 60, and beyond. We’re all in this together! So play nice and pass along business cards.
But when you’re moving up with the same sisterly cast, doesn’t there come a point when your network is your competition?
I’ve ingested the same mantras that I’m sure you have: Foster relationships, tend to your network, LEAN IN, ask for that reference, ask for that introduction, LEAN IN, your network is more valuable than your net worth, LEAN IN.
When Sallie Krawcheck spoke at Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Life conference this fall and said the words, “Network, network, network, network,” four solid times in a row, I nodded in solidarity. I can’t rely on the boys’ club to make room for me, so I have to put my trust in other women.
I have consumed that Kool-Aid since I was privileged enough to attend a women’s college, where they grab you at 18 and explicitly tell you that the game is rigged. That it doesn’t matter how qualified or smart or talented or innovative you are. If you don’t have a network of people — whether women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, or all of the above — looking out for you, you can’t expect to get nearly as far as the Straight White Man with his metaphoric golf buddies.
But in competitive industries in which we’re climbing over equally qualified men for coveted jobs, we are also climbing over each other — the sisterhood. There may be no “I” in team, but there is only one “me” in resume.
Nonetheless, I pay it forward in a way that would make Sheryl Sandberg proud. My resources are your resources. My network is your network. I write recommendations and pass along resumes and connect every hardworking lady I know because, dammit, let’s make all the money.
But sometimes, as you pass me your resume or ask about that position, I feel the sting of knowing someone else vying for that exact same spot — someone else in my network who is also super qualified and absurdly talented. And sometimes, that other person might just be me.
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