Even though I'm the founder of a networking group for enterprising women on Long Island and Queens, NY, the Independent Business Women's Circle, and a big believer in the power of connecting, cultivating support and learning from each other, I don't frequent networking functions... or at least not since I became a mom. Time doesn't always permit in the life of a work-at-home, multi-tasking mother of a child in elementary school.
That said, I decided to take some time to visit the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) third annual National Networking Conference Spark Ignite Your Network at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in NYC, and I was impressed. This year, the annual National Networking Conference, which brings thousands of business women together for networking, panel discussions and motivational workshops, featured Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington as Keynote Speakers. Star Jones, NAPW National Spokeswoman, once again hosted and provided opening remarks.
The Spark. Ignite Your Network National Networking Conference also featured networking panels led by successful business women Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor-in-Chief of More Magazine, Desirée Rogers of Johnson Publishing Co., and Kim Garst of Boom! Social. Plus, there was the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops: The Transforming Leader, Reinvention -- The Journey is the Destination, Igniting Your Personal Brand and others. These programs will be led by Bonnie Marcus, Forbes contributing writer founder of Women's Success Coaching, Danielle Miller of Naked Branding, author and life-coach Kathleen Barton, and award-winning leadership consultant Sue Stanek, Ph.D.
I was only able to experience a "snapshot" of the day since I had other appointments woven around it, but I could see the gain for those attendees I briefly chatted with. For many, it seemed to be their first NAPW conference attendance, and they were pleased. There was a positive vibe and energy in the air. Women were from varying backgrounds and all ages and stages of their lives and careers.
I sat in on the Reinvention talk by Miller. While she didn't share anything earth-shattering, I enjoyed her manner and personal stories (she is a grandmom) and how she related to the audience. She had an ease and appeal and openness that resonated, and I could see how she could attract clients who aspire to identify and pursue their passions and garner success.
I find that sometimes going to a conference itself, whether or not you learn anything monumental, can be inspiration enough. To be in a room of pumped up business women -- some of whom were successful and some wannabes, is an adrenaline rush. As a mom -- and a SAHM mom -- even though I'm working at home, I'm often challenged by the isolation, especially living in the suburbs (which doesn't entirely suit me). I made the choice to remain at home to raise my son, and while it's not a choice I regret, it's not always easy. I'm a people person who craves stimulation, interesting dialogue, idea exchange, etc. I revel in the companionship of other smart women who are doing cool things.
Many in the audience had questions. One woman stood up and said she was 56 and didn't know what to do with herself. She's now a grandmother and unemployed for the first time in her life. She doesn't want full time employment, but she knows she wants something... something she can't identify. Her kids are thrilled she's not working because she's available to babysit. Her husband encourages her to spend time growing a garden. But, she wants to grow as a person. A green thumb isn't what she has in mind. Her concern was that potential employers might not understand or respect her choice to only work part time since she'd take a huge cut in pay from what she used to earn.
The response from speaker Miller was why not just tell them you want to balance your time? Why let yourself feel judged by that choice?
Another gal in the audience, also in her 50s, stood up and said she had always wanted to be a writer. She decided to pursue it and has been successful at it for the last four years -- whatever successful means to her, she didn't specify. What she went on to say was that she wasn't Tolstoy or Steinbeck, and she wished she could be. She felt she wasn't a stellar writer... just good.
The response from speaker Miller was why not take pride in your own work?! Be your own voice! That drew applause.
Another gal was 28 and trying to find herself... and asked a broad-based question.
People listened attentively and hustled to get to the next breakout session when this one ended.
The day culminated in a cocktail social, which would have been nice, but I didn't have time to stay.
My takeaway from the event was to take the time to venture out, especially if you're a mom who doesn't work full time and is able to spend a day at a conference. It can enlarge your world, jump start thinking, open your horizons, and at the very least, remind you there is a big world out there filled with opportunity if you're able to have clarity, identify what you want (or don't want), believe in taking the risk, and go for it! Don't let yourself stagnate if you want more. It's never too late to became what you want to be -- if you want it badly enough, you might be surprised.
I'm personally going to keep an eye out for other networking functions and interesting opportunities to mingle with inspiring, talented people -- whether they are moms or not.
As Mother's Day approaches, consider it a meaningful gift you can give to yourself! You're more than a mom, as important a role as that is. You were a person with dreams and desires before parenting became a priority, and reminding yourself of that, and inviting that spirit back into your life, if you feel you have lost is, would inspire your family as well. A happy mother is an infectious one! We all want to be around her... most of all your kids!