Many things work-related have gotten more weird and annoying post-pandemic. From the awkward mental debates about whether to turn your camera on during Zoom meetings (I often don't), to those team members who still always seem to be disinterested, disgruntled, or mentally distracted, to reports of companies now gaslighting employees to come back to the office after they've raved about putting wellness first and allowing professionals to work remotely---several major aspects of everyday work culture have become a wacky hot mess.
And let's add "networking" to that wacky list.
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I absolutely love connecting with other women. It's something that fuels me and makes me feel like I'm not alone in the world, especially when it comes to the work that I do. Post-pandemic networking, though, has looked like a struggle.
It would take more fingers than I actually have to count how many times I've been ghosted, made to feel like a fool for giving energetic, down-to-earth vibes to the wrong snob, or been forced to simply make a choice not to waste my time due to a half-ass attempt to use me for a favor or hook up.
Research has shown that the pandemic did a number on our social circles and connections, with professional and personal networks decreasing by 16%, and while that might not seem like a large number, think about the fact that many of us only have three or less close friends and only 2 out of 10 adults have a work bestie. (Hey, maybe that's why most popular "girlfriends" shows like And Just Like That..., Run the World, and Harlem always cap at four friends, and even that's been in jeopardy with one always seeming to "move away" during the course of the shows.)
It's been more than three years after the whole world officially shut down and we're still struggling with being ghosted by current and potential friends, business contacts, and acquaintances. And this is concerning considering that social capital is vital for not only career success but overall life fulfillment.
How many of us have actually connected another young woman to someone else who they might learn and grow from or who they might be compatible with as a potential friend? How many of us have agreed to call someone (not text or send an IG DM) to have a conversation just because?
How many of us have gone to so-called networking events or conferences, smiled for the IG photo ops, shared our deepest desires, insecurities, and life stories, only to go home and never talk to one another again?
I find it strange that someone would literally have lunch with you, tell their whole life story, and give you their email address or phone number, only to never follow through on keeping in touch. Where they do that at? Maybe I'm old-school, but I don't waste time having hour-long personal conversations with folk if I genuinely don't want to connect or potentially become friends.
Well, if you're in the same boat as me, frustrated about how lame networking has become post-pandemic, here are a few tips that I'm going to challenge you (and myself) to do instead of letting bitterness and frustration win.
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1. If you're networking exclusively for business purposes, keep it real and stop treading the line between professional and personal.
I've never been a huge fan of networking in the traditional sense---a forced waste of time that oftentimes does not lead to authentic or long-lasting connections. You know that whole version of networking where someone walks up to you to ask you 50 questions centered on what you do, how long you've been doing it, and how they can work with you. Or worse, when someone skips the disingenuous pleasantries and simply shoves their resume, business pitch, or card in your face (whether verbally or on paper), and asks you for a job, favor, or to "partner up." (Sis, we don't even know one another.)
Get clear on the difference between networking and connecting. Every interaction with every human being at an event doesn't have to be about making money or what someone can do for you, but if that's your prime purpose for networking, be honest with yourself about that and get strategic in your approach and the types of events you attend.
In this case, instead of leading with that personal story about your family, something you're struggling with, gossip about others at the event, or your very personal life story, keep the interaction focused on professional aspects of why you do the work you do, how someone can contact you, and why it would even make sense to talk business with that person in the first place. If you don't have a why, do your research beforehand and be more strategic so that you don't send mixed messages or make a terrible first impression.
2. Be deliberate about making new connections and actually commit to doing your part to maintain authentic relationships.
Here's a hard truth: Many of us do not like telling people no. We have a hard time not only speaking up for ourselves as much as we should, but we also fear letting people down. Some of us just don't want to say no because we don't want to miss out on a potential opportunity, so we overextend ourselves.
It's one thing to cancel due to an emergency or to offer proper notice a few times when you can no longer show up. It's another to be that strange person who never does what she says she will when it comes to actually building a relationship---business or otherwise---with another woman.
Please, stop. It does more damage than good to say you're going to call someone, keep in touch, or schedule time with someone only to dodge them like they're a pesky ex or bill collector. Simply say no and stop inviting folk when you know you have no business doing so.
Check your calendar before inviting someone out or saying yes to meeting up with someone. Find out what the meeting will be about, and be sure you're actually interested in doing whatever the other person wants to do during that meet-up. Be clear on whether they're someone you actually want to know before saying yes.
And when you do say yes, have the discipline to follow through. Hey, we all get tired or overwhelmed, but we certainly show up for what's important to us regardless. That whole "I agreed on Monday, but now that it's Friday, I don't feel like it," is tired.
If you really want to revive your social life, make new connections, or you really value the friends and contacts you have, be deliberate about that follow-through and make it a habit. Evaluate how you're managing your time, what your values are, and goals are when it comes to your social life, and what makes you happy about having friends within your community or industry.
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3. Find other ways to connect and keep in touch that work for your busy schedule or lifestyle.
If it's a commitment to have lunch once a month, put it on your calendar and show up. Can't attend a wedding or a birthday dinner? Send a gift with a handwritten note or card. Want to hang out but don't like clubbing or drinking? Plan the next girls' night out (or in) and let your friends know how you feel (or maybe even find another set of friends to do things you like to do. I mean, maybe your idea of fun just isn't their cup of tea).
If you spent the whole conference weekend with someone, going to every panel or breakout session together and having drinks afterward, actually email, text, or call them when it's over and schedule a virtual tea or another way to connect again.
Send a card of congrats if you see them celebrate an accomplishment on IG or elsewhere. Get beyond just lurking on IG Stories after meeting them and try a personal gesture that says you want to be friends or at least that you're attempting to keep in touch.
Share events announcements, top news articles, or other useful information that reflects that you actually are thinking of a potential friend or contact and want to keep building. Support their events or businesses through action, not just a like on a post.
Ya'll, we have to put a stop to the way things are going with networking nowadays. There are major mental health, career advancement, and developmental benefits to being social, having friends, and interacting with your peers. Let's start making friendships and authentic professional connections a priority. Our long-term success as powerful Black women depends on it.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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