I am an avid follower of your blog and your very pragmatic approach to life and work. I wondered whether you had any thoughts or advice on how to strike the appropriate tone when inviting someone for a networking lunch.

I am a junior/mid-level (female) associate working for a law firm and have been told that it would be good to reach out to some of our client contacts and to develop a more personal relationship with them. In attempting to draft the email invite, it struck me that it would be very easy to use an inappropriate tone, especially in light of the fact that the intention isn’t to discuss business, per se. Given that I am a woman and the contacts are predominantly men, I would also want to guard against coming across that the invitation has a romantic element to it. Or do you think I am overthinking the issue?

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2 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    There is always that undertone, in any communication between men and women at work. For the most part, you just have to ignore it.

    On the up side, younger women really benefit from this situation. Men can’t turn off their automatic reflex to be interested in talking with a young woman. Even though most men have no intention of seducing you, or doing anything inappropriate, they still just like talking to you. It’s fun for them. Since there’s nothing we can do about that, you can use it to your advantage — most men you ask will say yes to a networking meeting.

    Also, there is solid evidence from the University of Santa Cruz that men give better mentoring to women they want to have sex with. This doesn’t mean they will make sexual advances, and this doesn’t mean the women have to have the intention of sex. It means that if men have sex on the mind while they are mentoring they actually do a better job of mentoring. So use that to your advantage also.

    Although if it does lead to the guy harassing you, you can leverage that, too. Here’s a story of how I did that:
    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2001/06/25/leverage-sexual-harassment/

    Moving forward, for the first few times you send one of these emails, have a female colleague read the email that you write, and say, “Does this sound okay?” Don’t mention the sexual overtones. Just ask if it’s a good email to send to get to know clients better. If the email is good then assume that all your emails for this task will be good.

    Caveat: the benefit of being a young woman making workplace connections with men wanes very quickly during your 30s. So use it as much as possible while you can!

    Penelope

  2. Ru
    Ru says:

    If you are afraid of sending the wrong message, you could always try doing coffee break. I find a 30 minute Starbucks break is easier for people to take out during the day and you don’t have to worry about dining etiquettes.

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