Why Ambitious Female Executives Need to Make Time for Networking
Research into gender parity in the workplace continues to support the theory that networking helps your career progression and that women are at a disadvantage in this regard. Why? Because men tend to be better at building more informal networks that can be professionally beneficial (think golf course, for example). Again the research proves that since women, for the most part, continue to carry the domestic burdens of housework and care duties, men have more time to build and engage in networks. So in an already very busy day, is it really worth spending the extra effort to find and build networks? If you are ambitious, the short answer is a resounding yes…
The Benefits of Networking
- Networking can reveal job opportunities that may not be advertised. If you are passionate and knowledgeable about your industry and can communicate it well, there’s a good chance that you will convince someone that you are the ideal addition to their team or organisation.
- Networking will increase your industry knowledge and is a great way to ensure you are up to date on the most recent developments in your industry. At the right networking event, you could easily discover something valuable that you can implement to help your team stay ahead of the game.
- Networking is a great way to build your personal brand and increase your visibility in your chosen field. If you are a regular at key industry events you will start to become a face of the industry, someone who is at the forefront of the industry is a subject matter expert in their field and has a strong network of industry connections.
- It has been proven beyond doubt that as women climb the corporate ladder they do not have access to enough role models and mentors in their organisation. By networking outside of your organisation you will have the chance to meet potential female mentors or role models working in your industry who could very well offer advice and recommendations for career advancement.
How do I start building my network?
Be social and attend more events! Firstly research offline and online events that are relevant to your industry. But don’t forget about social events. The best connections are often forged through common hobbies or interests. It’s just important that you are curious but also capable of clearly communicating your career goals in any setting. Ask yourself – do you actually know what the captain of your kid’s GAA club does for a living?
Have a Growth Mindset
Embrace resources that enable you to learn more about your subject. Be they online articles that you devour or actual training courses, take a life-long attitude to learn and you will develop connections with leaders in your industry.
Never underestimate the opportunity to show your knowledge or passion for a subject by simply commenting on an online post about the subject. Go bolder again and be the one to ask a question at a conference event. You never know who could be listening or reading for that matter so don’t miss that opportunity to be seen by them. A simple comment online can strike up a valuable conversation.
Be a Great Listener
There’s a misconception that in order to be a great networker you need to be extroverted and a good talker. In fact, studies have revealed that the most important networking skill is listening. Learning little pieces of information about what’s important to people, enables you to help them going forward and they will be really impressed by what you remembered about them, making you harder to forget. For example, following up with contact details for your great dental surgeon after your new contact reveals that they just can’t find a good dentist. In his enduring book on the subject, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie talks about this idea of serving people and he states, “You may make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”.
Many of us still cringe a little at the sound of the words, ‘Elevator Pitch’ but the fact is we will benefit from being able to communicate our purpose/passion/offering in a succinct way that interests people. The key is to keep it simple and rehearse until the words feel right coming out of your mouth. The more you hear yourself use an elevator pitch, the better you will be at tweaking it to be a more true reflection of what you have to offer.
Network with Intent
As the online and offline spaces continue to merge, there are hundreds of potential networking opportunities presented to us every day and we won’t always be able to make the most out of all of them. The trick is to set goals and network with intent for the right ones. Can you share your knowledge to help someone out with a problem shared in a networking group on LinkedIn? Can you increase your possibilities of being noticed by a target person in your industry by regularly liking and commenting on their content? Do you have a member of senior management visiting your office in the near future? If so, how can you get a tiny bit of face time with them? Research them in advance and find out exactly what is at the top of their agenda then think about how you could help.
If some of the above ideas seem a little scary, they should do. In order to network effectively, we need to put ourselves out there and jump outside of our comfort zones. Why not challenge yourself to identify three strong networking opportunities for yourself (online or offline) between now and Easter? If you need a little further persuasion consider watching this Tedx Talk from Rick Turoczy, ‘An Introverts Guide to Networking’.
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