For women in the workforce, networking is not only necessary but advantageous. In its simplest form, networking is an interaction to discover commonalities.
The objective of business networking is to create and expand long-lasting relationships for mutual benefits. Referrals generate 80 percent more results than cold calls. Job opportunities and career options result from introductions and recommendations.
A person who thinks highly of you and says the right thing to the right person at just the right time can be behind your promotion. On average, your network contacts may know as many as 200 to 250 people. You may not know any of them.
Networks of trusted and knowledgeable advisers aid in navigating organizational cultures. They are critical to becoming an “insider.”
This is because networking often leads to becoming a member of a group that meets formally or informally to study or plan or recommend a strategy that draws special attention.
Sometimes, especially if the group is predominantly male, a female member may be designated to take notes. Grab this opportunity if it arises. You gain a special voice as recordkeeper.
Most likely, you will become the only member of the group who can say with confidence, based on carefully recorded notes, that: “What we decided earlier was …” or “What (the absent member) said last time was …” From committee member to “authority” in one important step.
Networks also aid in problem-solving. Dealing with a difficulty in your company? Most likely, the dilemma is new only to you. While you can’t talk to your next-door neighbor about the issues and a family member may not have enough inside information to provide the intelligent guidance you need, a sage acquaintance or someone you respect in your immediate network may shed some real light.
Networks require personal involvement and investments. Don’t want to talk about the problem to someone in your immediate work group because the conversation may come back to haunt you?
Invite the wise acquaintance or someone you respect from another department or division in the company or from an outside similar, noncompetitive company to lunch or coffee at your expense. At the least, the small effort can further cultivate your friendship. At best, you find the new perspective you need.
Networks also offer a sanity check to see beyond the current mess or when you feel that nothing good is happening or to rebuild your confidence to face challenges.
When something really bothers you, a good support group is critical. Thinking about a career transition? Well-formed networks can provide the initial support and realistic advice.
Some things to keep in mind in building an effective network:
–It may be structured or casual. Some research indicates that informal networks are more important than formal ones.
–Maintaining networks is demanding and requires carefully honed time-management and people skills.
–Working within networks requires paying attention to seemingly little things. Come to the relationship to listen and show empathy. Project a professional image by the way you dress and carry your body. Develop a short and lively personal introduction that provides an open avenue for exchange. Prepare a professional business card and your own name tag to take to meetings.
–Because the most effective networks are built on mutual trust, they evolve over time. Keeping your word when you promise to say or do something builds credibility.
–Construct networks so they are well in place long before you need them.
–Avoid developing superficial networks. Gossip may be fascinating, but participating in it provides few targeted benefits.
–Networks are a two-way street. Support members of your network when they need it. Don’t keep score. It is not just when you want something, the goodwill in the bank and the right to request a favor without hooks when you really need help is important.
–Develop networks across generations. Avoid the dilemma of thinking everyone in your network should be your age or younger. You need wisdom and perspective across generations: silent/ traditional, baby boomer, X and why.
Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship Emeritus, The Citadel.
The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.
First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, November 13, 2009.