A recent Harvard Business Review article, (The Secret of Successful Female Networkers) stated that oft-cited reasons why more women don’t advance to senior roles are:
· the lack of access to informal industry and business networks.
· high ranking men connect more easily with other men.
· personal obligations, the responsibility of child rearing and caring for aging parents and in-laws disproportionately fall to women leaving them less time to develop professional relationships.
But when given the opportunity women do establish stronger networks allowing them to win greater influence and more senior positions as a result.
The HBR piece identified 4 characteristics that distinguish the networking behaviours of more successful women than those of their peers.
1. Efficiency – at every level in an Organisation women are most sought for advice and feel bad for saying ‘no’. Those that rise to the top are more strategic and thoughtful about how they spend their time, unabashedly prioritizing what they feel is most important.
2. Relationships – relationships with female peers grow stronger, are more mutual and interwoven over time. While good, always relying on the same people can hurt performance. Think about your goals and who will help you and consistently initiate new connections.
3. Boundary spanning – they consider ‘who isn’t in their network, and who should be’? and then make the approach by asking ‘could we grab a coffee’?
4. Energy – successful women make the work more engaging for themselves and other, driving better performance. They demonstrate both competence and warmth, along with intelligence and emotional intelligence. They don’t downplay their knowledge, skills and accomplishments instead showing evidence they can do things. They use humour, small gestures to signal caring and positivity and employ great listening skills to encourage creativity.
From my research and personal experience, below are my nine top tips that I believe work well in making your more comfortable and successful in your networking.
Top tips – Networking for Women
1. Start in a women’s group or a setting where you are most comfortable – consider your local ‘Lean In’ network.
2. Add colour to your job description – nothing cuts a conversation short than ‘I’m an accountant’.
3. Make it a habit – don’t just dip in and out, be consistent. Make it part of your daily task list.
4. Don’t be a prowler – be interactive, this not only develops relationships but makes you more visible to your network and beyond.
5. Remind yourself ‘why’ you are doing this.
6. As female’s we have a tendency to not ask for what we need – If there is someone you know can help you, just ask. Most want to help and you are playing to their ego by asking.
7. Don’t ask too much so that you become the person who always asks but doesn’t give. This is not conducive for a genuine relationship.
8. Follow-up – work on the relationship by following up after each interaction, if you have received advice let them know how you got on; ‘thank you’, ‘here’s what I was referring to’, ‘I think you might benefit from this’.
9. Relationships don’t have to be face to face – online relationships are more prevalent now, however tools like voice messages on LinkedIn are lovely, you get to hear a person’s voice and you can reply and say all you want to say without being interrupted, it’s more personal.
I’d love to hear from you if you have any further tips or comments to add.