Women get told all the time that the key thing to advancement is networking. It’s highlighted as one of the key reasons women are lagging behind. Does that sound familiar? Is that the sort of thing people say to you? The sort of thing you say to yourself?
But you may be one of those people that never get any results from networking, and perhaps you even really dislike it. You may find it boring, or scary, or worse, just hate it altogether.
Yet, you do know that getting a new job and advancing in your career is all about networking. Well, that’s what people tell you anyway, “It’s all about who you know, you have got to be part of the old boys’ network, you have to make sure people know you”.
Imagine if there was a way it could be more fun. And not just fun, but more effective as well. Imagine if there was a way of networking that could work for you. There is and that way is actually pointed out by our different psychologies.
Men and women network for different reasons
Networking is easy, it’s just about having a chat with some others. So what is the problem?
The problem is that men and women network for different reasons.
Men tend to network to show off their prowess. This is because they find security in being at the top. After all, when you are at the top no one will attack you. Showing that you are at the top requires language that involves achievements, capabilities and future plans.
Women tend to network to feel part of the group and build friendships. This is because they find security in a group of friends. After all, when you are friends, no one will attack you. Making friendships comes with supportive language, questions and opening up to others.
Finding security is one of the key drivers of human behaviour, just like we all need to be loved, we all need to feel secure.
Then what can you do to make networking work for you?
1. Network with women
Start by finding a network that can fulfil that purpose of security. Usually that is easiest in a network of women, as that’s a place where you will not be judged and you can ask questions, use supportive language and open up without losing status.
2. Prepare for networking with women – take one question
Opening up and supporting others is great, and it really builds strong bonds. However, be careful you do not get stuck in this alone. The best way to avoid this is to prepare. Take one issue you do want solved, one question you would like an answer to and think about how you can phrase it to get some good answers.
- How do others use LinkedIn?
- What routes are there into board positions?
- Should I write a book?
- Who has got a contact in the printing industry?
3. Network with men and women in your industry
Networking for security is important. However, for the purpose of new opportunities, and future clients it is worth ensuring you find places to network with men too. After all, statistically men do still have most of the decision-making positions and are the ones that have budgets to spend. They are therefore the ones that have most to give away.
4. Prepare in the right way.
When networking with men, of course, you need to talk about your achievements, and your future plans as that is what they are doing, and how they will be judging you.
Are you not good at talking about achievements? Then take ten minutes beforehand to make a list of what you did achieve. After all, people do pay you for something. Surely you haven’t messed up absolutely every single thing you did.
What did you get done? What did happen because of your involvement? Just working on the list will give you a different focus.
5. Start your own network
Perhaps you cannot find a place of peers, or you did find one, but it really didn’t suit you at all. Well, what’s stopping you to just start your own network?
Organise a bi-monthly dinner at your favourite restaurant and invite some of your work relations you admire or feel close to. You can even encourage them to suggest who to invite next time, so you could widen your circle.
Making it work
To be effective you need to find what works for you. So just try out different networks until you find one that suits you.
Next, remember networking is all about building a relationship. So once you have found your way of networking and/or your network, make sure you go more often and take the time to meet up with individuals from your network over a coffee, lunch or breakfast to get to know them better. Over time, people will start to feel close to you and like they know you and will remember you when they need someone like you and that’s what networking is all about.
Have fun networking!