5 Networking Tips For Women Who Dream Big

Networking is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Many multi-passionate, creative women have a complicated relationship with networking. It’s...

5 Networking Tips For Women Who Dream Bigger

Networking is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Many multi-passionate, creative women have a complicated relationship with networking. It’s true for me, but I know it’s true for many other women as well. Networking can feel really uncomfortable. To various degrees introverts, ambiverts, but even extroverts can struggle with it. Unfortunately, we can’t stick our head in the sand and forget all about it, because in this day and age, networking is a necessity. Whatever you’re trying to achieve knowing people that can support you, offer new perspectives, and help you forward is powerful.

If you think of networking as a way of meeting people you could help and also learn from, rather than a way to push your services or products, you might start seeing networking in a more positive light.

I believe that the biggest issue women have with networking is the preconceived ideas about what it is, and how it needs to be done. Networking used to be reserved for members of the Old Boys’ Club. For a long time women were not invited. Then, as women became part of the work force, they slowly found their way to networking. But to many it never really felt like home.

The rules of traditional networking are created by men, and so work best for them. As women we communicate, and make connections differently. So we need a different kind of networking.

Michael Goldberg is a TEDx speaker, an award-winning adjunct professor at Rutgers University, and the owner of Knock Out Networking. He thinks networking can be serendipitous or strategic, and that they both can help you achieve your goals and dreams.

Serendipitous networking

Serendipitous networking is based on making the most out of every human interaction in your life. It means to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you on a plane, to someone you’re stuck with in an elevator, to friends of your friends, to other parents at a parent-teacher conference, etc. You never know who the other person is, and it could very well be someone who could become a client or a business partner, or even a romantic interest.

Strategic networking

On the other hand, strategic networking involves having a plan. You need to know where to go (online or offline), what to say, and with whom exactly you want to connect. You need to know who you want to build a relation with – is it female CEOs, brand managers in a particular industry, people working in a specific niche you’re interested in?

As Michael Goldberg calls it, it’s all about the “we” dynamic. You want to introduce yourself, and build relations with those people you click with, so you can start using “we” in your conversations. “How can we help one another?”

People have very different reasons for building their social networks. Some do it for generating new business (and this can take many shapes and sizes – from boosting sales to raising funds for charity), others for landing a job, or meeting new friends, or figuring out how to get rid of an issue they’re having, or simply to learn something – about an industry, a job, a new skill. No matter you reason for doing it, is as valid as any other.

Many women think of networking as icky

Herminia Ibarra is one of the most influential management thinkers in the world and she talks about 3 key reasons why strategic networking is more difficult for women:

1) They don’t find people similar to them during events. Even today when we’re thinking of high-ranking business leaders, we’re still mostly thinking of older men. For women looking to make strategic connections is challenging and time-consuming.

2) Women’s social networks tend to overlap less than men’s. When women and men list the people they turn to for important work matters and then those they spend time with outside of the office, the lists look very different. For men, the two lists tend to overlap. Managing two separate lists implies more effort on women’s part. It also means that men will talk about business in various informal settings, building more trust and being better informed than women.

3) It can feel like using people. Herminia Ibarra points out that “the more we differ from key stakeholders, the more likely that we’ll see a more intentional approach as disingenuous and calculating — all about selfish gain, “using people” and engaging in unmeritocratic ways of advancing one’s career.”

5 Networking Tips for Women (You Can Apply Today)

So, how do we, women, network efficiently, and without feeling weird about it? Here are 5 tips that help me to network with more ease and flow, and that might be useful to you as well:

  • Have a 1-minute introduction ready

Before going to a networking event, take the time to write down your introduction, to say it out loud and to tweak it to fit into one minute while telling people all they should know about you. Michael Goldberg advises people to use his PEEC Statement for drafting the introduction:

Profession – who you are, what you do, with whom?

Expertise – what if your depth of knowledge? what are you an expert in?

Environment – what is the target market you’re interested in?

Call to Action – what is it that you’d want to achieve?

Here’s an example:

Hello! I’m X and I work as a film producer for small budget web series. You might have heard of Y and Z, they were just released on Facebook Watch. I’ve been involved in creating video content for the web for almost a decade, and now I’m more and more interested in creating content for Facebook’s audience. I’d love to find a brand who might finance a new web series we’re producing next summer.

  • Figure out what you have to offer

What sort of problems did you face and how did you solve them? What did you learn in your profession or business? What do you know that others might find interesting? Knowing what sort of ‘keywords’ the other people are waiting to pop up into conversations can help you build connections and mutually beneficial relationships easier.

For example, you don’t think of yourself as rich and powerful, but that doesn’t mean the group won’t find you valuable. There are many forms of capital, and money is just one of them. Maybe you know the best accountant in your city, how to source local organic products, or maybe someone in your family is dealing with a challenging condition, and now you know everything about it.

  • Be present and interested in the person in front of you

Make it a habit to be the person asking most questions when you talk to someone. Don’t look around the room for the next person to approach while you still speak to the first. As our Big Dreamers Club expert Cory Thomsen helps us explains in her ‘Relationship 911’ module – “Interested people have the most interesting lives”. It can even serve you better to be a matchmaker. Matching people you talk to with people you know could help them is a powerful way to do something for others, while also strengthening your bond with them.

  • Don’t enter People-Pleaser mode

Meeting people face to face might make you feel you’re under more pressure to say yes to things you’re not interested in. Remember you have the right to politely say “no, thanks” to anything. You don’t have to get coffee with everyone who invites you, and you don’t have to partner up with anyone you don’t match with well.

  • Follow-up like a pro

If you meet someone you want to build a connection with, and they give you their contact info, follow-up in the next 48 hours. Don’t let them forget about you. Email them, call them – start cultivating the relationship thinking of the long-term gains. The same applies if you agree to do something for someone you met at a networking event – the sooner you do it, the better.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your best networking tip? Let me know below x

Featured image by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

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