Start Networking Now
4:00 pm, January 24th | by Beth Devin, Manilla.com
Why do women struggle with professional networking? “Women are consummate relationship builders, but we don’t use our contacts to get ourselves promoted,” according to a recent Harvard Business Review post, Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013. But why is this? Probably because it takes time, it takes practice, and it requires you to get out of your comfort zone. You may even have to do a little self-promotion.
In our increasingly interconnected world, where more and more business opportunities surface through networking, this is a huge gap for women that must be bridged. I’m here to say get it over it, stop procrastinating, and get started networking — now.
What is networking? Dictionary.com defines networking as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Professionally, the common interest could be an industry, a profession, or a skill. Personally, networking could pertain to a hobby, a health issue, or family. This article focuses on the professional application of networking.
Networking is both giving and receiving — people contact you for help or advice, and you tap your network when needed. Because a network is an interconnection of many people, it takes time to build the relationships and strengthen the bonds.
There are myriad benefits and rewards you can reap from networking. To emphasize this point and motivate you to act, here are just some of the ways I have leveraged my network to further my career and help the people that contact me.
- Make an introduction. Perhaps someone in your network is exploring a new business concept or idea and could benefit from speaking with people you know.
- Learn a new industry. People are typically willing to spend time educating you on their expertise and knowledge — you should do the same when asked.
- Check out a possible new hire. Hiring managers regularly tap their network to get backdoor reference checks on candidates they are considering.
- Find your next job or help someone find hers. Approximately 70 percent of all jobs are secured through networking, according to the United States Department of Labor.
- Get the skinny on a company culture. Talk to someone you respect to get the inside scoop on a company.
- Help a hiring manager or recruiter. You know a lot of people — make sure to return calls and answer requests for help to fill positions.
- Work through an issue at work. This may be more appropriate for your most trusted professional acquaintances, but their experience and advice can be spot on.
- Find a coach. Solicit recommendations. Find out what worked and how to maximize a coaching relationship.
- Do public speaking. Let people know you are interested in public speaking and ask others about their experiences.
- Find out what it’s like to participate on a board. Find out if you know someone who is participating on a board. How did that person get on the board? What is the time commitment?
Building your network is an investment for the future. You may be comfortable in your career at this moment and not have burning issues to address, but what about when that’s not the case?
Here are three simple steps to get started.
- Update your Linkedin Profile and connect with colleagues (both current and past). If you’re on Linkedin and your information is up to date, people will find you and your network will grow. The more you reach out to connect, the more others will see that you are actively networking. It’s easy to find people you know on Linkedin — you can search by industry, company, role, geographic location and name. It’s also easy to send multiple connection requests at a time.
- Return calls and emails. It’s easy to get absorbed in your day-to-day work and lose touch with people you don’t come into contact with regularly. I’m encouraging you to take the time to return unsolicited calls and emails from former colleagues, vendors and recruiters. You can be selective — you don’t have to return every sales call. However, each time you do, you are building a bridge to another person. Your responsiveness and professionalism are the foundations of your growing network.
- Attend a professional meeting. Once a quarter, make it a priority to attend a professional meeting where you can meet new people and continue to expand your network. It could be a Meetup group, a seminar, or an industry-networking event. Set a goal to meet one new person each time you venture out. Remember that most of the attendees have the same trepidations about networking as you do. Steel yourself and say hello!
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning and secure service that helps consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. Get the chance to win $2,500 in cash when you take the Manilla Get It Together Challenge. Learn more here.