Repeatedly we hear that because women do not network on a broad based platform they miss out on being spotted for higher opportunities. Today a number of young women professionals with aspirational drive are therefore consciously building their networking and visibility quotients, only to overhear or be told, “she is too in your face”, “tries too hard”, “obviously trying to attract attention” and so on. Looks like either way it does not work.
While there is no one magic formulae for what is too little or too much, one thing is evident, networking acumen will support the realisation of your personal dreams and aspirations. Networking is not reaching out to others only when you need something, like a job. In reality, people with the largest circle of contacts, mentors and friends know that you must reach out to others long before you need anything at all.
The golden rule: Build it before you need it
Common misconceptions about networking which inhibit people:
- Networking is for big business owners and leaders. Not true – anyone who wants to influence another needs to network
- Attending events, being out every night or being over active on social media platforms are the only ways to network. False again – you need to get creative with how you want to meet up with people
- Networking is another word for selling and I do not like selling. NO – very, very wrong! In networking, the only thing you have to sell in the first instance is yourself and once you establish your credibility, sales follow
- You have to be gregarious and “in your face” to network and I am an introvert. Networking is about rapport and connection, so use any style that achieves that
Building and enlarging your network. Give some of these a try:
- Enrol for learning a new skill or course
- Join a learning circle for your area of interest
- Attend a conference, If you are attending one outside your city, pull out the list of people in that city or area that you would like to know better
- Invite someone to share a workout or a hobby (book club, play bridge, etc.)
- A quick, early breakfast, lunch or drinks or dinner after work. There is nothing like food to break the ice
- Invite someone to a special event (theatre, concert etc.)
- Entertain at home. Make it as intimate as possible
- Follow up after a meeting. Send a mail, text message, hand written note or connect over What’s App
- Clip relevant articles and send them to the people in your network who might be interested. It shows that you are thinking about them and the issues they are facing
- Take on leadership positions in social projects
- Join a new club
After you have given some of the options listed above a try, remember to include the following in your follow-ups;
- Always express your gratitude
- Be sure to include an item of interest from your meeting or conversation. A joke or a shared moment of humour
- Reaffirm whatever commitments you both made – going both ways
- Be brief and to the point
- Always address the note to the person by name
- Use email and snail mail. This combination adds a personalised touch
- Timeliness is the key. Send something as soon as possible after the meeting
- Don’t forget to follow up with those who have acted as the go between for you and someone else. Let the original referrer know how the conversation went, and express your appreciation for their help
- Make follow up a habit and make it automatic
Remember – your actions speak louder than your words, so, smile, have balanced eye contact, listen, be respectful, it’s ok to be aggressive but respect the other person’s space, don’t be annoying or pestering!
Reach out to important people who can make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
Action time now!