Women may earn more college degrees than men, but they still remain underrepresented in upper-management level positions. According to Women in the Workforce: Canada from Catalyst Inc., men are currently two to three times more likely than women to hold senior management positions.1 One of the main factors may be that women have less-frequent interactions with senior leaders, and as a result, are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance.
It’s time to #speakupforinclusion and boost your networking circles, girls! In addition to helping position yourself for career advancement, networking can open the doors to new opportunities, provide valuable support and create friendships with like-minded people. “People have a desire to surround themselves with people of similar interests, who they can also look up to,” says Leigh Mitchell, founder of Women in Biz Network. “Likewise women entrepreneurs like to support other women and lift them up.”
Not sure where to start expanding your own networking circles? Follow these 10 networking secrets to help take your career to next level.
Women like to connect on both business and emotional levels, and share common stories, she says. These relationships can take time to build, but can be lasting connections that will be there for years to come.
1. Make a Networking Plan
Make a plan to connect with people both inside of your office and out. So often people focus on external networking situations, but a well-developed and diverse internal network is critical to your success. “Talk to people at the water cooler, go to lunch-and-learns, sign up for skill builder sessions, participate in firm events, call people instead of emailing them,” says Sutton. “Even just walking around your floor once a week with the goal of meeting people can be helpful.”
2. Create a Calendar
The frequency of networking is important, but it’s also a personal choice. Map out how often you want to network — and stick to your plan. “Don’t forget to keep your current network alive and healthy,” says Camilla Sutton, President and CEO of Women in Capital Markets. Include meet ups with old colleagues and associates in your calendar too. “Deepening these existing relationships can be just as important as developing broader ones.”
3. Keep in Touch
“I keep in touch with everyone — journalists, business partners, former mentors,” says Sharon Vinderine, founder of Parent Test Parent Approved (PTPA) and recipient of the 2015 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award. Set a goal to connect once a year and ask if there’s any way you can help. This will help keep your network active.
4. Get out from Behind your Desk
“You can’t network sitting at your desk,” says Camilla Sutton, President & CEO of Women in Capital Markets. If you want to improve your network, the first step is to push yourself outside your comfort zone. “Make goals and put yourself in situations where you can network,” says
5. Choose the Right Association
The right networking association can go a long way in helping build your network. Mitchell founded Women in Biz Network in 2010 because she saw a need to bring women who worked primarily online together.
When looking for an organization, she suggests looking for one that can address your specific career needs. “No organization should try to be everything to everyone,” says Mitchell. Do your homework, find an organization that might suit your networking needs, and then ask to attend an event before joining.
6. Connect on an Emotional Level
“Women tend to make more friendships,” says Vinderine. Women like to connect on both business and emotional levels, and share common stories, she says. These relationships can take time to build, but can be lasting connections that will be there for years to come.
7. Break into the Men’s Club
While female friendships are powerful, sticking only with the girls may stall your career. Men typically hold more senior-level positions, so if you only connect with other women, you are less likely to gain access to people who can open doors for you.
Self confidence is critical when connecting with men, says Vinderine. “If you want men to stop and listen in the workplace, you need to exude a lot of confidence in your area of expertise.” Men tend to be more purpose driven in their networking, and often have an end goal in mind, she says. “You need to play to that if you want to succeed in male networking circles.”
Focus on a few people you can make meaningful connections with. You may research them beforehand on LinkedIn or concentrate on a common ground early in the conversation.
8. Be Selective
Be choosy with the people you spend your time with, and when you spend it. “You don’t have to try to work the whole room,” says Mitchell. “Focus on a few people you can make meaningful connections with.” You may research them beforehand on LinkedIn or concentrate on a common ground early in the conversation.
You also don’t need to fill your evenings with events. If you’re a mom and would rather be home with your family at night, network during the day. “I prefer breakfast events where there is an opportunity to learn something,” says Vinderine. She also reaches out to people a lot over LinkedIn. “That way I can set my own meeting times. I approach people from the perspective that I’d like to learn from them, and usually have great success.”
9. Be a Good Listener
“Listen more than you talk,” says Mitchell. “Don’t make it about you, and try to be of service and find out more about what others do and how you can help.
10. Have Fun!
Don’t forget to have fun! “Let your sense of humour come into play,” says Mitchell. When done right, networking shouldn’t be a chore, and people will respond to those who make it enjoyable.
1. Catalyst, Quick Take: Statistical Overview of Women in the Workplace (August 11, 2017).
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