Frequently in these blogs, I’ve focused on mentoring, one of the mainstays of our WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. three-pronged approach, with the other two being Education and Networking. This time around I’d like to turn our attention to Networking.
As with finding mentors, how you approach building your network is crucial. There are approaches that achieve your desired results, and ones that keep you spinning your wheels. Let’s start by looking at what I like to call the “NOT JUST” test.
- A network is NOT JUST a group of working people or fellow employees
- A network is NOT JUST those who share your functional expertise in other organizations
- A network is NOT JUST people whose shoulders you cry on or whose brains you tap
- A network is NOT JUST folks you reach out to when you want to change jobs
Certainly, these components can be part of a successful network, but they are not the crux of what makes a network WORK. In fact, many women actually sabotage their career advancement by misunderstanding what a network should be. They stay too insular in forming and using their networks. They overlook the single most important aspect of a network—a degree of discomfort.
Does it seem counter-intuitive that for a network to be successful, it must be somewhat outside your comfort zone? It’s not. By sticking exclusively with people you know and people with whom you are comfortable, you are simply fine tuning what you’re already doing. That may be enough to hold on to your present job, but it’s not enough to move you up.
What are the components of a successful, non-insular network?
- It should include talented men and women who see the corporate world differently than you do
- It should include people with whom you do not normally come into contact, both inside and outside the organization
- It should include people who are above your current corporate level
The reason many women, and for that matter men, don’t network in this way is because it’s harder. It takes more time. It takes more intentional fortitude.
At WOMEN Unlimited, we help our participants prepare to network the right way. Our sessions cover networking and cover it well. But we take it a step further by creating in each session the core group of a successful network. Participants come from a variety of corporations, backgrounds, and functional areas—the perfect starting point for a non-insular network. It works over and over. Our alumnae use what they’ve learned to build productive networks and they often stay in touch with each other long after they complete our programs.
A few final pointers:
- Networks are about quality of contacts, not quantity
- Networking takes time—so use it wisely
- Lastly, enjoy the people with whom you network. Getting ahead should be fun.
Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.