Post by Liz Cullen, contributing Women On Business writer
The Wall Street Journal recently recognized "The 50 Women to Watch 2008". In reading the advice and experiences of the powerful women they profiled, I was interested to see that several women pointed out the same weakness for women in business: networking.
For some women, the term networking conjures images of slick self serving phonies. I actually think that in general women are very good at making connections and building lasting relationships, so I do not think networking should be an area where women cannot excel.
For women who find networking a challenge, the solution may be to reframe your idea of networking from the concept of making acquaintances for purely transactional reasons to the idea of building a network based on mutually supportive and reinforcing relationships. When viewed this way, it is easy to see why so many women are great at building and taking advantage of their networks. If you don’t enjoy networking, it does not mean you have to stop altogether, you may just have to readjust your strategy.
Here are some ways to rethink your networking strategy:
- You don’t have to force it. If you hate golf, there is no point in spending time to learn how to play when there are tons of other venues where networking is possible. Networking can happen in all different venues, not just generally professional events.
- People want to know you. If you are confident about your value proposition, networking will begin to feel like a process of offering solutions to people that need your products or services. Before you head out to network, practice what you are going to say. Pinpoint what you want people to know about your business, and be sure you can get your point across without being vague or sounding unprepared. Practice with a friend or coworker if you would like. They can give you honest feedback about your networking skills.
- Look beyond immediate gratification. Personal connections are likely to lead to business connections in the future. Building relationships with people you like, trust, and respect will build your network and you, in turn, will build theirs. The broader your network, the greater your number of opportunities.
Finally, if you really hate the idea of networking – have someone on staff do it for you!