5 Great Networking Tips for Women
Many of the most educated women know the secret to success ultimately lies in who you know, not just what you know. While a solid education is often beneficial to take full advantage of your opportunities, getting those opportunities in the first place often depends on your ability to network effectively. Actively practicing professional networking skills can help most women find new positions, grow within their current field, and enjoy mutually beneficial business connections for the entirety of their careers. When networking, keep the following five tips in mind, and you're sure to enjoy the benefits that come along with strong networking.
1. Consider Your Goals
Just as you would begin any project, when you set out to network it's important to have defined goals. Professional networking isn't just about meeting people – it's about meeting the people who will help get you where you want to go. Not all networking opportunities are created equal. Most groups announce their focus in their mission statement or group description, whether it's volunteering around a specific interest, sharing skills and information within a specific field, or making the most connections possible. Know what you want to achieve with your effort. Focus on groups that align with that goal, and the time you put into networking will show a greater return.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
When you attend a networking event, encourage deeper connections with the contacts you meet by asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Listen carefully to what people tell you, and follow up with questions that explore the how and why of a subject rather than asking about who, what, where, or when. The former line of questioning often leads to a more substantive conversation that all participants will remember should you try to reconnect later. Rather than asking, "What do you do," for example, ask, "What do you like about your job?" Asking deeper questions will form deeper bonds and encourage anyone you meet to want to get to know you in return.
3. Target the Power Networkers
You know who they are – the professional go-getters who always seem to be everywhere and know everyone. These power networkers can be great allies for people new to the game. Power networkers act like professional matchmakers, constantly introducing likeminded individuals and connecting talented people to the right opportunities. Earn the professional respect of a power networker in your field by demonstrating your value and skills, and your own network will grow overnight. Most people within a given circle know who the power networkers are, and you can identify them by paying attention to the names that come up again and again. Make a strong impression with these people by following the other tips on this list, and they'll be sure to welcome you into their network in return.
4. Share What You Have
The most effective networking strategy for women is to be collaborative, not competitive. The more you strive to connect the individuals you know whose expertise, interests, or goals align, the more other people will notice and reciprocate. When you demonstrate that you are willing and able to be a strong resource for others, you will earn a reputation for being a valuable networker by the power players in your industry. If you're still building your network, a good strategy to show your value is simply to show up. Those who are present are those who get noticed.
5. Practice Patience
A strong network of authentic, useful connections takes time to build – it can't be forced. In addition to exploring the resources available from online networking options like LinkedIn, you will likely have to attend several networking luncheons, conferences, and cocktail hours before you create an extensive network of likeminded individuals with whom you share common goals and interests. Keep in mind that connecting in a meaningful way with even one person per event is a networking win, because it opens you up to their professional network and gives you a chance to practice all of the tips above.
Networking is a powerful tool that can help women reach greater heights than any person can achieve on their own in their professional careers. Once you get the hang of identifying the career-minded and collaborative influencers in your social circles and begin practicing these tips, you'll find that networking is not only a helpful professional activity, but a highly enjoyable one, too!
Written by Ashford University staff