The Old Boy’s Club Is Out – Join The Women’s Network

Photo from http://flickr.com

Photo from http://flickr.com

We all know external networks are critical to achieving success in our jobs and growing our careers. But, too often, we women view networking as a challenge. And it certainly can be. Not only is it hard to find time to incorporate networking in our daily routine – while juggling work, significant others, kids, friends, volunteer activities, etc. – we’re also faced with the reality of gender bias and our culture’s discomfort with female leadership.

While there are real and unseen barriers to our career advancement, the easiest way to get going is to start hanging out with a like-minded group women. Women are wired to be helpful and focus on adding value, when building relationships. Think about it, it’s rare to come into contact with a woman who is strictly transactional at a networking event.

Most women are inclusive and make connections personal. And we’re more likely to approach networking with the mindset we’re building professional friendships, because we understand the value of creating a community of supportive individuals that are relationship-oriented.

After all, networking for women isn’t just about business, it’s about life and being social. Think about the exciting conversations you’ve had with other female professionals. Women engage in powerful and intellectually stimulating conversations to create strong relationships on multiple levels. We like to encourage one another, offer inspiration, give insight, share ideas and experiences, provide industry knowledge, promote and refer each other, and dispense a lively range of personal and professional advice.

When it comes to choosing a women’s network, you should be looking for a consistent, supportive, diverse, and talented group of women to engage with. Networks that cut across industries, career-levels and organizational functions, are the most powerful when it comes to the strength of the network and the wide range of resources accessible through the community. It’s in a network, like the one I just described, where you’ll find informal mentors, receive encouragement, connect with ambitious peers, gain exposure to industries outside your own, and gain the confidence you need to be even more successful. And these are all steppingstones women need to close the gender gap in business.

Once you’ve picked a strong network of women to get involved with, be sure to use these 4 tips to get the most out of tapping into the Women’s Network:

Photo from http://flickr.com

Photo from http://flickr.com

  1. Listen to add real value. My two favorite back pocket questions to ask someone when I first meet them are “what exciting things are you working on?” and “what can I do to help you?” Not only do they keep the conversation going, but you find out what people’s passions are. Like, what people do by day or by night, or what causes they care about. Not only will this information help you develop a real connection, it will also provide an opening for you to lead with generosity, which is the real currency of networking.
  2. Know your goals and share them. As women, we shy away from talking about our goals and what we need to achieve them. And we can certainly learn from men when it comes to this networking gap. It’s okay to share your aspirations and be self-assertive. The more you create top-of-mind awareness for yourself, and your objectives, the more likely people will be to think of you when an opportunity comes along. Don’t forget to set aspirational goals too – and think about who are the top 3 people you’d like to meet. Then, seek targeted opportunities to develop relationships with these individuals who may be able to help you advance your career.
  3. Be authentic, but professional. This is an important one to master. When I first started networking professionally, I tended to be a little stiff in my interactions – my mindset was that I should be strictly professional and just talk business – instead of letting my personality shine through. With time, I realized how important it is to just be myself. You need to be open and human to be engaging in conversation. Not only does it build trust, but it makes the process of meeting new people a really enjoyable activity. With that being said, it’s wise to enforce a two-drink maximum, avoid talking politics or rehashing your weekend out on the town. No one likes an overshare, and you’ll have no hope of leaving a positive first impression after a TMI moment.
  4. Promote each other and open doors. This is the most important, and easiest, thing we can do for each other as women to close the gender gap in the workplace. If you make a strong connection, offer to make an introduction. We all have doors we can open for one another. If it wasn’t for Katrina Melesciuc, Co-founder of Women’s iLab, I wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity and platform to reach, inspire, and empower other women looking to be successful in business.

In today’s information driven economy, it’s never been more crucial to step away from our Google search bar with the intent of making meaningful face-to-face connections, while gaining access to support, resources, and intel it isn’t possible to find on the internet. In fact, it’s vital to our individual success.

So, if you find The Old Boy’s Club intimidating, you should start getting known by the thriving sisterhood of female professionals and connect with a women’s group today. It can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, than The Old Boy’s Club. And, when you take the step to join the Women’s Network, you’ll be that much closer to finding a nurturing and supportive environment you need to realize and achieve your career aspirations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MICHELLE RAYBURNMichelle Rayburn_Headshot

After graduating the University of Cincinnati in 2010, I gathered my things and left my Ohio roots to realize my Boston dream. As a transplant, I learned life in a new city can be a little challenging to navigate from a civic, social, and professional perspective. However, I have a passion for building – and participating in – inclusive communities that empower and encourage women to aspire to achieve greatness. In my day job, I work for a membership organization and help companies utilize their people to strategically engage in the Boston business community. In my free time, I’m committed to developing student leaders in the Eta Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Harvard, serving as their coach, mentor, and Chapter Council Adviser. Today, I hope to make it easier for you to get connected to Boston, network, and navigate the City through my Women’s iLab column: The Aspiring Woman’s Guide to Networking in Boston.

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