In any professional field, there reaches a point where simply working hard at your job may not always be enough to get you farther in your career. The other part of succeeding in a professional setting is: the art of networking. Networking is vital to developing professional relationships that can lead to career opportunities you wouldn't have had access to otherwise and it creates real avenues for success. With distance and time, it is difficult to notice how valuable one connection may be, but it is an incredible process to cultivate connections and watch their progress—and your secondary network— flourish. In addition, speaking to others in your field can give you new insights and perspectives that can help you perform better in your job.
It is clear that developing these connections are incredibly useful to finding new opportunities and furthering your career, however according to a 2018 study, it is clear that women are less likely to build these strong professional networks, according to a 2018 study. This is not only because of the historical and structural exclusion of women from positions of power in the workplace, but also a result of women generally being socialized to be hesitant and modest. Women tend to “avoid over-benefiting through networking, and… underestimate [our] own value in professional contexts” (Greguletz). The stigma of women needing to step back in the workplace and be more “modest” is the reason that it is important to redefine ambition in the workplace and everyday life, building on the importance of connections and opportunity. Like many other aspects of professional life, networking is more difficult for and must be approached differently by women than our male counterparts. Here are some tips as you build your own professional network:
1. Prepare ahead of time:
Before meeting with a professional contact, do your research. Take the time to look into and understand their work, their experience, and their other connections. Regardless of gender, this is a vital step in networking.
2. Have confidence:
Resist the pressure to be excessively modest about your accomplishments and avoid hesitation when speaking to potential professional contacts. Ask for what you want and be clear in your communication. Remain aware of your body language as you communicate and carry yourself with confidence. Be personable and self-assured in your interactions, but remember to stay authentic and genuine.
3. Group networking:
Form a small group of women to network with. According to a 2017 study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management, women who have a close inner-circle of other women are more likely to hold higher-level positions when compared to women who have more of a dispersed network or an inner-circle of mostly men (Yang). This is partly because only women can provide insight about different companies, opportunities, and work environments that will truly help other women. With all the obstacles women face in the workforce, our true advantage is a support group of other women who understand our struggles and needs.
4. Quality over quantity:
Of course, you must branch out beyond your professional inner-circle, but what’s important is working on building quality connections, rather than simply casting a wide net and reaching out to a large number of people. Build connections that will be useful to you and your goals.
These networking tips were further enhanced during The Women’s Network’s speaker meeting with Lilia Luciano, the National Correspondent at CBS news. Lilia Luciano was able to speak to many eager listeners about her experiences, and imparted valuable advice for many of our members. One of her most inspirational pieces of advice was to “ask for criticism, ask for feedback; [and] have the desire to improve”. These words contribute to the underlying message
to have a goal, the ambition, and the work ethic to work through setbacks or barriers and get there. As women, there are different obstacles that we have to overcome and having the individual passion and confidence within oneself can do more than you can think of. Even more, the UCSD chapter for The Women’s Network held an Intro to Networking event where many women gained more confidence in knowledge about networking and the tools to get started.
All in all, networking is a skill that everyone needs for success and it is important to recognize the different standards for women while networking. In order to overcome these unfair obstacles, there are different skills that women can utilize when preparing for an interview or conversation in a professional setting. The benefits of networking are unlike any other and excelling at this skill can set you apart from others in such a unique way.
Greguletz, Elena, et al. “Why Women Build Less Effective Networks than Men: The Role of Structural Exclusion and Personal Hesitation.” Human Relations, vol. 72, no. 7, July 2019, pp. 1234–1261, doi:10.1177/0018726718804303.
Yang, Yang, et al. "A Network’s Gender Composition and Communication Pattern Predict Women’s Leadership Success." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 14, 2019, pp. 2033-2038. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1721438116.