“Networking is the #1 unwritten rule of success in business” – Sallie Krawcheck
In the words of Sallie Krawcheck, networking is crucial to any career or business. However, as working women, it can be challenging to leverage this powerful career and business tool. One of the reasons for this is that for the longest time, women were left out of powerful networking circles and groups, run by the “old boys’ club”. As a result, we’ve had less access to information and environments to help us further our careers and/or businesses.
As a working woman myself, and an introvert at that, I’ve struggled with successfully networking for years. The very thought of it would make me cringe, while I felt that I lacked the appropriate approach to leverage the power of networking. What I’ve learnt from my mistakes and from other successful women who have also shared their journey to successful networking can be summarized in the below 10 principles:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Preparation is crucial to networking! Make sure to own your message by preparing your elevator pitch ahead of time. Additionally, prepare a laundry list of discussion topics you can have handy when you meet new people. Don’t forget to do your networking due diligence by checking the logistics, the list of attendees and bringing your business cards.
2. Craft the perfect elevator pitch for you.
Your elevator pitch is the best way to market yourself and tell others about you in networking settings. Make sure it defines your professional identity (not just your title), your expertise, as well as what makes you unique and valuable.
[Related: How to Network with Intention]
3. Make networking a daily habit.
Don’t restrict networking to specific events. Instead, turn networking into a daily practice! Whether it’s in the elevator, in the hallway, or even at your local supermarket, remember that networking is simply the practice of building relationships.
4. Establish your power network.
Working your network also means establishing your power network, or having access to the “Who’s Who” in your industry or business network. You don’t have to be at the top of the food line to establish relationships with these power players. You can get connected to them by seeking mentors, joining professional associations and groups, or even in your day-to-day interactions.
5. Learn to successfully network as an introvert.
Networking as an introvert can be challenging. I know, as an introvert, it’s been a process for me. However, by being clear about your why, preparing ahead of time, and starting with a buddy or in women’s networking groups, you can increase your chances of being a successful networker.
[Related: 5 Ways to Make Networking Effective and Fun]
6. Don’t neglect following up after each networking event.
The most important part of networking is actually the follow-up. Make sure to collect business cards or information to get in touch with the people you meet. Even better, you should build a networking database, and periodically keep in touch with your network.
7. Refresh your network periodically.
Don’t let your network grow stale. Instead, keep it active and updated by keeping in touch, attending regular networking events, and using your connections’ networks, for instance.
8. Adopt the new networking approach for professional women.
As professional women, we network differently, because our lives, schedules and entire approach to networking is different than men’s. And that’s ok. Using every opportunity to network, starting in women’s groups, and not shying away from social settings, can help us leverage our networking efforts for success.
9. Capitalize on the 360-degree approach to networking.
Make networking fully effective all around by adopting a 360-degree approach. Capitalize on every opportunity to network, while being bold enough to initiate connections and leveraging your uniqueness.
10. Avoid these mistakes when networking.
As working women, we may tend to feel too comfortable in our own circles, many times foregoing the opportunity to expand our networks. Additionally, our tendency to not want to brag, and to hesitate to ask for what we need, can keep us back when it comes to networking.
For more tips on networking like a girl, get my ebook, “Networking Like a Girl: How to Successfully Navigate the World of Networking as a Career and Business Woman.”
Solange Lopes is an author, CPA and writer/blogger. She blogs about career and lifestyle for professional women in her blog The Corporate Sister. She’s passionate about writing and women’s issues.