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How Women Leaders Can Use Networking to Supercharge Their Careers
When Linkage, a SHRM company, asked over 700 women leaders from a cross section of industries and functional areas what most contributed to their advancement into positions of leadership, the overwhelming response was “building a strong network.” And yet, women leaders also report that they aren’t good at building these professional networks.
So, what’s going on? How can women leaders break through to build and activate a network that will support them and help them grow in their careers?
At a time when women leaders are being pulled in more directions than ever before, and workplace stress is being disproportionately felt by women, building a professional network may rank low on the priority list. But as the hurdles to advancement for women continue to stretch higher, it is critically important to build and maintain strong networks.
Ready to meaningfully expand your network in 2023? Check out these quick tips below, then register to join us at the Women in Leadership Institute™ this November 13–16, 2023.
TIP 1: Identify your key career goals—and brainstorm who can help you achieve them.
The first step to identifying the network you need to help you achieve your career goals is to clearly define those goals. What are you looking to achieve this year? Next year? In five years? Then ask yourself, Who has the lived experience, insights, advice or connections I need access to, in order to achieve these goals? For example, if your goal is to move from a role in finance to a role in corporate responsibility, your extensive network of financial professionals and advisors may not have the insights or the connections you need to make this shift successfully. Or, if you are looking to advance into a C-suite position or as a member of a Board, you need access to leaders who have walked this path before.
Consider how your current goals align with your current network, identify the people who are missing from your circle, then map out how you can make the right connections.
TIP 2: Leave behind the “casual” network and get purposeful in crafting opportunities for connection.
For many women leaders, our network may be far more accidental and feature connections we have made in our personal and professional life simply by working and interacting with those around us. “Casual” networks can certainly be beneficial—serving as friends and coworkers, supporters and teachers—but the backgrounds, expertise and areas of focus of these connections may not align with our specific strategic goals.
To broaden the scope of your network, seek out others in different fields or industries, or in roles outside of your department.
TIP 3: Make time to network each week—and stick to it.
Women leaders typically have jam-packed schedules—and the expectations have never been higher as they strive to lead teams in a changing and volatile world. But many women leaders may be draining their energy—and filling their schedules—with a “do it all” mentality. Linkage’s most recent research uncovered that many women may be falling into time- and energy-consuming practices like the “Perfectionist Trap.” In fact, 66 percent of women say they are a “perfectionist” in how they approach work, and 81 percent say they say “yes” to all work requests, even unreasonable ones. When we take on these types of work behaviors, we limit our own leadership impact—using up our time and energy on actions that won’t move the needle for our careers or our teams. This also leaves us no time for the strategies that will most impact our advancement, like networking!
By eliminating tasks and roles that no longer serve you, you can open your schedule to new and meaningful priorities like building and maintaining a professional network.
TIP 4: Consider quick and easy ways you can network right now, virtually!
It’s time to embrace a new way of networking in the digital age. Thinking about how you want to be approached and communicated with, long emails or over-the-top introductions probably do not come to mind. Instead, you want to make connections through people you already know, offered up in bite-sized nuggets of information, and then run with it, right?
Consider how you can bring this energy to your network and act on it today. Here are some quick ways to virtually network right now:
- Look up five people you know closely and have a good relationship with on LinkedIn, then navigate to their connections list. See someone on there who you’d like to learn from? Ask for an introduction from your contact, and be sure to let them know why you’d like to connect to give them a starting place for the conversation.
- Identify three people at work this month who are outside your team or division and schedule time to get to know them. Whether they are new to the company or not, you have an opportunity to meaningfully expand your exposure within your organization, something that would not happen organically.
- Consider who you have met at events or conferences in the past year and send them a quick message on LinkedIn. Bonus points if you include some follow-up information from a past conversation or reference their recent updates on LinkedIn. Your network will be excited to hear from you—don’t deny them the chance to get to know you!
Women leaders have the power to advance in their careers and thrive at the highest levels—but they can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone. Our professional and personal networks are powerful and important tools as we strive to scale the hurdles to advancement. By conscientiously and purposefully committing to building our networks, we can better serve ourselves and achieve our career goals.
Join us at the Women in Leadership Institute (WIL) on November 13–16, 2023, in Orlando, Florida, and virtually to take the next step on your leadership journey. At WIL, you’ll engage with 3,000+ women leaders to grow your network and thrive in a supportive and passionate community. Plus, you’ll experience keynote sessions, small-group learning, and more!
Women in Leadership Institute™
NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
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