Five Ways to Grow and Nurture Your Network
You’re no stranger to the old saying, “Your network is your net worth.” For high-performing women, this is an adage we can’t afford to ignore.
As you move up in your career, strategically developing and nurturing relationships becomes more and more important if you want to shatter the glass ceiling and make the leap from employee to executive.
In fact, studies show women account for a whopping 59.9% of the workforce but only 29.9% of Chief Executive Officers.
That disparity is not for lack of work ethic, effort or knowledge. It’s not even for lack of having a network – It’s for the lack of nurturing that network.
If you’re like the women polled in the recent Pink Power Alliance Zoominar on the topic, you DO have a strong network and sometimes you use it, but only 8% of respondents utilized their network and “askmed for referrals.” In striking contrast, the vast majority – 80% said they are comfortable asking what they can do for others. That stops today.
It’s no secret how essential building a network is to your career path, but when it comes to actually nurturing and leveraging your network for success, women sell themselves short. Featured speaker Shannon Binder, Managing Director at Accenture, said it best, “What I am seeing in the data is that we are not cashing in on it.” Recent LinkedIn studies note, women are 28% less likely to have a strong network and 26% less likely to ask for a referral than their male counterparts.
Featured speaker Brittiney Jones, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at IHG Hotels and Resorts, said her networking success is the result of getting personal. Brittiney advises, “You have to establish trust early on.” She suggested taking note of key things about their children and important dates, also give compliments to those you network with, send holiday cards, and engage with their social media posts. Brittiney said for her, organic relationships led to mentorship and advocacy which helped her reach new career goals.
Many polled said they’re reluctant to connect with top level individuals. Shannon shared, “There was a lot of fear because I wasn’t sure I was bringing enough to the table… I wasn’t confident about who I was.” This kind of self-defeating self-talk, or “mind trash,” holds us back.
One mentor’s advice stuck with Brittiney helping overcome her fears, “[She said] remember, we all put our pants on the same way. The title doesn’t make them any different from you.”
Here are 3 Mental Myths (or mind trash) that keep you from leveraging the right network—and securing your well-deserved, next-level role:
1. I can’t network with the highest-level person and ask them to lunch. Isn’t that obnoxious?
2. I don’t want to waste someone’s time. They’re busy with their lives just like me.
3. I don’t really have time to reach out between family obligations and work priorities.
If you’re ready to stop this limited thinking, you’re in the right place.
Here are Five Network-Nurturing Tips:
Tip #1: Identify Your Limiting Beliefs. Limiting beliefs like imposter syndrome are some of the biggest obstacles to leveraging your networks. You might feel you’re not good enough or smart enough, not worthy or don’t deserve a seat at the table with other professionals.
These feelings are often deeply rooted and stem from early childhood experiences, but let me be the one to tell you: It’s not your fault. From the beginning, girls are told to sit down and shut up or boys are smarter. It’s your job to tell yourself those thoughts aren’t true. It’s time to toss out that mind trash that someone carelessly left at your doorstep.
Tip #2: Get Clear on Your Networking Goals and Prioritize Ruthlessly.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? Determine your networking goals and make them as S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable and Time-based) to enable success. At least once a month, make going to an event or lunch with a higher-level colleague a priority. Now that your networking goals are clear, invest some time and your energy in them. PINK NOTE: Best networking opportunity in town—the PINK Lunch Event April 24th!
Tip #3: Adopt a Service Mindset to Pull Up a Seat at the Networking Table.
Networking can feel icky and transactional, but that’s only because you’re thinking about it wrong. Come to the table with a service mindset. Givers are known to gain – and you are a subject matter expert in something! Have you ever considered that someone is struggling with something that is in your area of expertise? Offer support, and most importantly ask how you can be of service, no matter who you’re talking to.
Tip #4: Be Interested Instead of Interesting.
I once read a quote that said the most beautiful word in any language is someone’s name. Human beings are wired to care about themselves. Use that to your advantage in conversation. Everyone loves talking to someone who is interested and curious about them and their experiences. The best part? If you’re curious, you never have to worry about what you’ll say next.
Tip #5: Practice. It Won’t Be Perfect.
Networking like anything else is a skill. Don’t expect it to be perfect overnight. There will always be ways to improve, but if you don’t make the effort on a consistent basis, you won’t gain this skill. Shannon Binder said, “asking for help is a leadership behavior.” Lean into that now by networking for the help you need and enjoy the benefits!
“My whole reason for creating a network is literally to bring little pieces of light. It’s to continue to spread little pieces of light in the world to illuminate the possibility of the human spirit.” Oprah Winfrey
By Montrella Cowan
Montrella is the CEO of Happy Biz Solutions, a Keynote Speaker and USA Today Bestselling Author. As a certified life and business coach for leaders, Montrella is committed to crushing the barriers to organizational health and wellness. In her LinkedIn Blog Workplace Wisdom & Wellness, she provides practical tools that CEOs, talent acquisition and human resource managers can use to create and sustain organizational health and prosperity.
Montrella is offering PINK community members a free gift to help build your networking self-esteem in 30 days. Email her [email protected] with the subject line Pink30 for this free gift.
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