Monday, May 25, 2015

Networking: How Women Do It Differently

Karen August, (Manager of Membership Services at the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce) shares some Networking insight for women...

You’ve probably heard it before, the ‘fact’ that men and women network differently.  But is it true? And what impact does it have on us and our business or career?

“Men’s networks are widely dispersed, while women tend to form their professional networks in the same way that they form personal networks”, says Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, vice president of global academic and research relations for academic publisher Elsevier BV.

It’s different for girls

“Women’s tighter networks are built for personal support, but they often lack the wide reach of men’s networks. Women’s networks also are typically based on trust and first-degree knowledge, with contacts including old friends or former colleagues. Often, many people within a woman’s network know one another” she says.

So, while our typical networking style can produce great results while building camaraderie, mutual support circles, and good business referrals, it has its limits.

It might be possible to leverage your existing circle of professional and personal contacts to meet your needs.  But when you broaden your network you invite new possibilities in.

So, how are the men doing it?

The specific techniques that typically characterize the male approach to creating and building a network are subtle, but powerful.  As women, we can adopt their modus operandi and add it to our own, without sacrificing the obvious benefits our ‘inner circle’ of trusted supports undoubtedly provides.

Men often regard networking as an opportunity to meet new people.  As such, they allocate the resources to make that happen.  They budget for membership dues, conference attendance; for the ‘hospitality’ costs associated with lunches and for the time that it will take.

The best of both worlds

The unique qualities that your close-knit network provides should not be discounted or abandoned. When you are ready to expand your reach and influence, consider these points:

  • You only get one chance to make a first impression so be prepared. Learn some new techniques and then practice, practice, practice.  You might need to employ a coach (or at least a trusted friend).
  • Learn the art of body language and how to make people come to you in the room. Prepare some great questions that you can ask so that you are never stuck for words.  Study effective techniques to start (and end!) a conversation.  
  • Learn the art of active listening, how and when to do the business card thing, and for heaven’s sake – don’t arrive at an event hungry!  Nobody ever made a good impression with asparagus in their teeth.
  • Develop a powerful elevator speech and use it.  Chisel away at a long winded response until it is clean and crisp.  Remember, when Michelangelo was asked how he created his sculpture of David he supposedly said, “It was easy. All I did was chip away everything that didn’t look like David.”  It clearly ISN’T easy, but the effort is well worth the reward.
  • Attend new places and events with a purpose in mind. Make it a goal to connect with one new person, and to follow up with them the next day to make the relationship ‘stick’.
  • Leverage technology. Not using LinkedIn or Twitter, even Facebook? You need to be.  End of discussion. 
  • Make yourself the centre of your own network by introducing people who don’t know one another. Become a linchpin.
  • Adopt a new attitude. Surround yourself with people that you think you can learn from, rather than people who you think can help you.  And in turn, be generous with your knowledge and connections.

The one thing to remember is to cast your net wide.  
Maybe that’s why it’s called ‘net-working’?

Karen August
Manager of Membership Services
175 George Street
Peterborough ON K9K 3G6
twitter @chamberconnects

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