According to recent headlines, one of the reasons women don’t rise to the top of organizations is that we don’t network effectively. Wonderful. One more things to add to the list of things I don’t do well. Add to that the news that women lack self-confidence and don’t negotiate, I guess I’m lucky I get out of bed in the morning. But hold on. The name of my company is The Right Reflection because too often, all of us – but women especially, have a distorted view of themselves and that view is often negative.
So maybe we’re not so bad at networking. It’s true many women view networking events as one more item on their to-do list. They seem self-serving, false, and awkward. I prefer to think of networking as “visiting,” and all of us know how to visit. And rather than thinking of networking as an event, think of visiting as an approach to how you go through your day. Whether you’re sitting next to other parents at your son’s soccer practice, talking to the banker who’s helping you open an account, or volunteering at your favorite non-profit, be curious about the people around you. I know it’s tempting to jump on Facebook or finish your 500th game of Candy Crush, but look around. The people in front of you all have jobs, lives, connections, interests. Strike up a conversation when there is no expectation of getting anything in return. You never know what connections you’ll make. If you can help someone out, do so.
There’s a wonderful book by Adam Grant called Give and Take where he divides people into three categories: givers, takers, and matchers. Givers give with no expectation of anything in return; takers take and matchers will give but expect a quid pro quo in return. I think the reason most of us balk at the term networking is we feel it is a matching behavior. If we view networking as a giving activity, it’s much easier. And according to Grant, givers are much happier and more successful in their lives and careers.
I often tell young mothers the best networking they can do is with the parents of their children’s friends. There will come a time when you have to stay late at work for a meeting with your boss and can’t get there to pick up your child. Having other moms on speed dial can save your career. And of course, you’ll do the same for them.
Hmm…maybe I’m not so bad at this networking thing after all.