Home > Career Advancement, Communication, Job Hunting, Networking, Women > Tips on effective networking for women

Tips on effective networking for women

I had the opportunity to be involved in a couple of women initiatives recently, and I realized how frustrating and confusing the whole experience of networking may be to some women. Today I’d like to write about how to effectively network as a woman, and as a young professional, especially in industries most likely still dominated by men.

 

Forget about emotional connection for a second

One of the most important difference between how men and women network which I recently discovered is that men connect with each other instantly from a networking perspective, while women tend to connect first from an emotional angle, which could be a powerful thing in a longer-term oriented relationship, but not necessarily effective in a social setting. Many times after a conference or gathering event, men will walk away with business cards, and a list of names he can contact for his new business idea or who will help to advance his career or to land his next job; while women might walk away only to discover she spent most of her time talking about food, clothes, recent movies, or even kids, and she still doesn’t know too much about the other person she just spent 20 minutes with!

There’s a recent article on BNET on the right mindset of networking: to perceive networking as a skill not a task, which means you should develop your networking skills quite consciously. Given that mindset, it will be easier to talk to a total stranger in a more efficient and effective way (and not feeling awkward) when you start asking questions about his/her career, ambitions, recent development, long-term plans, suggestions, how to get there, etc. Most importantly, try to walk away with “how you can help them do better in what they do” as well as “how they can help you do better in what you do.”

Again, note that I am not saying connecting in an emotional way is not good.  It can be extremely helpful as well but I believe for the purpose of networking, it should come AT A LATER STAGE when you really get to know the other person in a professional way. If you start off connecting in an emotional way, the other person might always view you as someone who can talk to when he/she has a new baby, or buying a new house, or getting into a new relationship, but not as someone whom they would consider for a new job opportunity (there’s nothing wrong to be aggressive about this when you are IN A NETWORKING environment already).

 

Find a good tag line to reach out regardless of title and position

Many ladies especially young professionals are afraid of reaching out to senior executives (check out the glass hammer for an amazing collection of insightful advices and community of women leaders), because they are afraid that people in a position that high-up will not have time for you and they might be super critical and judgmental on whatever you do or say. As a matter of fact, all the MDs that I have reached out to both inside and outside of the firm have been overwhelmingly helpful and approachable.

The secret is? FIND SOME KIND OF CONNECTION before you reach out to them, do your homework and find your own niche (or how to tackle barrier to entry!) It may develop from an alumni connection, it may be the case that you worked with the MD before (even briefly), or it may be some side-project that you have been working on very much related to the other person’s expertise. Find a good tag line and write a short email so you can lock up 15-30 minutes of his/her time to sit down to chat.

Your email may be ignored, but if you position yourself good enough most likely they will be flattered to receive such requests. In one of the recent meetings I had, the MD started giving me valuable advices on career development even before I asked for it, and he basically just signed up himself to be one of my mentors and gave me a couple of other names whom I should reach out to. Even if they don’t have time to meet you any time soon, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. If anything, they will remember that you did reach out to them proactively and that’s definitely a positive.

 

Develop a well-rounded network and avoid becoming extreme feminist

YOU DON’T HAVE TO become an extreme feminist to be able to represent your gender well and to be successful in whatever you choose to do. Yes women are still largely under-represented in the boardroom (the most recent data from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is that women partners represent 17% of their partners while the data from Goldman Sachs is 13%, while female graduates from advance degrees in both law and finance have gone so much beyond that number), but to me personally that is not my problem, not at this point of my life.

You might not agree with me on this and it’s perfectly okay but as a young professional I do not believe this is something we should be focusing on at this point of our lives. I am inspired and motivated by many feminists in this world but I like men too, seriously. I like working with men and I see a lot of value in a diversified culture. I would focus much more on achieving a balanced personality and well-rounded skills before advocating for something bigger than myself.

Even if you do want to represent the voice of women and you thrive for equality of opportunity (which I respect wholeheartedly), it is important not to lose sight of what men can bring to your life and career as well. Men can become your most important mentors and sponsors and they are invaluable to whatever you choose to do. It would be a shame to lose connection with them if you focus ONLY on your own gender issues.

Finally, let me suggest a few women network/organizations which may help you to connect with like-minded ladies and to share your ambition and passion.

85 Broads

Definitely one of the most well-known women network with a strong membership base with top universities and large corporations. Janet Hanson (founder and CEO) is such an inspiration), and I’m working with her on potentially partner up with WIN BlackRock, we’ll see.

Womensphere

Very powerful women network connecting both professionals and students, their Global Summits (I attended their most recent one this past weekend, amazing line of presenters) are prestigious in the industry and they really aim at “transforming the world”.

The Forte Foundation

If you are thinking about business school, this is THE network you should be part of!

What do you think of the suggestions I have shared above and anything new you’d like to add?

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  1. Crunchykapo
    January 26, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Thanks for the advice! This is very helpful.

    • January 26, 2011 at 12:59 am

      I am glad you found this helpful. let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. Lizzy
    January 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t know if you’ve ever been in my situation before but my networking experience isn’t exactly the same with yours. I had no problem connecting on a professional level when I first get to know them, and I totally agree with you that you eventually want to connect on a personal level and that’s how you create a stronger bond. My problem is sometimes a handful few I reached out to might want a much too deep connection. Maybe it’s just me.

    I saw your previous post and I guess you are among the few book readers like myself. Gilt city is promoting this deal, bookswim, a book rental website. You may wanna check it out. We can read our favorite book and save some trees by not purchasing one.

    • January 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      Hey Lizzy, your experience is interesting. Actually if I were you I would probably take it positively because those YOU wanted to reach out to DO want to spend more time with you, get to know you more as a person, and connect in a more profound way! That definitely speaks a lot about your personality and I think it’s a good thing. But I also understand where you are coming from and I want to reassure you this is still a situation you can make an effort to control, tailor and shape. If the connection gets too deep to a degree that you are not comfortable with, meet up less frequently, have a few explicit objectives you want to achieve every time before your meeting, and instead of meeting up for dinners/drinks, suggest getting together for afternoon coffee or quick lunch which are usually not as time consuming. As long as you truly respect how you really feel about a certain situation, you’ll always work out some ways around it. Make sense?

      And yes, thank you so much for pointing out about bookswim. it sounds like a brilliant idea. I’ll definitely check it out. Have fun reading too!

  3. January 29, 2011 at 4:21 am

    i added your blog to my stumbleupon account.also i emailed this post of yours to a couple of friends of mine.

    • February 2, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Nice! I appreciate it. I’m happy you are sharing this with others. Let me know if I can be of any further help.

  4. February 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make an excellent article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and not at all appear to get something done.

    • February 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Thank you dear. Yes it takes time and a lot of effort. If you have more important things to do in your life, it’s understandable to prioritize those first. But if one day you decide to write more and this is something that really excites you, you will do it!

  5. February 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing challenge with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss drawback? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  6. February 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm

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  7. April 3, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks for this, Danye. I’m also in finance, on the other end of the country presently. Added your weblog to my feed delivery.

    • April 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      Glad to know this is helpful Hasan, let me know if there are any other topics you would like me to write about 🙂

  8. November 13, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Your website is fantastic. Actually I am in a very awkward situation in U.S. about my work, life, especially in social networking. I can find a lot of suggestion here.

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