Women are natural multitaskers. We usually do a million things at once, and still keep all the balls in the air. We also tend to be the more social of the sexes — touching base with friends, colleagues, and former contacts, and making plans.
So, it would stand to reason that when it comes to business, women would clearly be better at networking than men, right? Not according to a new study from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. They reported that men are actually savvier social networkers than women even in more female-dominated industries, like cosmetics.
Certainly, women executives — and professors like Wellesley College's Linda Carli — will argue that there's a long way to go to close the gender gap that exists in the workplace. We’re still working on accessing that corner office by constantly tapping away at that glass ceiling – yet, we really do need to take some blame on this one. Although women tend to value face-to-face interactions, they rarely tend to be early adopters of technology or spend as much time networking as their male counterparts. Women do have the ability to change that dynamic and become just as effective on the networking circuit as their male counterparts.
Here’s how to get started:
- Start with the people you know – years ago there was a terrific shampoo commercial that illustrated the power of personal connections. They told two friends, who told two friends… and so on…leaving a grid with hundreds of people informed.
- Have real conversations – after an event, it’s likely you will want to connect electronically so make sure the conversation is memorable so when you do make an overture to link-in, they will remember who you are.
- Network where you are – never neglect the power of conversation in the supermarket, a bus stop or with your child’s friend’s parents. One of my friends scored a new client because her son took her colleague’s daughter to a formal dance and they started talking. In today’s digital world, all conversations are “on the clock”.
- Network from your desk – write notes, quick messages and keep those connections fresh. I touch base with at least 10-15 of my connections each week and rotate through the list to check-in and stay “top of mind”.
- Treat your network like gold – don’t abuse your contacts. You are privileged to have them and they can easily be lost if you misstep.
Effectively networking with colleagues and contacts is critical to doing business today.
There’s too much competition, and fewer opportunities than in years past, so it’s important to build your reputation — in essence, your personal “brand” – within your sphere of influence. By creating a wide-ranging web of professional peers, you’ll surely discover new avenues of business you hadn’t known about or even considered.
Women have the tools to become master networkers. We are social, loyal, spontaneous conversationalists who follow up until we get the job done. And, let’s face it -- we know how to spread the word. We may not be as quick to embrace technology, but we do get there eventually. Capitalizing on our strengths and finding the time to widen our circle will pay dividends that will propel our careers, create new and fruitful business relationships and increase bottom lines.
Suzanne Bates is an executive coach, keynote speaker, former award-winning television news anchor, and CEO of Bates Communications, Inc. Suzanne Bates is also author of the best-selling business books “Speak Like A CEO,”“Motivate Like A CEO,”and, "Discover Your CEO Brand" (due out Fall, 2011).