Is networking important?

Recently I went to a Lean-in meeting organised by my company and the topic of the day was networking. What is networking, why it might be difficult to network as a woman and what we as woman can do? We listened to a video done by Professor Herminia Ibarra from INSEAD business school and I think what I learned is both helpful for all genders equally. Therefore, here I am with the topic networking…

Why networking important? Networks allows you to generate new ideas, get information and support, and expand influence and more impact on you and your career.

According to her study, people often not focus on having a network because you depend on get things done and move ahead with the career. Most of the time people say they do not have time to network. Of course, it takes time to build and maintain a network but the real reason people not interested to have a network is it is not a top priority as part of the day job and do not know how to build the correct network.

Most people think that networking should happen between people who just click with each other in a more spontaneous way. The risk of this that you ended up networking with people just like you. Same class, same neighborhood, same hobbies. That kind of a network does not give the diversity of information that you need to advance yourself and your career.

Another aspect she described was that we tend to network with people we know for some time resulting a close network. However, mostly the people who we do not know very well or people who we do not see very often who also called as “weak ties” are the people who help with new career opportunities. It is not that the close relationships not help you but they share the same information as you compare to the weak ties.

She was talking about three kinds of networking

  • Operational – Relationships with people at work that allow you to get today’s work done
  • Personal – Relationships of your choosing, popular you like to hang out with informally
  • Strategic – Relationships that help you envision your future, sell your ideas and get the information and resources you need (most important network for career advancement)

Great strategic networks are,

  • Broad – Connected to diverse range of people
  • Connective -Lined or bridged across people and groups that would not otherwise connect
  • Dynamic- Responsive and adaptive, growing as you grow

It is challenging, particularly for woman to build and maintain an effective network. According to her study, men’s work and social work tend to overlap whereas woman’s work and social work not overlap. That overlap keep expanding when woman have kids as then the focus is shifting to the needs of the kids and their friends and families. Woman often weight the importance of attending to a networking event with go home for the kids and attend their homework.

One of the facts she mentioned was to focus on the value you bring to the network than what the network can do for you. With that, you can raise your profile among the network and grow within. Also as a woman who have different priorities in life to start small. May be one event and focus to get the maximum out of it.

Strategies for building an effective network she described as,

  • Engage in activities both inside and outside your organisation
  • Connect through people you already know
  • Focus on and develop the value you bring to your network
  • Priority and invest in few activities – favour active over passive networking

How to go in to a conference, seminar and network? Professor Herminia advice everyone to go in to these events with a curiosity. What you could learn about the people? What could they learn about me? 

At the end of the video ,it was the time to reflect, share and discuss the topic with others relating to individual experiences.

Question: What your networks currently look like? Do you have mostly “just like me” convenience networks? Do you have valuable “weak ties” in your network?

My answer: My network is currently shaping up. I am working on it. Most of the connections I have are  “just like me” “weak ties” mix. {This is where you go “Eh?”. } Well I have connections with lots of testers (just like me) but I am not seeing them very often or talk (weak ties) because they are all over the world. I am sure some of these connections are very strong which helps my own development.

Obviously I have more to achieve. But so far i am happy about my progress. 

Question: What challenges have you faced when cultivating your networks? How might you address these challenges?

My answer: My language, my cultural differences, the fact I did not knew anyone in the UK were few of the challenges I faced.  Blogging, tweeting, contributing to discussions were some of the things I think I have done right. Ah! being confident of me, my knowledge and my experience is also helped.

So, what are you waiting for?

Think what you would like to gain from the network, think what you can give to the network, think of whom you would like to network with and plan. Then review and do the adjustments. Make sure your network grow to a strategic  network and make sure it grow with you.

Simply, Just start!

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