The old boys’ club in business goes back decades and even centuries in some quarters, with men following their fathers and grandfathers into family companies and major corporations. They have expansive networks of other successful businessmen that they build opportunities with and through – but what about the women?
Women may not have the same level of historic business clout and connections that men have, but that doesn’t mean they can’t network effectively. Here’s how women can pull together and build their networking skills for community success.
Pay Attention To Your Community
Your community is your strength and your stronghold so it’s vital that you find ways to participate. Many businessmen volunteer with and sponsor community charity events. If you don’t have the financial ability to do this, look for ways to make smaller overtures, such as setting up a table at fairs or joining with other businesswomen to sponsor a team for charity walks. It’s important that your community see and interact with you if you want to build your network.
Foster Mentoring Relationships
One reason men’s networks are so effective is that one generation shares knowledge and teaches industry skills to the next. Young women in business should seek a mentor who can help them build connections and more experienced women should welcome these relationships. Women need to lift each other up and mentoring is a great way to do this.
Use New Strategies
While community-based networking is an important strategy, you don’t have to restrict your network to those geographically near you. This is especially the case if you’re in a small niche market with professionals spread across the country. Use social media to connect with your peers and as well as to boost your publicity. A smart blog and a great Twitter or LinkedIn can benefit your public presence immensely.
Women are known for their relational ability as a group and are generally perceived as better at these types of skills. That can have a negative impact on networking, however. Women need to work together while still focusing on business over friendship. Friends are great and having a few in the same business can boost women’s confidence, but at the end of the day, loose relationships and casual connections are more beneficial in the business world.
All Connections Matter
As business professionals, women need to make their connections work for them – and this includes connections with men. Even if you don’t want to break into the old boys’ club, use your connections with businessmen as effectively as those with your female peers. The old boys’ club is effective for a reason, so don’t eschew its benefits on principle when casual connections to that network can benefit you.