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Networking for Women

07 March 2011

Preparing my \"Networking for Women\" session at the Women in Mining conference, I am focussed on the word authentic. In my experience women are natural networkers because there is a genuine motivation to help people. The most successful networkers are those that understand the intrinsic sense of networks. That is, that successful networks are built on people helping each other. It's the approach that people often confuse. Some women have been turned off networking believing it to be the realm of the fast talkers, the easy conversationalists, the slick sales type people, the boys getting together over a beer or a round of golf. True, these people may find it easier to gather business cards. However the challenge is to remember the two words \"building networks' and this is where being authentic comes in.

Women have easy access to the two key skills of networking - genuineness and follow-up. Genuine-ness can be found if you consider that in every interaction you are probably looking for some way to help the other person and that gives you the leverage for part 2, the follow up.

If you approach networking events such as business breakfasts, sundowner type functions with this in mind when you are meeting new people, it won't feel as strange as trying to sell yourself - to try to be talking about yourself. It will most probably feel more authentic to ask the other person questions with this thought in mind rather than \" I wonder how I am going to find out if he/she needs a ............ ( service/product) that I am involved in? how soon should l mention it?\"

It does help to have some key conversation skills - especially active listening to try to connect with the person and to find an area where you may be able to offer some assistance or a recommendation. This then provides the springboard, a more natural one - a reason - to ask for a business card so that you can contact the person to give. Always read the newspaper the day of the breakfast or sundowner or other networking event so you have an overview of three easy general topics, say the main headlines on page 1, the lead business story and at least one sports story. Only talk about these in the way that is authentic to you and a general comment is enough.

The real success of networking depends on the follow-up which gives you credibility. Be disciplined.