A Girl’s Guide to Networking
Want to get ahead in the workplace? Perhaps propel your career forward or make the leap into a new one? Despite your business savviness, oodles of talent and winning attitude, sometimes just getting through the door comes down to that simple adage, “It’s who you know, baby!”
Networking expert, Sherry Thacker, believes that solid networking skills are amongst of the most important ones you can master. Thacker is the founder of WENS, a network composed of women entrepreneurs, business professionals and executives.
“Women network differently from men; we like to build relationships and really support one another,” says Thacker. “You do business with people you know, so you are more likely to take action on a reference or referral from someone you’re comfortable with. It’s all about trust.”
Networking provides these word-of-mouth endorsements, which Thacker says are vital to making new contacts and building business relationships. Each planned contact can lead to unexpected career opportunities. Statistics show that 50 to 75 percent of job vacancies are unadvertised, sometimes referred to as “the hidden market.” Qualified people referred by business contacts, friends and relatives fill these jobs.
With more and more women are graduating from universities and accelerating to top-level management positions, as well as starting their own businesses in record numbers, there’s an interest in creating these he-said-she-said career opportunities. Across North America, women’s networking organizations have been popping up in response to the demand. When done effectively, networking provides an edge. It’s an effective strategy for gaining career support, professional guidance and endless opportunities.
One of the most valuable skills you can have, and your route to the 50 to 75% of unadvertised job vacancies.
Additionally, networking is about collaboration, or the sharing of ideas, critical information and advice. Before attending a networking event, Thacker offers some sage advice, “Look the part – always, always look professional. If you’re not sure what to wear, dress up rather than down. Never gossip about people or be negative. Ugh! That is such a turn-off. If you have a smile, you’re outgoing and upbeat, people are going to want to meet you.”
Some typical networking events include alumni gatherings, conventions and trade shows. If you’re looking for a group to join where you can make meaningful contacts, consider professional organizations, industry associations, social and health clubs as well as networking groups. But how do you know what group is right for you? Thacker states that it’s important to have clear, identifiable goals. Pinpoint whether or not you’re at an event to make business contacts, build a support base or development your career. Once you’ve done this, you can make more effective choices about which events to attend or which groups to join.
“If you are in the wrong group, you are wasting time. Never confuse socializing with networking. If after six months you have not achieved some of your original objectives for joining the group, move on,” maintains Thacker.