If you are like many people, the thought of heading out to networking events gives you the heebie jeebies. It's far easier to find great reasons not to go!
- "I've got too much work"
- "I need to pick up the kids"
- "I'm tired/it's raining/it's cold"
- "I don't drink and networking events always involve alcohol"
- "I just stand in the corner and feel stupid anyway"
- "I'm one of the only women and feel uncomfortable"- or perhaps
- "I've been to lots of women's only functions but the quality of the networking is not at the right level for my career"
I hear you. Finding the right time, the right place, the right audience and the right network can be challenging.
But don't let that stop you.
Research tells us that those who have great networks are the ones getting ahead far easier.
You might remember last month me sharing Shawn Achor's recent research on the benefits of attending Womens Conferences - where attending (and implementing)
- Doubled your chances of getting a promotion and
- Tripled your chances of receiving a raise of 10% or more.
I personally also recommend mixed gender networking events in the mix, because as someone who has hosted more conferences that most people have had hot dinners, I've witnessed heaps of manoeuvring, partnership creation and opportunities opening up for attendees who got out of their comfort zone and networked. Bold, hairy, audacious moves to the rescue!
But wait, there's more!
Just last week, HBR published an article that stated that CEOs with diverse networks create higher firm value.
"Diversely networked CEOs generated an approximately sixteenfold firm market value increase relative to their compensation." ~ HBR, April 2010
Yes that's right. Diverse networks - breadth, not necessarily depth.
Put that together with what is already well known - that "firms with better-connected CEOs can obtain cheaper financing, and firms with well-connected board directors see better performance"and you begin to see that networking is not just great for you and your career, it's also great for the divisions you lead and the organisations you work for.
Picture this ....
At one end of the networking spectrum there is Nigella No-friends. She's busy. Give Nigella something to do, and she does it. Well!
Nigella is incredibly conscientious, diligent, works hard, and pushes the proverbial uphill. She is reliable and available - and doesn't have time or energy to invest in strategic networking.
Then at the other end of the spectrum is Garry (name changed to protect the innocent).
Now Garry is the CFO of an ASX listed organisation and I affectionately name him Gantt Chart Garry. Because he takes the notion of strategic networking to a whole next level by running a Gantt Chart on his professional networking activity. Not only does he schedule his activity over several years but he also ranks his network on their net worth, how helpful they have been, and tracking where and when he last saw them, what was discussed and how helpful they may be in the future.
Yes he exists.
And yes, he is incredibly successful in his career.
And if the research on the value of strategic networking is true, then he is also incredibly valuable in the C-suite of the organisations he works for. This approach helps him deliver better results.
Now I'm not saying for a minute that we all need to go out and set up a CRM or Gantt Chart for our networking strategy.
There's probably not a lot of room in that approach for emotional intelligence, intuition and ad hoc encounters.
But somewhere in between Nigella and Garry, there is a strategy or plan that's right for you.
A sweet spot that enables you to balance a heavy workload, family obligations, your career and leadership aspirations along with your discomfort with networking.
And ... that's why I love LinkedIn so much. But that's a story for another day!
► So what helpful tactics have you found to get out of your comfort zone help you network more effectively?
► Drop me an email and let me know what works for you. Because your ideas might be just the thing that help someone else springboard more effectively in the future!