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Make networking a habit

| Tuesday, December 7, 2021

If you’re a student in Mendoza, chances are you’ve heard over and over again how crucial networking is. Our professors are not wrong: networking has proven time and time again to be the number one rule of success in business. As crucial as networking is, research has highlighted a pattern we see often: networking is harder for women than men. 

Unfortunately, there are fewer women in positions of power, making it difficult for women to get introductions, receive referrals and find sponsors or mentors. In “Why strategic networking is harder for women” for the World Economic Forum, Herminia Ibarra writes, There is a bit of a chicken and egg problem to surmounting these networking hurdles, as they stem not from women’s personal styles but from the scant numbers of the women in power positions, and those numbers are only changing at glacial speed.” 

For starters, it takes longer for women to find common ground while networking, making this cultivation of relationships feel less spontaneous. Functional and hierarchical differences are now joined by gender differences thus making the challenge threefold. 

“My problem,” said Anna to the World Economic Forum, “is getting to know the guys two levels above, my bosses’ boss and his peers. We just don’t have many occasions to meet and when we do, we just focus on the task at hand. I’m not really getting to know him, and he certainly isn’t getting to know me. But, to break through to the next level, I have the sense that they have to know and like me.”

Another interesting finding that Ibarria shares is the fact that women’s work and social networks tend to overlap less than men’s. As part of her research, Ibarria asked people to list the contacts they turn to for important work matters and then to list those with whom they hang out outside of work. This exercise revealed that men often have some of the same people on both lists – they’ll play golf, watch a sporting event or go for dinner with some of those work contacts. However, women are more likely to have two separate lists.

Participating in conversations about important work matters outside formal meetings creates camaraderie and increases trust. This is why I’ve compiled a list of the best advice I found online to transform networking from a tedious challenge to a regular habit you enjoy. 

1. Stop saying networking.

Networking seems like a rigid chore one has to complete. However, if you reconfigure what you think of when you hear the word “networking,” you’ll realize that “networking” really means meeting new people who most probably work in the same industry. In normal parlance, this is called “making friends.” Already sounds better, right? 

2. Start internally.

Look around you in class, at club meetings, at networking events, at your internships … You are surrounded by talented people who can not only help you grow your network in size but also in depth and richness. Sometimes even your classmates’ parents can be a great starting point to connect with people in your intended field. Sometimes the people you reach out to internally may not be able to provide insight and advice about how you can improve in your specific role, but they likely have skills and contacts that you could benefit from.

3. Introduce yourself to your heroes.

This in no way means that Michelle Obama and Elon Musk are going to return your calls or respond to your messages/emails (okay maybe if you’re just insanely lucky, they might, but that’s not the point of this), but a professor at Notre Dame whose career path inspires you or a manager with an exciting background at the company you interned for. He or she will most likely write back and more importantly will provide some valuable future insight and mentorship. 

4. Develop a networking ritual.

Networking is a lot like working out. At first, it’s hard to get started. It can even feel very intimidating. But if you intentionally create a ritual to cultivate this new habit, it will eventually feel more natural and the chances of you sticking to this new habit also increases.The same applies to networking. You could start by reaching out to new contacts first thing when you walk into the office or sending emails on Monday to five contacts asking if they can join you for lunch or coffee this week. Push yourself outside your comfort zone to not only build a ritual that broadens your network but also one to hold yourself accountable. 

Remember, strengthening your network doesn’t happen overnight. But you can make choices today to build relationships that have value for the long term. Think of how to embed networking into daily work, such as volunteering for a new project, scheduling one-on-one meetings, asking connections for introductions or acting as a mentor. Invite others into your realm, even if just making time for a brief conversation before or after a meeting. Socializing outside of work, having lunch with people not in your “inner circle” and referring a person to someone else — being a connector — are all great habits to start building. With that I say, happy networking!

Krista Akiki is a junior living in McGlinn Hall, majoring in business analytics and minoring in computing and digital technologies. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and moved back to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate degree. She loves learning new languages, traveling and of course trying new foods. She craves adventure and new experiences and hopes to share these with readers through her writing. She can be reached at [email protected] or @kristalourdesakiki via Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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