The concept of networking can be deceptively simple. So simple, in fact, it would seem natural to assume that networking is pretty much the same for men and women. But is this really true? The correct answer to the question of whether networking is different for men and women is actually no and yes.
It is true that many of the basic philosophies, strategies and tools of networking apply for both men and women, and that anyone can learn to be a successful networker, regardless of gender. But in reality, women face different opportunities and challenges in the workplace and in networking. Balancing career and motherhood, the glass ceiling, and sexual harassment are just a few examples of the unique trials women face. Our networking experiences can actually be quite different from men – even at the same event, within the same organization, or in the same industry or community.
While there is no question that we girls have come a long way in the business world during the past thirty years, we are still far from equal with male counterparts, even on the networking front. After all, they’ve had many generations of the "good ole boy" network helping young men along their career paths.
Women often have different skills, strengths and communication styles than our male colleagues, and that’s okay. In fact, we can leverage these differences for success in networking:
Attention to detail: As most men will tell you, women tend to notice and remember everything! Our ability to keep track of details can be a huge advantage, as we can recall important information such as when we last met someone, her profession or employer, and recent accomplishments or news. Women also tend to be thorough with follow-up, delivery of promised information, or promptly scheduling meetings.
The personal touch: Men can be all business, all the time – and that includes networking. But one of the best ways to make a connection, and to then build that connection into a successful relationship, is by adding a personal touch. Asking about family, remembering birthdays, learning about hobbies, taking food preferences into consideration when choosing restaurants – personal touches like these, which most women do instinctively, make a positive impression and help develop rapport.
Multi-tasking: Networking events and organizations offer a great place for women to utilize one of our most valuable skills … multi-tasking! We are comfortable and experienced in juggling multiple activities simultaneously, so meeting new people, re-establishing connections with existing contacts, hosting clients or colleagues, and expanding our skills and knowledge through educational programs and volunteer activities (all at one event) is certainly achievable. As you set your networking strategy, consider ways in which you can maximize your time and efforts through multi-tasking.
Etiquette expertise: Whether sending thank-you notes, properly introducing people at events, RSVP-ing, or returning a call in a timely manner, women usually believe etiquette matters are important, while men can often overlook them. Again, this is an opportunity to make a positive impression and build a reputation as a high-class professional while networking.
So embrace your natural style and abilities, ladies! These differences from our male colleagues can be advantages and, used properly, can lead to even more success in networking.
Marny can be reached at www.marnylifshen.com.
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is an independent marketing communications and PR consultant, as well as a speaker and author. She provides comprehensive strategy, management, implementation and evaluation of marketing communications and public relations initiatives to wide variety of clients. Marny is the author of Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women, the business category winner for the 2009 Eric Hoffer Awards for Independent Books, released by New Year Publishing in August of 2008. An experienced speaker, she has been speaking specifically to women's organizations for more than ten years, including Women in Technology International, Women in Communications and the Young Women's Alliance. Marny can be reached at www.marnylifshen.com.