Affirmation: “I think women are really good at making friends and not good at networking. Men are good at networking and not necessarily making friends. That's a gross generalization, but I think it holds in many ways.”- Madeleine Albright
You don’t want to attend the event because you don’t know what to wear, what to say or who will be there. You shy away from the after-work social hours because you would prefer to go home and hang out with your family or your true friends. Yet you know in the back of your mind that networking is important for your career. Argh! The dilemma!
To you networking feels weird, uncomfortable or even downright dirty. You believe you should be promoted based on what you do, not who you know. How can you beat the good ol’ boy system if you engage in good ol’ boy behaviors? And in your mind, networking is one of those good ol’ boy behaviors.
Reframe for a moment: think of the last time you were in a conversation and said “I know that Melissa would be the right person for you to contact regarding that issue.” You’ve also said “Sharon would be perfect for that job!” Or even, “I don’t have time to tackle that new assignment, but I know Jennifer would really like a stretch assignment.” How could you recommend these women for these tasks, jobs or projects if you didn’t know them or their capabilities? How do learn about their capabilities and keep them front of mind for the opportune moment? The answer is through relationship building aka networking.
Instead of viewing networking as some daunting, dreaded task, think of it instead as building your pipeline of confident, capable women. You add them to your pipeline; they add you to theirs and voilà! One day you may think of each other.
It happens to me all the time. People say “I was at this conference the other day and the speaker made me think of you.” Or “I was reading this book and it reminded me of something you said last week.” You don’t have to "network", but you do have to build relationships with people. Talk with them at work. Chat with them in the elevator. Post interesting articles on social media. Observe their productivity and comment on their success. Do you have to network? No. Should you build relationships? Every day.
You will never know the direct impact relationship building has had on your career. You will never know the direct impact your productivity has had on your career. But know this: you can’t have one without the other. If you are a great producer but don’t have a strong network of supporters, you will limit your potential. If you have a great network of supporters but aren’t capable of producing, you will limit your potential.
So go ahead. Talk with people. Work hard. Produce great results. Compliment people. Share with people. Be nice to people. Who knows? It may help your career.