Imagine a business luncheon, with men and women professionals mingling about.
One woman is at the table chatting with a hiring director about their shared love of traveling; another man is in the corner talking with the president of an IT company about his skill set and experience.
Both of these professionals are looking for new jobs, but which method of networking is more efficient?
According to a recent North Carolina State study of 12,000 employees nationwide, men were often recruited into a new job through their social contacts without having to look for a job, while women were no more likely to find a job through professional networking than they were through a formal job search.
This disparity can impact women in the workplace as they strive to obtain leadership positions. The study noted that high-wage managerial jobs are often filled through an informal recruitment process that appears to favor men. According to the article, “We need to learn more about exactly why women don’t get the same benefits from their social connections that men do.”
Men Take the Straight Shot; Women Take the Roundabout Route
Perhaps it’s because women and men have different styles when it comes to networking.
For instance, according to Forbes, men thinking of networking as “a straight shot.”
“A man thinks, ‘Who do I know who has what I need right now?’ (could be a job, investment tip or tickets to the game) and then he asks for it,” according to Forbes.
Women, on the other hand, have a more nuanced approach when it comes to networking, which Forbes calls the “roundabout route.” Women attempt to build connections and friendships in hopes of forging long-lasting relationships – rather than pointedly ask for a job, promotion or raise. In fact, according to Randstad’s latest Engagement Study, the top three leadership qualities associated with women include listening skills (39 percent), empathy (33 percent) and relationship building (31 percent) – which pretty much describes the “roundabout route.”
Tap Into Networking Power
According to the BBC, building informal networks are crucial for success, and in order to close the gender gap at the leadership level, women need to learn how to form and utilize these key connections. According to the article, many women shy away from informal networking because they “value authenticity in relationships.”
"Sometimes the notion of meeting someone and then looking to them for help, or advice, or contacts in business, often feels just a little uncomfortable,” according to the article. “Men seem to do it much more naturally."
So how can women tap into the power of networking? Forbes offers these tips specifically for women hoping to enhance their networking skills:
- Be Genuine: Show your interest in the people with whom you are networking
- Get Involved: Get involved in organizations, both professional and non-work-related
- Go Online: Sites such as 85 Broads and The Glass Hammer provide online networking opportunities
- Find Mentors: According to Forbes, “A successful woman will likely have three to five mentors throughout her career.”
- Invest Your Time: Networking requires multiple encounters to build solid relationships. Make sure to follow up and stay in touch with your contacts.
While many of these tips seem to be simply common sense or intuitive, the nature of the business environment for women today means that an extra level of conscious effort in these areas is in order.