The most recent Women’s Leadership Initiative session included a presentation about networking by Joy Johnson, co-founder of GrowthMindset (growthmindset.com). She began by establishing that nearly everyone in the group has a negative reaction to the idea of networking; the pervasive view is that many people approach it as “how can you help me?” One participant observed, “I don’t want to be seen as a user — someone who just uses other people to their own advantage.”
Joy showed us that a better way of looking at networking is as the process of building trust. Networking should be about finding connections, building on those links,and establishing a relationship that will be a foundation for working together in the future. In my mind, this is similar to the relationship-building that is such an important part of donor cultivation and legislative support. Having created the relationship before asking for help is critical.
In discussing the “unwritten rules of career advancement,” Joy also noted the top six actions for career development. Not surprisingly, the ability to network was number one. The next most important activities, in order, are being visible, having a good understanding of office/corporate politics, communicating effectively, performing well, and finding a mentor or sponsor. She tried to dispel the myth that “If I just work hard, people will notice and I will be rewarded.” Networking can be an effective way to share one’s focus, experience, and brand.
And to build trust, as well. It’s a great foundation for future relationships.