As the world connects more through social media, the importance of networking increases. Companies want to hire known entities that will instantly fit their culture, well-known employees experience upward mobility more since their reputation precedes them, and opportunities land within networks to protect against competitors or risky bets.
By its very definition, Networking is connection. Still, the idea of networking raises such anxiety that many women will not participate, limiting their opportunities and advancement. The source of this anxiety stems from some early social messaging that directs girls to nurture and please others in relationships, which directly contrasts against a networking relationship.
Nurturing and pleasing others are staples of building relationships, a strength for women, but networking requires a different approach. Whereas building relationships requires learning about the other, offering advice, and helping, networking is an exchange. In networking, a mutually beneficial relationship is formed in which each person leverages the other.
Women who fear networking are often hesitant to make a request to get what they want. The role of relationship building trains women to be supportive, but networking pushes outside that comfort zone and requires women to self-advocate.
For women who are successful at building relationships, networking provokes anxiety at the thought of the implications; for these women, they don’t want people to think they are using them, they don’t want to be a self-serving person, and they don’t want to play political games.
And this holds these women back; leveraging a relationship causes anxiety for women who feel a committed friendship toward others. An extended time commitment is a key for building a friendship for the foreseeable future, but not a requirement for leveraging relationships.
When you leverage a relationship, you enter into a type of agreement with each other in which you both give. Leveraging means giving for the sake of giving. It’s about giving to one another or giving it forward because someone first gave to you. No one expects an extended time commitment, and no one hopes to delve deeper into the other’s life. It’s nice to keep in touch, but it’s not a regular communication that exchanges personal feelings.
For women who excel at relationship building, they struggle to maintain the networking relationship at this more cursory level. They aim deep and hold tightly as they’re used to doing.
The good news is that leveraging a relationship is a skill, and like any new skill, first you must learn and practice to master it. It’s possible to break away from relationship building to leverage relationships when necessary.
To learn networking skills, the first step is understanding the difference between building and leveraging relationships. Now that you see the key differences, you can move to the next step, identifying your network. Who do you need in your network? Who can you collaborate with?
If networking sends you into an anxiety tailspin, take the 5-minute mini course to get started stepping outside your comfort zone. Find out more about developing your network and leveraging relationships so that you can build the skills to give yourself and others more opportunity and advancement.