Think alliances rather than networks. It’s a cliché: get out there and build your network because it is your launchpad. Like all clichés, it holds a grain of truth—but, as always, the devil is in the detail.
In the workplace, all networks are not equal. Women seem particularly good at building deep but narrow networks built on longstanding relationships. In that sense, they are very similar to friendships. By contrast, the male approach to networking in business is much less intense— one could say their networks tend to be broader and less deep.
Not really like friendship at all.
I often tell clients to think of networks in terms of alliances more than anything else. These alliances are distinguished from friendships, and are clearly seen to be for mutual benefit. Because they are not deep relationships, they require little active maintenance—they are there, waiting to be used when needed.
These alliance networks can be incredibly helpful in finding new contacts, identifying new opportunities and locating specific skills needed for a particular project. Women need to cultivate the ability to reach out more to people they do not know well but who can help them. You could argue that business networks are actually help networks more than relationship networks and, as such, they have a key role to play.
Everybody needs help, but one needs to ask for it. Ask and you shall receive, doesn’t the Good Book say—just be prepared to yourself be asked.
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