A 2017 McKinsey study found that the number of women in leadership positions shrinks as females get closer to the top. One explanation could be that men apply for jobs for which they have only 60% of the qualifications while women apply only if they have 100%. Women, therefore, have fewer ‘at bats’ to score a leadership position and – because they have decided they are unqualified for a role – they rarely share their advancement desires with others.
As Kim Bohr – CEO of The Innovare Group – put it during the April Women Lead Webinar, Intentional Networking for Strategic Advancement, “This is a form of our own unconscious bias toward ourselves and our perceived abilities, and it is why the corporate pipeline looks like it does.”
Solution: An intentionally diversified strategic network
Bohr’s recommendation for women is to develop what she calls an “intentionally diversified strategic network” – which includes the following traits:
- Quality over quantity
- Solid gender mix
- 70% of mix comprises professional contacts of varied career levels
- Contacts who work in adjacent or partner organizations
This type of network, once built, “is ready when you need it,” Bohr says, adding that it is beneficial because it allows people to gain more control over career opportunities and to feel more grounded and prepared for career and life.
To build it requires four actions:
- Research a need;
- Construct a plan;
- Target a person and make a specific ask; and
- Cultivate and nurture relationships while you do all of the above.
Bohr notes that this definition of networking is atypical, and she says, “Our work here is to shift a perception of networking and make it worth our time and align it with the career goals we have.”
How to create an intentionally diversified strategic network
Bohr offers a nine-step roadmap for building an intentionally diversified strategic network. The nine steps fall under three broad buckets: Assess, Align, and Accelerate.
Assess means to review your current network ecosystem and analyze the gaps by figuring out what is missing from the overall mix. By taking an inventory of your social or alumni networks, for example, you can focus on areas where you need to strengthen connections.
The next sequence is to Align efforts to create diversification by taking specific action steps. In other words, make a plan and get started! Determine the request you want to make of someone, always keeping in mind the four essential Cs:
- Be concise
- Be courteous
- Be clear
- Be complimentary
Bohr recommends being very specific when reaching out and making a request of someone. Otherwise, she says, “You won’t paint a broad enough picture for others to direct you to the right place.”
The final steps will help to Accelerate your connections strategically by paying it forward and contributing something to others’ advancement. Ask the people you reach out to how you can return the favor and help them.
If you listen to the recording of this webinar, you can:
- Understand the nine steps in more detail
- See examples of networking requests
- Hear the insightful Q&A session
- Learn how to get a complimentary download of Bohr’s networking ecosystem planning worksheet
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