Last week we held our third Women in the City networking event. So today we wanted to talk a little bit about why networking, even for us introverted souls where the thought of voluntarily walking into a room full of strangers is akin to the idea of going to the dentist for fun, is more than just helping us ‘get a leg up the ladder’ or creating relationships with mutual benefits.
The reality is that it can be really, really lonely in the City. Especially for women. Who are, according to a report by Mercer (https://bit.ly/2jZM0cf), always in the smaller percentage in financial services compared to men, across all roles (except, no surprise, support staff, where they outnumber them). When we talk about business life, we often forget that we’re not talking about some separate part of ourselves or our lives. Yes, we might need to bring certain aspects of ourselves forwards in our working environments (and leave some at home) but the fact is that we are all human beings that need connection and support, and sometimes we need a space where we can drop our masks and just be ourselves. The great thing about meeting someone at a networking event that’s specific to our ‘world’ is that they’ll most likely ‘get it’; they’ll empathise with the challenges you face, as they’re likely challenges they also face, and they might just have some good advice on how to deal with it, since they went through something similar themselves. We all need people around us that know our ‘world’; someone who can laugh with us, will listen empathetically while we get something off our chest, and who we know is in the same boat.
Then there’s the fact that networking has been shown to improve your creative intelligence. As Bianca Miller Cole wrote in the article ‘10 Reasons Why Networking Is Essential For Your Career’: “Aspirations and great innovations are most times form the external factors around where we find ourselves. The intellectual ability in different careers is significantly improved upon from contacts we have built with other persons over a period… Likeminded people that have been able to share ideas have strongly developed their intellect to foster growth in their career path and unleash the creative talent in them.” (https://bit.ly/2JR5rzU). Why is creative intelligence important? Well, according to Robert Sternberg’s ‘Triarchic Theory of Intelligence’ (https://bit.ly/2oFetYd), intelligence is broken down into three categories: analytical, practical, and creative. And creativity is important in business because, as the article continues to say, “Creative intelligence is one of the keys to mastering new skills. Using this form of intelligence can most likely outcome in innovative solutions and ideas.” Whatever we’re dealing with, from our next job choice, to an issue with a manager, to how we approach a client’s project, innovative solutions and ideas are key to moving forwards.
And don’t forget, networking is a chance for us to help others. Most of the time we approach networking as the chance for us to get help, but it can be just as much about the help we can give the people we meet. We often underestimate just how much we’ve learnt along the way and we likely have a lot more to offer other people from our experiences than we give ourselves credit for. According to a 2018 Psychology Today article, “Research has found many examples of how doing good, in ways big or small, not only feels good, but also does us good… there is now neural evidence from fMRI studies suggesting a link between generosity and happiness in the brain.” (https://bit.ly/2McW0ZA). Reaching out to others to offer them support, offering them our (often hard-learned!) wisdom; it does us as much good as it does the person we’re helping.
It’s also good practice. For walking into a room full of people you don’t know, and introducing yourself. For really listening to what other people have to say (and perhaps, what they’re not saying). And, if you are a classic introvert or have introverted tendencies (you know, where you make yourself a little bit late to something so you have an excuse to miss it; or you get all the way to the door but you just can’t get any further), then it helps you to practice taking a huge breath and actually opening that door. The reality is that in business – especially in the fast-paced world of the City – we need to find some way to act confident, even if we’re not feeling it inside. We need to introduce ourselves to people we don’t know, even if we’re so nervous we can’t remember our own name. And we need to practice really listening to other people, not just waiting for them to stop so we can say what we want to.
Lastly, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact on us of the type of people we surround ourselves with. It’s often said that we should ‘dress for the job’, but just as importantly we should also spend time with the kind of people that bring out the best aspects of ourselves and that have qualities that we’d like to have ourselves. If we want to be successful, then we need to be spending time with people that are already successful. If we want to be able to approach life with more creativity, then we need to be bringing those kinds of people into our ‘world’. And if we want to be a successful woman in the City, then we need to be around women that are forging successful lives in the City.
So, yes; networking is important. It will help you build mutually-beneficial relationships, and it might help you get a ‘foot up the ladder’. But it can bring you so much more.
Keep an eye on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages for information on our Women in the City networking events. We hope to see you at one of them soon.