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Career Development Learning

The Power of Expanding your Network

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Humans are social creatures. We gravitate towards communities where we can find a sense of belonging. These communities impact us across our personal, social, and professional lives. If we choose wisely, our communities will generate very positive outcomes for us and those we connect with.

A recent Harvard Business Review study by Yang et. al  found that social networks are essential to the professional advancement of both men and women. Being a central force of these communities can be the difference between rising up through the leadership ranks or staying stagnant.

Interestingly, the research also found that it is particularly beneficial for women to be part of a close social network with “an inner circle of close female contacts” from diverse industries, diverse roles, and diverse work of life. Having a diverse female dominated inner circle leads to varied perspectivesskills, and ideas that incite innovation, skill sharing, and collaboration. I would have to agree.

When women are connected to other women, everyone benefits. As a Director of Business Women Australia I was heartened to read this research. It validates what I often hear – members of our community describing the benefits of professional friendships and the opportunities they enjoy when collaborating.

It not a gender issue though. For all of us, we need to ask how we can improve our networking practices in order to create the best possible circles of support and influence. Yang et al have a number of suggestions including taking a strategic approach to networking: seek quality over quantity. I definitely advocate this approach and have been known to encourage prospective members to join a different association if there is a better alignment there for them. Time is precious and you need to have a clear strategy when it comes to connecting with the right people.

Establishing inner circles can help create connections between multiple networks; fill yours with people who have connections that both intersect with and reach beyond your own. Move outside your own industry and professional groups, at least occasionally, but align with those networks that you can offer value to (and vice versa)!

Finally, beware of a closed inner circle. When your inner circle is too interconnected – the people within it are similar and have similar contacts – it can feel socially secure but fail to generate key insights and opportunities. It can be self-limiting. Consider how to reach outside of your usual circles by keeping an eye on events in your wider business communities – book in, turn up, engage and expand your sphere of support and influence.

I love seeing the diversity and continuous flow of different business women engaged with Business Women Australia. Our aim over the next 12 to 18 months is to connect with more corporate partners who are keen to support fresh ideas and collaboration initiatives.

We welcome businesswomen from all industries and professions in every state to join – details HERE. Drop me a line if you have any questions about corporate partnerships, sponsorship options or membership. I look forward to hearing how you might like to be involved with Business Women Australia.

Until next time … be courageous and get connected.

 

This article originally appeared on the author’s LinkedIn page.