PEOPLE AT WORK COLUMN: Networking

DO you remember the child Dorothy in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz?” Taken by a cyclone out of Kansas to a strange land, she journeyed to the Land of Oz to seek help from a wizard to get back home. Along the way, a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion joined and helped her in the quest for the wizard of Oz.

In the world of management, a working woman looking for career success may sometimes feel she’s like Dorothy. Despite the inroads women have made in corporate management in the past decades, men still hold corporate power firmly in hand in many organizations. For many women, the world of management remains a strange landscape.

In this scenario, working women can follow Dorothy’s path to the Land of Oz. Team up with people who are “traveling your way” or in other words, people who share the same goals or dreams. This is what is commonly known as “networking.”

Men, when they join organizations, automatically belong to a “big boys’ club” where male bonding occurs in various official and social settings. Women are usually excluded from such male networks and are thus kept out of the loop on important information and valuable colleague support.

Good networking can help you overcome this gender gap. How can you do this effectively and with sensitivity to traditional views of women?

A basic requirement is the ability to present yourself as professionally as possible. Observe how successful men and women in your organization behave. In climbing the corporate ladder, it does not pay to stick out like a sore thumb among management people.

Apart from a professional image, be “business-wise and business-brief,” a communication strategy recommended by Janice Reals Ellig and William J. Morin, authors of the book, “What Every Successful Woman Knows.” Being “business-wise” means knowing thoroughly your company’s business and your own. On the other hand, being “business-brief” means getting your message across as concisely and as objectively as possible.

Mingle and get to know as many people in your organization as possible by volunteering in ad hoc committees or task forces. In this way, people get to know you as a colleague who they can count on for support. In turn, you get to see who in your organization can help you in your projects. Share your goals at work with as many of your colleagues as you can and ask them to share theirs too with you. By doing so, you can discover ways to help each other succeed.

Unfortunately, there are people in organizations who don’t take advantage of the natural bonds in an organization to “synergize.” “Turfing” or office politics act as “blinders” for these people who keep to their own departmental priorities. In this case, look for people outside the organization who can support you and whom you can support. These people may be from the same industry, professional associations, community or previous companies you’ve worked in.  Like Dorothy’s friends, the tin man, scarecrow or lion, what matters is that you share the same dreams.

To assess whether or not you should network with this person, ask, “Is he/she traveling my way?” If yes, it will pay to team up or build strategic alliances with him/her and the organization he/she represents. You’ll be surprised to find out that sometimes, it is people outside your organization who give the best support for your dreams.

Dreams are valuable ideas waiting to happen. Dreams don’t cost anything but people can steal them from you by not supporting them.  But don’t let go of your dreams for once realized, they become valuable assets. The road to turning your dreams to reality, your vision to action, is a twisted one. Good networking will make the journey faster.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Published in Metro Working Mom July 2002.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

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