Not Your Mommas Networking
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:11
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, welcome back again, Marsha. And we are diving into one of my personal favorite topics today.
Marsha Clark 0:30
Welcome back to you as well, Wendi, and I'm not surprised by the fact because I love that it's your favorite topic for you because I see you do it so well. That's why it's no surprise.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:43
Wow. I don't know if I do it well. I do have, my grandmother always told me as I started becoming an adult and was out in the workforce, she said, "Stop acting like Scarlett O'Hara. Like, stop waiting for people to come up and introduce themselves to you." So we're gonna dive deeper into that.
Marsha Clark 1:05
Yes and I think I also want to just provide to our listeners, it appears easy for you and you're very good at it. And I know that most of the women I know dread the whole idea of networking. So you know, today's title, of course, "Not Your Momma's Networking", because it is in a new and different way and it can be done in different ways. So I'm eager to dive in.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:33
Exactly. All right, let's give everyone a quick overview of what we're going to be covering.
Marsha Clark 1:38
Yes. So we're going to focus on a tool or a worksheet that I've been using with my coaching clients and in my programs over the years. And it's so intense because many of the women coming into the programs are ready for that next level, that next opportunity. And they are invited to a lot of networking events. And I want women to get the most out of those experiences. And I'm also going to share some of the later research and recommendations really on why networking is such an important tool in your toolkit.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:12
Okay, so I'd love to start off with why you think networking is an important talk topic. As you said, you teach this in many of your programs, so why invest that valuable time today talking about networking on the podcast?
Marsha Clark 2:28
So, Wendi, when I think about it, when I think about my own experience, when I hear stories from other people, when I read the literature around it, I kind of boil it down to five basic benefits that I think are important. And one is that you have the opportunity to build some ongoing relationships and we know how important relationships are in being able to perform effectively, manage our careers effectively, look at possibilities and opportunities learning. And so you often meet others who do similar work, have similar interests, or even people that are just really interesting. And the ongoing relationships that you can initiate and then build upon through the networking process can really serve you through many ways. So that's number one. The second is that you get exposure to the diversity of thinking and you do that because you have access to the knowledge, the information, the stories, the ideas, the perspectives, from the people that you meet in networking events that might not be as accessible to you in your typical day to day responsibilities. They've had different life and work experiences, done things different ways and that opens up new possibilities. And everyone who's listened to this for any time knows perspective is one of my big things in helping women broaden and deepen those perspectives. And I think networking can help you do that. And then the third benefit is that you can raise your personal profile. And there's a couple of different parts to this. One, you know that you can pick up the phone or send an email to people that you've met through the networking process and that they'll be there for you, right, because you've connected with them. And sometimes it's not just a hello, how are you, here's who I am, who are you. You've got to do more than that. We'll talk about that as we move through the podcast. But they'll respond. And by the way, you'll do that for them, too, because this has to be mutually supportive. And then with the new perspectives gain, you can also contribute the new thinking in your own organization and which can add value to decision making and just projects in general. So you're you're giving new thinking because of what you've learned or heard or shared, has been shared with you through networking. And then four, you can make and maintain related relationships that can help you to advance your career. That's the real kicker. You know, perhaps your network can tell you about job openings or they can provide guidance if you're seeking or making career transitions. And one of my favorites is they can even make meaningful introductions on your behalf if there's a certain company or industry or role that you're curious about or seeking. And then last is that effective networking can really boost your confidence because you're you learn how to represent yourself or speak about yourself. And we know that as women, that's often very hard for us to do. But because people are asking you questions, you can learn how to answer those questions for yourself. And when they ask you perhaps other questions, you begin to think about what the right or most effective answer is and that, again kind of going full circle, enables you to practice building those relationships to an even greater degree. So I just want to say building and maintaining, as you know, a strong network is something you can read about almost every single day. And a quick internet search can pull up hundreds of resources that are out there. So there's TED talks, LinkedIn learning workshops and many articles on the topic.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:24
Yeah, you know that I am a huge advocate of building a strong network. And it's always surprising to me, that people have not learned the lesson of you're in your job, you're doing your job, all of a sudden you find out you're losing your job, you've been ignoring your LinkedIn network, you haven't been going to networking events or happy hours or conferences, staying up to date on your industry. Basically, you've been in your office in your home and you look up and now when those people come out, and they're all of a sudden all over LinkedIn and they all of a sudden want to get coffee with everybody, I don't understand why it's not just a continuous. . . I don't understand people who just continuously do it. So it's surprising to me, again, when I hear or read that women don't use or leverage the tool of networking, especially as well as men do or as an intentionally and effectively as men do. So what do you think is going on there?
Marsha Clark 7:32
Yeah, there's a lot underneath, let me just say. So you're right. Statistically, women do not network as much as men and, therefore, it means they're not getting the benefits from networking that men do. So I mean, it's sort of a you're gonna get 100% of what you don't do or don't ask for, right. But women in the U.S., this is a U.S. statistic, are 28% less likely than men to have a strong network. And that's according to a LinkedIn article or data from a 2020 piece that Greg Lewis did. And he calls it the gender network gap. And it holds true across virtually every country that he looked at. And you know, we'll include this little graphic in our transcript notes that the women can get from our website. But it's pretty telling. Women around the world are 14% to 38% less likely to have a strong network, and that is one that's both large and diverse. And so there's a lot of good data there. And in a 2022 Chief, which is a women's executive organization, they have a magazine and they had an article that was written by Julia Boorstin on how networking differences play into workplace gender gaps at the top. And she highlighted research that shows that women have been less frequent and avid networkers than men, and they tend to be reluctant to mix business and pleasure. And though women generally have more close friends than men do, research indicates that they're less likely to use their wider ranging personal connections for professional advancement.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:23
Is that what you're finding with your female coaching clients, that they're reluctant to mix business and pleasure, which I guess is how they frame networking?
Marsha Clark 9:33
Yes, so many do. It's more of a social activity than professional activity. So let me just say it this way. My anecdotal experience and this is women in the programs who just I mean you can just see their shoulders drop and the dread come across their face because seeing networking as an extra extracurricular activity and men seeing networking as a part of their job responsibilities is what drives their choices to do or not do networking events. So when you couple that with the fact that (and I'll remind our listeners about this research) women spend about 34 hours per week on on what I'll call home or domestic responsibilities. And when they're faced with this, they're making choices about fulfilling those home responsibilities or socializing with people they don't know and having awkward conversations. I mean at the bottom line that's kind of what the choice points are. And I just want to contrast that a woman's 35 hours on average, men spend about 5 hours on domestic or home responsibilities. So that extra 30 hours. . .
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:40
7 times less.
Marsha Clark 10:42
Right. And so most women see their choice of going home as a no brainer versus networking. So let's also recognize that considerations that this research points out is that for many women, they don't feel comfortable socializing after work hours with male colleagues. So that I mean, that's just another thing you add on to the top of it, and especially if alcohol is involved, and even worse, if there are few to no other females attending the function. And from awkward mixed messages to innuendos, harassment, the risks are I'll say inherently higher for women in those scenarios. And oh, by the way, some husbands and boyfriends and partners don't like that either.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:42
Yeah, exactly. These are all really good points, and all good reasons for leaders to find other creative ways to support networking events that either happen earlier in the day and or don't involve alcohol. So a brunch or a mid afternoon golf outing like at Top Golf or something where it's casual (it's not like a competitive 18 holes of something that takes hours and hours), or Dave and Busters - those kinds of things.
Marsha Clark 12:01
So for leaders that are looking to create and support a more inclusive culture, you've got to consider how something that's intended to be a perk, let's have drinks after work, can become a pain. I will tell this quick story before I get into some of the research. I was coaching a woman and she was saying that her boss, that he had four people working for him, three were women, one was a man. The men went for beers every Tuesday. And she said, "Now I'll tell you, my boss asked me to go with them. But I've gotta go home and cook dinner." It is that simple. So because I knew her boss and I was also working with him I said to him, "Do you understand this?" And he said, "I've never ever even considered that." So it wasn't intentional that the guys were going out for beers and excluding the women. He had never taken into account what her choice points were versus the men see it as a part of the professional environment or tasks to do or career advancement. She sees it as going out for beers in a social setting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:04
Well and when it comes to promotion time those men look at her and go, you aren't a team player. You aren't fulfilling everything in your role.
Marsha Clark 13:14
Yeah. And it was fascinating to me because shortly after that, I was coaching a gentleman who was a single dad and had primary responsibility for his children. He was dealing with the same thing. Because if I have the primary home responsibilities, whatever that may entail, this is going to be an issue. Yeah. So I also want to point out that something else that Julia Boorstin included in her article that's near and dear to my heart, and it's the idea of how uncomfortable women typically are in asking for recognition because a part of what gets shared in these things is talking about what you've done and what you want to do. So she highlights a difference in how women are less likely to use their network and more likely to rely on their credentials and track record when it comes to advancing their careers. So I call this the myth of "Just keep your head down and do the work. They'll know. Right?" And it's a myth. So she shares that 57% of men cited personal connections when asked how they had gotten their most recent promotion. And that's in comparison to 48% of the women who cited personal connections. And I realize that might not sound like a statistically significant difference from 57% to 48%. But what really jumped out at me was the fundamental disagreement between men and women on what seems to matter the most when it comes to professional success. So Boorstin explained that the vast majority of men (and this is a staggering 83%) said that who you know counts for a lot, at least as much as how well you do your job. Now, let that sink in for a minute. Who you know counts for a lot, at least as much as how well you do in your job. And in contrast, 77% of the women said they believe that promotion is a result of hard work, long hours, and education credentials. Myth, myth, myth myth. In my humble opinion, it's part of that great myth. And I hear women cite, you know, if I work hard and do a good job, then "they" (and I put that they in air quotes, whoever they may be) will notice and I'll be recognized through raises, bonuses, career advancing assignments and promotions. So I just want our listeners to hear me. It's a myth! Don't buy in!
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:38
Yep. Right. One of the interesting differences I read about is that women hesitate to network because it feels like they're taking advantage of other people, like they're using them which is fascinating to me because on the flip side, they're completely open to helping others but don't feel comfortable asking for the same kind of help. In fact, there was a report a few years ago written by economist and Professor Sylvia Ann Hewlett and some of her colleagues that specifically identified how women are happy to do favors for business contacts, but they have an aversion to asking for such favors. I mean an actual aversion. So have you found that to be true within your work with women over the years?
Marsha Clark 16:28
Yes, I have. And simply stated, for many of us that have been socially conditioned, and that's many of us, is to take care of everyone else. That includes advocating for others, supporting others and we find it so hard to advocate for ourselves. And we may even be critical of a woman who advocates for herself or asks for help and I just say to all of our listeners, don't go there. She's doing what works, what we've been shown that it works. Learn from her, don't gossip about her or label her. So there's another author, Lisa Rabasca Roepe, and I hope I'm pronouncing all of that right. She wrote about that aversion in Fast Company a few years back and her article was entitled "The Hidden Networking Gap Between Men and Women". So here we are back to that point. She says that women often hesitate to ask for help because they don't want to exploit, so this whole idea of it being having an aversion, they don't want to exploit their network and they're often too modest to ask for that. So what Roepe referenced in a study that was published in 2018, showed that when women seek a mentor, they tend to look for someone they want to be friends with rather than someone they can learn from. So they have different criteria and the priority or the weighting of that criteria is different. And studies have shown that women aren't getting, therefore, the tough feedback, they need to move ahead. And so we all know that the best mentors are not just going to play back to us what we said. They're going to push us, they're going to challenge us, they're going to dare us. They'll even confront their mentees, if you will, to be bold, to take some risks and challenge them to take on projects or have tough conversations that they might otherwise avoid. And another example of how men and women using networking differently Roepe explained that men, on the one hand, look to form alliances. And quite honestly, men are willing to do business with anyone and that means even someone they don't necessarily like as long as that person can help them achieve their goals. And men understand that it's a work relationship, it can be dissolved when it's no longer convenient. So, you know, when you're through with this one you go on to the next one kind of thing, so they're not looking for that long term friendship. And women, on the other hand, are much more leery of capitalizing on social ties. And they tend to over emphasize, what I'll call, the moral aspect of networking is what the study finds about those friendships.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:13
Yeah, and that same Sylvia Ann Hewlett report said that men are much more comfortable engaging in the negotiating and what she even calls horse trading of offering and asking for things. So to men, it's a game. And it's a game that they all play and they all understand the rules and they have no problem with that negotiating and horse trading.
Marsha Clark 19:40
Well, we'll talk about this when we get into a later podcast that's coming up pretty quickly here, but men tend to ask for what they want two to three times more than women. So it's yet another study that corroborates this whole point. And I just want to offer this little personal story. You know, because I travel so much I off got upgraded to first class and so I'm often the only woman in first class. It's changed over the years but still there's more men than women sitting there. And if it's women, they're often the wives. So what I noticed is that men will sit next to each other and before the plane has taken off, they have exchanged business cards and they're already writing emails to introduce someone to someone or, you know, here's what I can do for you or something. Women open up their book, put on their headphones and say, 'leave me alone, this is the only quiet place I ever get.'
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:34
Because of that 35% extra work that they do.
Marsha Clark 20:37
Exactly. And so many times, it's like a respite, you know. I get to not have somebody asking me for something.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:44
And somebody bringing me a glass of champagne, thank you!
Marsha Clark 20:46
Well, and I will tell you too, I mean, I thought it was the worst thing in the world when we got Wi Fi on airplanes because it was like my one place where I didn't have to worry about email, couldn't be connected. So anyway, I want to just share with our listeners one other thing. And that's something that Roepe said in her article, and it really jumped out at me. It's not transactional (this whole idea of asking for or horse trading) it's not transactional if you reciprocate. So don't hesitate to ask someone in your network for help even if you don't know them that well. And again, the reciprocal part of that is just be sure to offer to return the favor. And I hope this helps women who feel like networking is too impersonal or transactional. But if you're exchanging, I'm supporting you, you're supporting me, and what do I say at the end of every podcast, here's to women supporting women. That's what this looks like. It can be a support, not an imposition.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:46
So I have a little side story that I will share now also. I've recently been watching The Good Wife again with Juliana Margulies. I know. I love that series. But there's one episode in one of the seasons where Eli Gold, the political consultant to her husband, tells her, Alicia, the biggest way to foster trust in someone else is to ask them for something. You think that it's to give them something, but it's not. It's to ask them for something. And that is absolutely not a female way of thinking at all. So I just want to like drop that as a little side note in this as we ponder networking.
Marsha Clark 22:32
Well, and Wendi, let me just put an exclamation point on that. If you go back to the trust model that we teach, ensuring mutually serving intentions. And that's a behavior that builds trust. And that's a part of what that looks like as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:45
Yes. So in the tool you mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, you distinguish two different types of networks - friendship and instrumental. What's the difference between those two?
Marsha Clark 22:57
Yeah. So from my experience, I see these two as principle types of networking. And, by the way, instrumental can also be called intentional networking, so that sort of interchangeable term just for our listeners benefit. So friendship networks are more social in nature, right? So I just want to get to know you because you seem to be like a person I'd like hanging around. So it's a friendly exchange. And there often are no asks. It's we might talk about children, movies, sports, it's more like catching up with an old girlfriend. And so instrumental or intentional networks, they're based on exchange of advice, information, business even, and a real readiness to help each other out.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:43
Okay, so is this also based on like, a personal versus professional lens or is that not a part of the differentiation?
Marsha Clark 23:52
So this requires, I'm just gonna say, a more intricate response so stay with me here for a minute, I'm going to offer a couple of points. So first, to share personal interests and stories, as in the friendship networks, that's not a trivial thing because some people are really private and they don't want you to know that side of them. So what I found is that as women age and advance in their careers, they marry, they become mothers, they're taking care of aging parents, all the things that take up those hours of the domestic and homefront. The first thing to go on a woman's list is her self care. She takes herself off of her to do list, if you will. And the second thing to go is girlfriends. So there just aren't enough hours in the day to fit it all in. So to connect with some new quote unquote "girlfriends" through these friendship networks, and they're professional girlfriends, if you think about it in those terms, that's a very satisfying thing. You know, and what do I notice even again, at my 71 years of age, a lot of people go back to their early high school, college girlfriends when they're my age or in my later season of life because now they're having time to do that, right? The kids are out, the parents are gone, you know, whatever that might be. So just don't trivialize that in any way and give it the value that it deserves. And then the second point is that women learn through stories, right. And I talked about that in every single one of my programs. And we give opportunity, we give space, we give time for women to share stories in the program, because it's how we learn. So even though we may not overtly be asking for help, we do get ideas and learn new things by listening to another woman's story. And then the third is that many women find themselves as the only or one of few women in their professional day to day world. So there's some comfort hearing another woman's experience and stories because it lets me know I'm not crazy, I'm not paranoid, I don't need to feel guilty and I'm not alone. And there's great value in that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:04
You know, as you're talking, Marsha, I'm thinking there's a bit of an overlap between networking and having a strong support system like you cover in "Embracing Your Power", your first book, in chapter four. There, you call out the importance of having people in your circles, both personal and professional, who can provide support from a variety of perspectives, whether that's helping provide clarity or comfort or celebrating with you or confronting you when that's needed, and just being there in a crisis. So how does that support system differ from networking, or does it?
Marsha Clark 26:43
Yeah, I think that's a great question. You know, I think of networks as being bigger and broader. Right? My support system is, you know I use this term, my know, love and trust people that I know I can go to more often. And basically, I know, they're going to drop what they're doing to support me. Now I know I said earlier they'll return your call, they'll return your email, but this is 'drop what you're doing, I need you' and so I want to be more thoughtful and intentional when I'm tapping into my network, more deliberate, that intentionality, that deliberation. So let me also say, a person I meet through networking might become a part of that support system, but it's not automatic. So I just look at my support system as my, 'they're gonna love me no matter what'. When I'm looking at my professional network, I want to make sure I'm showing up in the way that I want to show up. Does that make sense?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:39
Absolutely. So how else do gender differences show up in the way men and women build their networks?
Marsha Clark 27:46
This one is so fascinating to me. So for women, when we talk about their instrumental or their intentional networks, they're typically made up of both men and women. So a woman's friendship or social networks are predominantly female. So that's just one difference right off the get go. And likewise, men tend to keep friendship networks predominantly male. But new research shows us that men increasingly recognize the value of casting a wider net in their instrumental networks, looking for what is referenced in this new literature as high centrality, so looking for people who have a wide, varied and influential network to leverage. So I don't have your network, but I'm gonna leverage your network to get what I want. Right? So that centrality is a measure of the influence of a person in a network. And it doesn't matter what gender that is because men are about hierarchical positional power. So it goes, excuse me, it does not equate to the size of the network, but rather refers to the number of highly connected individuals that one communicates with. I can't tell you how many LinkedIn requests I get because of who's in my network. Right. So speaking of LinkedIn, there was an article this article by Greg Lewis, and he explains that men's networks tend to be larger and broader which is an advantage because a wider audience provides more opportunity to be introduced to someone who may assist you with career advancement or even business opportunities, you know, a network with a clear goal in mind and they're more comfortable asking for what they want. And that's again from a 2020 study.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 29:32
So what's the impact of these gender differences?
Marsha Clark 29:36
We know they exist, so, so what, right? So women's ties to men in their instrumental networks tends to be less strong and therefore less valuable. And (women) they derive very little benefit from these weaker ties. And what I know to be true is that for a man to do a favor for a woman the research shows that his ties to her must be strong. And my hypothesis on this is that a man is putting his reputation on the line and even sticking his neck out a little bit to support a woman because it's out of the norm, right, and he tends to believe, he has to, he needs to believe that she's really good if he's going to take that risk. So, also, since women are generally at lower levels in the organization, research suggests that women need stronger ties than men to help counteract the effects of bias, gender stereotypes, and quite honestly contested legitimacy. You know, many researchers refer to these stronger ties as inner circles of a few highly trusted connections who are there to help them with feedback, coaching and sponsorship. So now I want to go back to Julia Boorstin's highlighted study about (this was some researchers at Notre Dame and Northwestern Universities) and their study examined the social networks of successful men and women. And this study reinforced that for a man, the larger his network, the more likely he was to ascend to a high ranking position. Ding, ding, ding, the myth of 'I just have to work hard'. But for a woman, it wasn't network size that led to a professional advancement, it was an inner circle of strong ties to two or three women with whom they communicated frequently, that yielded the biggest gains. Again, women supporting women. Women with those kinds of relationships landed in leadership positions that were two and a half times higher in authority and pay as those of their female peers who lacked that combination and could access their network's understanding of organizations' attitudes towards women, how to navigate job searches, and even negotiation strategies.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:59
So I'm assuming that this inner circle of strong ties with two to three women, I'm assuming that those are more senior women, that that's where the effect is coming through that they're more senior, they've been down the road, and they're helping these women land leadership positions because they're helping them through the pipeline.
Marsha Clark 32:25
That's absolutely true. Remember my saying, and I learned this from Rosalind Dawson Thompson. 'When you get to the table, scoot over, pull up a chair and invite another woman in.'
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:34
Right. So this may help some of our listeners understand why their past efforts to leverage networking haven't really achieved the results that we're looking for or that they see happening in their male colleagues.
Marsha Clark 32:49
Yeah, I agree with that, Wendi. And one of the reasons we're sharing this information is to help women understand the importance of inner circles in networking for career advancement.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:59
I feel like we've set a foundation for why networking is important for women and how their networks are different in nature than men's. So now, maybe let's shift into some of the actual tips and how to's around networking.
Marsha Clark 33:14
I think that's a good idea. We never, we don't want to leave them hanging. This the fact, now what am I going to do with them? So one of the first tips on the networking worksheet, or the tool that we offer here, is that you clarify your objective for networking in the first place. So have a goal and have a plan. And I like how the Surprise, Arizona (Surprise is the name of a city in Arizona) the Chamber of Commerce puts it and when they say 'choose a goal', their point is it's hard to get what you want out of your networking endeavors if you don't start with a clear agenda. So before you ever attend those meetings, virtual events, happy hours, workshops, conferences, take the time to determine what your goals are for the experience. So for example, you might want to make a new connection, or you might want to learn about the latest developments in what's going on in your business or your industry. You might want to understand how certain business transactions came about and what'd you do and what'd you learn, all of those kinds of things. That's setting a goal.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:18
Very important to have a goal in mind for sure. And for those of us who are introverts and think these things are hellish just straight out of the gate, a good goal to set is maybe a number of people to meet and or a certain amount of time that you're going to be there. Like set yourself, I personally set myself a mental goal of something and then once I've met that goal, I'm free to leave. So make sure you're taking care of yourself as an introvert, also. So I think a goal for a specific event is helpful and I would also say to have maybe a bigger goal, or a meta goal, for the networking mapped out as well. Then you know which events or opportunities you want to schedule and make yourself available for and those other like secondary or 'nope, I'm not even going to bother with that' kind of opportunities, you can just stay at home.
Marsha Clark 35:14
Another great point, Wendi. And if I don't know why I'm networking and what I have to accomplish through those networking activities, then it's kind of like the Cheshire Cat in "Alice in Wonderland", 'any old event will do without a plan or a path'. Right. And then I go to it, and it doesn't do anything for me. And I go, "Well, I told you networking wouldn't work." I mean, it's sort of that self fulfilling prophecy if you don't have a goal. So if our listeners, if you don't have a networking plan for this year, here's a perfect time to sit down and really think about what you want to do with that. So, you know, start by looking at your personal and your professional goals. And those can be both long term and short term. Are you thinking of starting your own business, adding a new hobby this year? Maybe there's some specific skills or experiences that you want to add or to deepen and enhance your performance in your current job. Look at your goals, and then begin to explore who can help you reach those goals? And are there already clubs or associations that specialize in that area where you could benefit from meeting those experts, even attending events where they may be speaking, and even some other people that may be interested in the topic that you are because maybe they've learned something early on in their networking, and you can share what you've learned and so on. And are there any conferences you want to attend and check those out as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:33
Such great advice because so many people I know, who don't enjoy networking are usually the people who have to attend random local events with no real targeted goal to apply their effort to and so no wonder why it feels like a waste of time for them because they aren't getting the targeted value from the activity.
Marsha Clark 36:55
That's right. So it's like randomly attending a class without any clarity on the skills you want to gain or improve. It's like, I'm going to go to a, you know, astrophysics. Why on earth would I do that? So it's either 100% hit or miss if you don't have a plan. So another benefit from being clear on that bigger networking goal is that you then begin to see authentic opportunities in unique ways. So all too often we're going to package our networking efforts into these formalized events or meetings. But you can easily, just as easily, have a powerful and authentic networking connection sitting next to another parent on the sidelines or in the bleachers at your child's game, you know, next to them on an airplane. You already have something in common when it clicks that they happen to work for a local bank who maybe specializes in supporting small businesses. And you can more easily ask for even a more formal discussion later on. But this is where that I'm afraid I'm intervening or I'm using my social or personal networks for professional gain, it's okay.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:55
Yes, yes, I'm thinking our listeners who might be feeling a little cringy over this idea of leveraging current personal relationships for networking, you know, that's, that's sort of the point, especially for women, I mean, who feel like they're overstepping a boundary to go from social connection to a more formal networking relationship. And one of the articles that I found really interesting as we were prepping for today's episode, referenced Marissa King, who is a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, and author of a book called "Social Chemistry". She decided to apply the idea of reaching out to what is called dormant ties to connect and expand her network.
Marsha Clark 38:50
That sounds fascinating, so tell me more.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 38:52
Okay, well this concept of dormant ties actually stemmed from the research led by Daniel Levin at Rutgers Business School where they examine the benefits of reaching out to dormant ties. So according to the article, the researchers asked people to make a list of 10 current connections and 10 people they haven't reached out to in two or three years. The participants were then asked to reach out to those people who they hadn't connected with for two to three years for advice or help on a project. And Levin and his colleagues found that the dormant ties were extraordinarily powerful in that they provided their connections with more creative ideas. And what's really surprising is that the trust within those relationships had endured. So it reminds me a little of your know, love and trust circle that's been around for years. And I'm guessing you could reach out to some of those people that you haven't talked to in maybe a decade or more and easily revive that connection into something that's both rewarding and beneficial.
Marsha Clark 40:00
You're absolutely right. And I go back to my EDS days, but then I'll, you know, I'll go back even further than that and think about it. And I think one other thing, Wendi, that this points out. We often see networking as I have to go to some event where a hundred or more people are there. Networking can happen one on one, too.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:17
The thing I like about how Marissa King talks about refreshing or reviving dormant ties is that she makes it natural and organic. And she said that every Friday she writes down the name of two or three dormant ties and then reaches out to them. I mean, it sounds like electronically, with just a quick note saying that she's thinking about them.
Marsha Clark 40:38
So does she say she's keeping it purely social for those initial re-connects?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:43
She does say that for the most part, it's focused on just you know, quote, "checking in and seeing how the other person is doing". Obviously, if you know something important is going on for them, then you can reference that if you've seen a LinkedIn update or something else on social media, reference it. But you don't want to look like you're necessarily stalking somebody, so don't be weird about it, either.
Marsha Clark 41:07
I agree with that. I love that. I have to tell you, there was a gentleman who told me one time that he went to a networking event and he was the quote, unquote, "highest ranking official there" so everybody was in line to go talk to him and all that kind of stuff. And he said, it's so funny to hear how people prepare to have those conversations. So someone came up to him and says, I see your daughter went to such and such college and, you know, I went there, too. And it's like, okay, are you . . . I mean, it's creepy. It's just dang creepy. So beware of the stalking, creepiness. Do your homework, know what you want to connect on, but don't be creepy.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:47
Don't frighten people. So, but then going back, she also adds that there are times when she does have a specific question and she poses that in the initial outreach, something like I was literally just thinking about you and the work that you've done, say, with the Children's Advocacy Center. I'm exploring the idea of volunteering for a local organization focused on supporting children and I wondered if you have any suggestions on how I should get more involved.
Marsha Clark 42:16
You know, that is such a good, good point. If I got an email or a message from someone from my years past or days past asking me something like that, I've jumped at the chance of offering them some connections and ideas. And what I love, too, and what what even your comments reminded me of, when we put out on our social media the things that we're interested in and the things that we're doing, it does give people information on what we're about, where our interests lie, where we're choosing to spend our time and such. And so boom, a dormant tie can be revived. And you're right. It is organic and authentic.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:56
Yeah, that's pretty much what King says in the article. At first, she was afraid those out of the blue messages would create an awkward interaction. But then she said that it's the complete opposite and that people are quite warm and receptive to that connection.
Marsha Clark 43:13
And I definitely can see that happening because there are people you already have some connection with and they love re-connecting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:20
So Marsha, your networking worksheet breaks down four specific steps around skillfully networking, and those four steps are 1) introduce 2) educate 3) build and 4) maintain. So will you walk us through, you know, deeper, what those steps are and what are we doing at each step?
Marsha Clark 43:42
Yeah, because again, this is what the tool is based on. Once we've gotten clear about what our goal or our objective is, then here's how we can begin to build the script, so to speak, or the plan. So step one is introduce, and it's really referencing that whole first impression moment. So I want to remind our listeners how important it is to clearly and confidently introduce yourself. State both your first and last name. And if your name is uniquely pronounced, you could even offer a quick story mnemonic tip to help them remember how to say it. And I would also say be really careful regarding acronyms or what I would call inane titles. You know, I am the junior assistant manager of our worldwide services function, which tells me nothing, versus I'm a global manager in our call center for a suite of our pharmaceutical products. Those are words, phrases that other people can understand and relate to. And I want to say a couple of things on this introduce, and we'll talk a little bit about showing up in attire with you know, you want that to represent your brand, but I'm going to say because most people are right handed, so I'm going to, you know, put that caveat on the front end, but you want to wear your nametag on the right side of your lapel. You want to shake their hand. And if you think about the web between your thumb and your index finger, that stretch of thin skin that goes right there, that's called the web. You want to shake hands web to web and you want a firm handshake, not not a vise grip handshake, and you want to look them in the eye. And if you think about the pump - you know, how many times your hand goes up and down in the shake - it's 1,2,3 drop. I taught this to my grandchildren. They tease me about it all the time. They'll say 'Mimi, Mimi, come shake my hand'.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:40
Come shake my hand. 1,2,3 drop. You know for women, I don't think we have to worry about a vise grip. Personally I grip as firm as I can because I'm not going to crush some dude. I have had my hand crushed, though.
Marsha Clark 45:54
I have, too. That's a whole nother podcast. But what I want to say is the other thing I learned, because I did not know this, many men have been taught not to extend their hand unless a woman extends hers first. That's sort of the chivalrous thing to do. And when I first heard that, I went 'what?' because I'm not a man I never knew that had been taught to men. And so I would often hear women say the man came in and shook every other man's hand but I was left holding the bag. Well, she didn't extend her hand, so he didn't extend his. So be the first to extend it. And there's also the fingertip handshake. You get to avoid that if you go in with the web and the handshake. So you get to say 'I am not delicate, you can shake my hand' and I'm, I'm with you. And so and make eye contact with them. And I know there's some country to country differences with that. But by and large, global business is a look them in the eye, shake their hand, 1,2,3 drop.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:56
Right. Well, I know a lot of the research that we've been discussing here reminds people to come prepared with some conversation starters and your worksheet also references that. One of the articles mentioned, they mentioned how you should try to think ahead of time of different or unique experiences that you've had that you can use to spark conversation, something other than the typical 'What do you do? What company do you work for?' One of the questions he said he likes to use to break the ice is, 'What are you trying right now that's new and exciting?' And I thought that would definitely open up a conversation that would be interesting.
Marsha Clark 47:40
Yeah, I love that. And it makes me think I better have my own interesting response if somebody else read that article and asked me the same question. And I'd want to start a conversation that could lead into a topic that I eventually wanted to get into to meet my objective and that sort of thing. And I also think about things like let's just say you're at a conference or something, and you're, you know, 'I just came from so and so's talk and it was fascinating. Did you get a chance to hear that?' Or 'What were your objectives in coming to this conference? I know I'm trying to learn these things.' So you can immediately begin to, and it is more than the Who are you. . . My name is. . . I work at you know, blah, blah, blah.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:22
True, true. And personally, I know if my goal at a networking function is to find out more about how someone got into a role I'm interested in, it's going to be a long and weird path to go from talking about my latest vacation in Scotland and getting snowed on to the latest and greatest venture capital tool. That's just kind of weird.
Marsha Clark 48:46
That's a tough transition. So it goes back to having a plan and I also want to add to this idea of having a plan. So let's be prepared, if this event involves face to face interaction, so again I mentioned this earlier, your appearance supports and reinforces your goal. Dress the part. If you are looking to reflect your executive presence, you don't wear jeans, slashed jeans with crop tops, right. And I know that's extreme, but you got to dress the part. So we talked about in one of our previous podcasts about the personal brand. And you don't want to dig yourself a hole because again, no second chance to make a first impression, and you're leveraging those connections. So don't sabotage yourself by making some of those choices. And I know in the book Sylvia Ann Hewlett, it came out in about 2015. And at the time, it was "the book" because there wasn't a lot written about women's executive presence, and it was a false barrier about how a woman should look, right. I mean so they were saying, what I mean by that is you're in succession planning conversations and they were saying she doesn't have executive presence, which was because she doesn't dress the way I think she should dress. And it's very stereotypical. And it's often men making those conversations. But one of the things I was fascinated by is she says it is 250 milliseconds, that is when people make that first impression. So this 250 milliseconds, that's the blink of an eye. So in the blink of an eye, we're going to make a first impression without ever saying a word. And so I just want to emphasize that point. And you might not like that, and yet it is true. It has been proven again and again and again and again. So no second chance to make that first impression. So make sure that whatever visual you're providing or reflecting, in fact, reinforces whatever your goal is for that event.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:50
So that's all the introduction step for networking. Next, we have 'educate'. Tell us what's involved there.
Marsha Clark 50:57
Yes, so with educate, we're focusing on creating a deeper, more meaningful level of connection beyond that icebreaker introduction, if you will. And so you want to discover something that you have in common and build rapport based on that. And maybe it's I just saw that your company acquired blah, blah, blah, or I see where you've just launched a new product. So something along those lines. And this is also where you do need to be prepared with some clear, succinct responses to questions, the traditional networking questions of what do you do? And what does your group do or your company do? But here's where I would say like we discussed with branding, find a way to answer those questions in a way that differentiates you. Like, in your case, Wendi, if you're at an event with a hundred other venture capitalists, how do you differentiate Cassandra Capital in those first few minutes of connecting with someone? And you've got to be ready for that. I'm not asking you, putting you on the spot for this moment. But I mean, that's the kind of thing that people need to be prepared. And I think one other important aspect of this step of educating is not just talking about yourself. Remember the reciprocity or the mutuality of that. But you also want to learn about the other person and so asking some creative, compelling questions, both professional and personal. And I often get asked the question, do you lead with personal or do you lead with professional? I don't know the answer to that because I've seen people do it both ways. I kind of think with women, because we tend to be more social, maybe something could help there. But I also know if I'm there for professional and I want to practice my professional stuff, I don't want to spend time on the personal. So I don't know how to answer that question. I wish I had the answer to offer, but I think just go with it, see what you learn and go accordingly.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:50
And I think some of this can come so naturally for some people. But for others, it's a real struggle and probably one of the things they like least about networking events. I mean, it can be really intimidating for some people. So Marsha, what suggestions do you have for those people?
Marsha Clark 53:07
So I'm going to say something that I think might be a little surprising here. And I'm going to bet that most people assume that networking is easier for extroverts and that therefore they are more successful at it. And I'm going to offer a contrary idea that introverts actually, in my opinion, have a superpower when it comes to networking and that they may not be leveraging that superpower. So if you think about it, extroverts love to talk and talk and talk, but they're not always as skilled or mindful about listening and shifting focus to other people.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 53:39
So, it's the introvert's opportunity to ask questions and let the extrovert, you know, let's talk about me, what do you think about me? I could go on and on about me.
Marsha Clark 53:51
Right. So introverts then are masters at listening and absorbing information. So if you're an introvert, use that to your advantage to pick up on some interesting tidbits that are being shared by the other person and then leverage those nuggets, if you will, to expand and find out more about the other person. Introverts typically would prefer that the spotlight not be on them. So leaning into that natural inclination to shift focus onto the other person by demonstrating that you're paying attention and that you're noticing, that you're listening. People always want to be heard, right. So that's like, 'Ooh, that felt good' kind of moment. And I want to share this very personal story. So my husband, Dale, often came with me to the many corporate events. I mean, every night I could have been somewhere. And so Dale was very witty and social, but he was an introvert. So I remember driving home from one of those events and he said to me, "I'm glad all those EDS execs like to talk about themselves. All I have to say is 'Tell me about yourself' and I'm good for about half an hour!"
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 54:54
That's so true. Wow. Okay, so we're at step three, which is 'build'. What are we doing at this step?
Marsha Clark 55:02
So for many people this can be an easy step, and especially when it involves more of that reciprocity and you have the luxury of space and time. So it's not in the moment. You get to follow up on it. And so this step kicks in after the initial introduction and connections that you've made at maybe some event or meeting or happy hour or something. And then the the goal is to keep that connection relevant in this space. So you're going to reach out promptly after that initial meeting and you're going to look first for ways to help them.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:34
Yes, this is one of my favorite steps in the process of building my network. Well, maybe I like all the steps, but this building the new relationship part, I enjoy that phase of it.
Marsha Clark 55:46
Well, and I enjoy as well because it's a fun way to look for opportunities to get creative, how can I support this person, this new person in my world and deepen this connection. And so you might look for an article or a book reference and send it to the person. I will tell you this, people sent me books and because I was a reader, I liked it. But I will tell you, as I got busier and busier, and my job got bigger, send me a summary of the book and I loved it even more. And so you're going to send that to the person as a follow up based on the conversation you had at the event. And the other thing is you can also help connect dots for them and introduce them to someone in your network. That's where I will tell you, at this point, I probably do as much of that from a networking perspective. And it's a warm introduction to somebody that they want to meet.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 56:36
Yeah, I love being a dot connector. Somebody early in my life 20 years ago told me that I was a dot connector. I love that. I love knowing that about myself because it feels like giving and relationship building and building collateral that may end up coming in handy somewhere down the line.
Marsha Clark 56:56
I also think it plays to our feminine side. Are women helping others and not thinking if I can help you first then I don't feel so intrusive, you know, like I'm using you. So you know,and I think, I want to make this point too, Wendi. Not every connection is going to take root and bloom into some sort of amazing relationship. And that's okay. I want to say to our listeners, as I say on the worksheet tool that we provide, be prepared to let go. So if you've initiated a few follow up connections and you're getting nothing in return, just step aside. And it is even in business pursuits I've had women tell me, I never know when to let it go. There's always this perpetual hope.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 57:42
The last thing I wanted to point out from your worksheet, Marsha, is a final tip that you include which is have the courage to speak up and ask for what you want and offer your skills and relationships. You know, that's not inconsequential, a throwaway line on that page. Why did you feel like it was important to add that into your networking tips?
Marsha Clark 57:42
So, asking for what you want and having the courage to stretch beyond your current or established social circle for networking, it's going to give you that diversity of thought and experiences into your networking group. So when we talk about it's an opportunity to gain confidence, it takes courage to do that, right. So the more I do it, the more confidence I can gain. And if I want to stay true to myself, helping another first is going to make it easier for me to do that. And ladies, we all know this. We can do hard things.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 58:44
Yes, yes. So I know we can talk about networking all day, Marsha. So I hate to start wrapping up. But I have two final questions for you. The first is what are your 2024 goals or targets for networking?
Marsha Clark 59:00
So mine's pretty straightforward. Based on my new book coming out mid year, my networking is going to focus on guesting on podcasts because it's sort of a virtual way to broadcast and network, speaking engagements, meeting new women in settings where I can get to know them and book signings.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 59:17
Awesome. And what is your wish for our listeners in terms of them getting the most out of networking in 2024?
Marsha Clark 59:25
So I know this is going to sound flippant, and I don't mean it to be. I just say, just do it. Find a group or an event and just make it happen. Start with one event and use some of the thoughts and things and frameworks that we've offered in this podcast, you know, introduce, build, educate, maintain. Be intentional, and you know, you're one of the most prolific and effective networkers I know. So I know that the things that you've offered in this podcast are very valuable. So I just appreciate what you've been able to share with us here today as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:00:00
Thank you, Marsha, and thank you for letting us all dive a little deeper into this topic of intentional networking. And I hope that our listeners who have had less than positive experiences with networking in the past, I hope that you can go back and listen to this episode again so that you can see the positive benefits of getting back out there, trying again, and now you have some tools and some renewed strategies on how to make networking work for you.
Marsha Clark 1:00:28
And you know, one other thought that just strikes me here. If you hate networking, bring a friend with you.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:00:33
Yes, a woman. Bring a . . .woman.
Marsha Clark 1:00:37
It's the perfect way to end this podcast, you know, in the sense of we love to hear from you. Thank you for being a listener and bringing that friend with you. So here's the connection. "Here's to women supporting women!"
Transcribed by https://otter.ai