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Networking – The Sports Advantage

For decades, women have been entering the workforce in ever increasing numbers, yet in a Catalyst study (date), 46% of women surveyed named “exclusion from informal networks” as one of the biggest factors that they felt was holding them back from advancing their careers.

Establishing a network is built on informal relationships. In fact, much of corporate formal and informal networking is still tied to natural social activities such as playing a round of golf or attending sporting events. The question becomes: How can women find their place in these accepted social networking opportunities especially if sports are not their thing?

No one is suggesting that women need to act like men or that you must force interest around an activity. But it’s important to recognize that some level of business is always going to be conducted away from the office. Informal relationships will continue to thrive in areas such as sporting events and the social scene, so you must be where they are.

You may actually enjoy playing sports and attending sporting events. If that’s the case, then dive right in! Your colleagues will appreciate your passion and you’ll likely enjoy yourself. At the same time, you’ll be exposed to new a new networking space and make some interesting connections.

If sports aren’t your thing but you are keen to learn or don’t feel like passing up the opportunity to connect, then go and keep your mind open. It’s perfectly fine to admit that you don’t know much about the sport or activity. When participating in the event, allow yourself to be good enough instead of trying to be perfect. And if you aren’t an expert, chances are your colleagues will relish the chance to show off their knowledge.

If you don’t have the natural networking advantages of sports, then focus on creating your own networking spaces. Ideas may include;

  • Inviting a colleague to attend a conference or industry event with you

  • Arranging an informal lunch and inviting some internal and external stakeholders to come together and discuss a topic of interest

  • Ask a guest speaker to a breakfast meeting or screen an interesting TED talk that can be used as the basis of discussion with some colleagues or clients

  • Join a professional association and attend an event of interest

  • Inviting a colleague / stakeholder to grab a coffee or a quick sandwich over a lunch break

  • Purchasing tickets to a concert or festival that is an area of interest and inviting others to join you there.

Building your network both inside your organization and with external stakeholders is crucial to professional success in any industry and role. Even something as simple as sharing an interesting article with someone via email or Linkedin can start a conversation.

It is no longer enough to work hard. Being visible, profiling your skills and success, and building relationships with stakeholders will ensure that you are top of mind when opportunities present themselves. Yes, for some of us it may not come naturally, but we all have subjects and activities that we are passionate about. Find one that you share in common with others and use that platform as an opportunity to connect.

Need an excuse? Why not invite a colleague or stakeholder to our annual International Women’s Day Conference in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in March. With a dual gender agenda both Men and Women are invited to join us in our discussion on ‘Accelerating Change’ in 2016. For more information please see our website.