To help women put their personal networking skills to work at the office, many investment banks and financial companies have created structured, formal networking programs.
"Networking is probably the most comfortable and effective way for women to advance their careers without working 10 hours a day," says Sandra Bushby, director of women's initiatives at KPMG LLP in New York, which in 2004 launched its KPMG Network of Women (KNOW). "Structured networking programs put women in touch with other business professionals in a positive environment that's comfortable to them," Bushby explains. Today, KNOW is so successful that KPMG men are coming to meetings to learn networking skills from the women.
If there's no formal network at your firm, Bushby has three suggestions: Try to meet someone outside of your work area once a week, join Toastmasters International and seek out ways to help others in the community or through projects at work.
Do for Others
Be more of a giver than a taker and at the end of every connection always say, "Don't hesitate to give me call," even if you're junior to the contact, suggests Debra Feldman, a consultant in Greenwich, Conn.
Stay in touch with everyone you meet, especially former colleagues and classmates, she adds. "If you admire someone in your industry, don't be bashful about introducing yourself. The person who initiates the network is flattering the person who's the contact. Most people really enjoy the fact that someone is reaching out to them," Feldman says.
And don't overlook the pediatrician's waiting room or the soccer field, adds Roberta Chinsky Matuson, CCP, principal of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, Mass. "A lot of business gets done on the sidelines," she observes.
Finally, joining professional associations can help build your network. To get the most out of a trade group, volunteer for committee work at the state or national level.