Networking is critical for anyone’s success. But according to Kathryn Mayer, a leading professional coach, networking can be difficult for women because they tend to focus on building a small, but tight-knit network and not on strategically building business networks. To counter that trend, here are 6 networking tips for women.
1. Start now. You don’t need to be famous or well-established to create a network. “When women unite early in their careers,” Ryckman attests, “they’re more likely to steer each other toward promotions and opportunities, counsel each other through difficulties, and ultimately become powerful—together.”
2. Think diversity. Networks shouldn’t be cabals for best buddies—or gripe sessions for fellow employees. The most effective groups draw women with diverse skills from a variety of industries. They introduce women who might not otherwise meet, expand their horizons, and increase their spheres of influence.
Kathryn Mayer offers similar advice on diversity:
3. Filter for relevance and shared experience. To gel as a group, diverse women need to have some shared traits and common touch points, whether related to age or level of expertise. “Similar experiences allow women to quickly build the bonds of trust and loyalty at the heart of these networks,” Ryckman observes.
4. Believe in the magic. Networks don’t need a specific goal or agenda at the onset. They need only bring together women with shared values and ethics, women who are open to aiding others. “If you get dynamic ladies talking or walking or drinking, exciting things will happen,” Ryckman assures.
5. Strike a balance between personal and professional. Networks should address the career-building needs of their members, yet still retain the fun. To achieve the right mix of purposefulness and fun, consider appointing a different woman to lead each meeting. Or bring in guest speakers.
6. Have courage, give courage. Networks push members to pursue their passions. Members should help each other script difficult conversations, encourage each other to take risks, and shouldn’t be afraid to disagree. “We all need friends who tell us hard truths,” notes Ryckman, “but do it with kindness.”
Pamela Ryckman has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, The New York Observer, and The New York Sun, among other publications, as well as websites like Fortune.com/CNNMoney.