How to…create a networking group

by 08 Jun 2007

In case you haven’t heard, networking is important. Actually, it’s more than important – it’s crucial.

With the gradual empowerment of women in the workforce, it’s become a buzzword that has integrated itself into the lives of powerful businesswomen, become a catalyst for change and a means through which agendas are set and goals are achieved.

It allows women to share their experiences and create a supportive environment in which they can exchange ideas, knowledge and advice. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of networking:

• You can help think of ways to initiate and achieve future changes and results.

• It will help you set goals and take advantage of opportunities created by change.

• You will be able to empower and inspire others

• Alliances can be built with others to achieve objectives.

So now you’ve seen the benefits of such an exercise, you’re probably wondering how to create your own networking group.

If you’re part of a large workplace, there’s a good chance that you barely know your colleagues across the room, let alone those who work on the floors above and below you. While these workplaces can be intimidating, they also provide the perfect environment to implement networking groups.

With a high number of employees, the chances of bringing together a group of like-minded people and establishing a successful milieu in which women can convene are increased.

Keep it simple

The idea is simply to create a mutually advantageous environment in which women feel relaxed and empowered; so when it comes to planning your meetings, don’t feel as though you need to follow a set of hard and fast rules.

Depending on the personalities and attitudes of the group, you can organise something as informal as regular after-work drinks, or use an office boardroom to discuss a set agenda. You may even like to use a combination of the two.

Make it interesting

When it comes to topics, don’t feel as though you should limit yourself to work-related issues.

Using time to discuss recipes and gossip can be just as gratifying as exchanging tips on workplace skills, mentoring and career development, and discussions of personal interests can help establish meaningful relationships with group members.

Of course, the influence that workplace issues can have on many of us can be quite profound, and so discussions and advice relating to negotiation, time management and work-life balances may also be helpful.

Start building

As your networking group becomes more established, you may like to invite your colleagues to bring along their own contacts or referrals to expand your pool of knowledge and resources.

Overall, you should feel as though you are part of a unique group that can share information and advice in a relaxed environment.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enable yourself to grow personally and professionally while sharing with others the benefits of your own experience and enjoying the support that such a group will offer.

By Di Pierce, facilitator and program manager, Australian Women & Leadership Forum.