I honestly don’t know what I would do without my networks. For most of my life I have banded together with other women and men to bring about positive change. Yet for all the good we have done, I feel I have gained much more than I have given. And I have to say, women are the greatest Yellow Pages resource ever. If you want to find something, a place, a service or some good advice, whom will you ask? A woman, of course! If you like what she is reading, or wearing, or working to change, a woman is happy to tell you all about it. Most women will open up to the universe and help just about anyone.

Here’s six reasons why you need to embrace networking

  1. Networking is in our nature. Researchers have theorized — and we know from our own experience — that when the going gets tough, women “tend and befriend.” That’s in contrast to the traditional fight or flight response more often seen in men. Our families are our first and often strongest networks. It’s where we learn how to be good mothers, wives and friends. But, families may be less helpful with jobs, or career moves, or investing, or health care. Where can the average woman honestly share her feelings and find answers to her hard questions? Her networks! If she has constructed them well, they will contain mentors and role models to offer advice on career, education, parenting or any other life skill.
  2. It’s good for our health. Do social ties really improve health? Yes, studies suggest social contact results in fewer colds and flu, longer life, better survival from diseases. Some say loneliness is as harmful as tobacco and that we would benefit from more companionship even if it reduces our income.
  3. There’s strength in numbers. Most networks form around a purpose. My Leading Women co-author Cheryl Benton points to the gains feminists brought to us, and in fact, you and I would not be able to own property, get an education, hold a job or vote if women had not banded together to gain those rights. Networks of like-minded women are priceless and I cherish several. My Psyche Sisters, for example, is a group of fellow psychologists who bonded when we were earning our doctoral degrees. We started out with the shared goal of professional development and have developed strong personal relationships along the way.
  4. Sharing makes any load lighter. We all have bad days when we’d like to crawl in a hole, but we can’t allow poor self-esteem, depression, grief, shame or embarrassment cut us off from the joy of human relationships. Building networks of mutual support BEFORE you need them means they will be there for you in a time of need. I have been a therapist for over half of my life and have found women will love and care freely for others, but they are not so caring of themselves. Women often have a hard time asking for and accepting help, but it grows naturally out of a trusted network, and the person you once helped will LOVE an opportunity to return the favor.
  5. Our communities NEED us to network. Together we can do so much more than anyone can do alone. My mission is to help build a sisterhood of women helping women, and I see other women doing this everywhere I travel. We serve on boards, build our careers, support philanthropies, nurture our families and mentor more and more women. I’m connected to all these women through my networks. My Leading Women contributing author Lois Phillips points out that a woman’s connections to her networks play a huge role in her ability to raise money, increasingly the pathway to political power.
  6. Networking is fun. I believe we are put here on earth to experience joy and to help each other. Some of the most fun I’ve had in my life has been “girl time.” Men are great (they are useful for so many things!) but let’s face it: no one gets you like your girlfriends.

I believe that the hand that rocks the cradle is destined to help rule the world, and to do that we must reach out to clasp another hand. My Leading Women contributing author Rebecca Tinsley named her foundation “Network for Africa,” which tells you a lot about her approach.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller

What steps will you take today to reach out, to help and be helped by another woman?

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life and urges women to connect to help each other create a better world. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker and women empowerment expert, O’Reilly helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families and their communities. To accomplish this, she devotes her energies to fulfilling the mission of the Women Connect4Good, Inc. foundation, which benefits from her writing and speaking services. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on her website.

For more information please visit http://www.drnancyoreilly.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time with people looking for advice about the next steps in their career. Each of these people has wanted something different from me – some have wanted to learn from the steps I’ve taken in my own career and others my opinion on the suitability of various roles and learning opportunities. Throughout my own career I’ve benefited from advice sort from people who had already achieved what I was looking to. Good advice has been essential to my own growth and advancement as well as that of many of the successful people I know.

Mentoring is a personal relationship, a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. A trusted advisor or mentor can have a substantial impact on the quality of our choices and ultimately the level of success we are able to achieve. Finding and connecting with the right person is essential to success. Finding people who are willing and able to share valuable insights and guidance is an important opportunity for anyone looking to learn.

Finding great mentors

While you may be fortunate to have family or friends willing and able to offer quality advice, it’s important to look for mentors and advisors outside of your immediate circle of influence:

  • Talk to people who may know people: ask close friends, colleagues, associates and anyone else you respect to suggest people you need to meet. Ask them to introduce you if they can.
  • Participate in networking groups that provide opportunity to form quality relationships. Exchanging business cards isn’t enough – get to know and build authentic relationships with successful people.
  • Think outside of the square – be open minded to where you might find good advice. For example, it may be your uncle’s best friend who has the experience and insights you need to tap into.
  • Trust: throughout my life the right teachers have turned up at the right time. While it’s important to proactively take steps to find people we can learn from, it’s also important to trust you will recognise new teachers when they arrive.

Choose wisely

Regardless of who has introduced you, use your own judgment about the extent to which you should trust the character and capabilities of a potential mentor. Understand the background of the person you are meeting and be clear about how their experience and approach can help you to gain the insights, learn the lessons or make the decisions you need to in you own career.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process. They sit up straight, focus, take notes, ask questions and repeat what they have heard to ensure accurate understanding. Active listeners use non-verbal gestures such as eye contact, nodding, smiling and expressions of concern to indicate their engagement in their conversations.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process.

Commitment. Both parties must follow through on the promises they make. Trust and respect are fundamental the success of any mentoring relationship and the extent to which both parties invest and commit to the relationship will underpin success.

Leveraging a mentoring relationship well

It’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity that comes with having a mentor. Invest time and energy, listen to learn and follow through with the agreements you make with your mentor. For the relationship to have any real influence on your learning and success, its up to you to take the actions necessary to apply the wisdom you gain.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about anything you need to learn or improve. There truly is no such thing as a dumb question and if the person you’ve chosen as your mentor doesn’t understand that, it’s probably time to reconsider your choice. Go to any meeting with your mentor armed with the questions you want to ask. Don’t allow fear or hesitation to hold you back from asking what you really want to know.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you. So ask for what you need and take what you can get. Know what you want to gain from the time you spend together and make sure you tell your mentor. The more prepared they are the more likely it is that you will get value from the time and energy you both invest.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you.

Be open and willing to share honest insight to your goals and aspirations, fears and hesitations. Only with full insight can anyone be expected to have a positive influence on what you learn and the choices you make. Understanding and influencing the way you think, feel and behave all matter to your mentors ability to play a valuable role in enabling your success.

Have you had any successful experiences with mentors in your life? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured image: Don’t Let Go.

karen gatelyKaren Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.karengately.com.au or contact info@ryangately.com.au


Did you ever go out on the town with a better-looking mate and feel the benefit of their inferred glow? Maybe you were the better-looking mate and felt others riding in your wake?

The same thing applies to your network. Your network is not simply for job-hunting. It adds an extra-mile kind of dimension to how you perform on the job. Bouncing an idea off a credible colleague is more reliable and cost effective than outsourcing the advice. Indeed your network should make up a core part of your development plans.

Who Are Your Network Must-Haves?

Your advisory board of 8 (or so)

Mentors and potential mentors should be your top network priority. Formality isn’t essential, they can simply be connections you can pose a professional question every to now and then. They may indeed equally benefit from your skill set in some way. For broad based development you should be able to name a handful of people you consider to be mentors in different areas. These are the must-have skill areas that most frequently come up as gaps for people in my Exec Coaching work:

1. A stellar communicator. Not just a person who can (as my Irish father-in-law says of my 3 year old) ‘buy and sell the lot of us’, but someone who is able to understand and be understood. A person you can put a particular problem to and hear what their approach might be.

2. A brilliant people manager. Someone who inspired individual performance from the least motivated of team members–perhaps a past boss you reported to or worked with.

3. Someone who lives diversity. These are the people who effortlessly but proactively engage a diverse stakeholder group that embodies participation and inclusion in a non-patronising way. I’d want them in my network!

4. Someone with financial skills. Whether numbers are your strong point or not, it’s likely that there’s at least an area within the financials that you could do with greater insight- it’s worth having someone whose finance skill you trust in your network. Someone who can tell you what questions you need to ask, in order not to fall prey to a skills gap.

5. Someone who can provide strategic orientation. Whatever role you’re in, or heading for, it’s useful-to-critical that you have a strategic orientation. If you haven’t got one, you need a buddy who can provide you with insight on occasion. Worked with anyone who you would say has that? Have a chat with them. Connect. Ask them for some pointers.

6. Someone innovative. To succeed these days, you need new ways to be faster, more productive, more web centric, finding fresh solutions, capturing new markets, retaining loyalty in changing market. Connecting with colleagues past or present who are creative thinkers or great problem solvers is a game-changer. Networking is all about establishing enough of a relationship that if you or they have a quick question to ask, then they / you can offer an idea.

7. Someone who does what you do and does it well. When you’re entrenched in doing,you can do with someone who will give you the advice you would give yourself if you had the time and distance to be objective. Okay, so you might need more than one of these to avoid burning them out!

8. Past and current colleagues. Most of us have a network made up either of friends, or of our LinkedIn-prompted past and current colleagues. They’re fantastic for keeping up to date with what’s happening elsewhere in your industry, so you can hear about trends and innovations. Don’t have time to search through industry papers and articles? Perhaps a colleague had 5 minutes today to read and share something brilliant. Your network is less costly than consultants and less time consuming than industry events.

In addition to being a far more trusted, relevant, up to date source of answers than Wikipedia, your network can of course be a great source of referrals when job opportunities open up. Up to 80% of new hires are sourced through word of mouth after all. Speaking of which, if you come across a good head hunter or recruiter, connect and be good to them – they are your ticket to the roles that don’t go through word of mouth!

Featured Photo Credit: Pixabay

Catherine Nolan

Catherine is an Executive Coach and Director of CN Consulting. Catherine works with business, with individuals and through keynote speaking engagements and workshops to help improve business capability. She has over 15 years’ experience in helping people at all levels and regions globally to supercharge their development and advance their careers.