Networking is a key but often over-looked skill for women in business.
According to recent research from the Alison Rose Report 2019, despite a third of women recognising its importance, women are less likely than men to know other entrepreneurs or to have access to sponsors, mentors or professional support networks.
Not only can networking open doors for business opportunities and growth, but it can develop trust, build confidence and encourage innovation opportunities.
Here Zoe Jones, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Specialist at Innovate UK, explores how women can hone their networking skills in order to achieve business success…
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
The key to unlocking networking opportunities is to get out there and meet people. Attend relevant industry events and workshops and sign up for talks or seminars – but make sure you go with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. It can be daunting to put yourself out there initially but by mingling with people within your sector, you’ll find shared passions which will allow for natural conversation to flow.
NETWORKING DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN IN PERSON
As much as it’s important to make personal connections, there’s no denying the power of online networks too. Utilising tools such a LinkedIn or Twitter can be a powerful way of identifying and nurturing relationships and online hubs or forums provide a platform for sharing ideas or unlocking growth opportunities.
MAKE NETWORKING A PRIORITY
You need to start viewing networking as an essential part of your business plan, rather than a ‘nice-to-do’. We make time for the things we view as important so by thinking of networking in the same way as you would for product development or growth strategy, it will help to drive you and your business forward.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU CAN OFFER
Networking is a two-way street. You should consider the support or value that you can offer to your peers, rather than simply what you want to receive in return. You’ll be surprised at what comes back to you and how quickly your network will grow once you make yourself approachable and available to others.
JOIN NETWORKING SCHEMES OR GROUPS
Organisations such as Innovate UK regularly run networking programmes that pave the way for business growth. Last month, Innovate UK facilitated a Global Business Innovation Programme for 18 women-led businesses in AI & Data, delivered alongside the Enterprise Europe Network and Science and Innovation Network Israel (SIN).
The GBIP enabled a strong network to be built between this group of female entrepreneurs who are now looking to support one another through peer to peer mentoring, introductions to others in their networks as well as some of the delegates joining together to form the board of a new start-up.
To find out more about how Innovate UK are harnessing relationships to build success view their blog.