1. Access to Diversity
Ellevate's mission is to help women advance in the workplace by providing a community to lean on and learn from. And it's a diverse community -- Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have connections, insights, and skills to share with business owners in Boulder. Women in finance can learn a great deal from women in health care. I've seen Millennials mentoring senior business leaders on the latest social media trend. And I've seen women returning to work leveraging the network for job opportunities. Ellevate extends beyond geographic boarders, industry, and professional function to connect women at all career stages who are looking to achieve professional success and to invest in other women. Just as diverse companies yield higher returns, diverse networks do, too.
2. The Long-Term Investment
Women have a unique approach to networking and look to make natural connections and to build the relationship over time. Impactful networking isn't a surface-level linking of names online, but rather a matrix of touch points that connect individuals on multiple levels to build a lasting community.
I recently reconnected with a woman, Caren Ulrich Stacy, who I worked with over a decade ago. We live in different parts of the country and our paths diverged when we each transitioned to new industries, but we've remained in touch via email and online forums and continued to share articles or insights that we thought the other would appreciate. Now that Caren is starting a business, an area where I have a lot of experience, and I'm immersed in diversity initiatives, an area where Caren has a good deal of experience, our networking relationship has become prominent once again. This is important because our relationship wouldn't have been as impactful one, three, or five years ago. It can take years to realize the full value of your network, so don't miss out by losing touch.
3. Balancing Work, Life, and Networking
Networking takes a lot of time. And who has extra time (not me!)? But networking is important, and as Sallie Krawcheck, Chair of Ellevate Network, has said, "Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. It is a good part of what begins to separate the pretty successful from the very successful on the second leg of your career... and beyond." This is another way that online networks can be impactful. You aren't confined to a set date/time/location. As a busy mom of three, I do my best networking at 10pm (usually with a glass of wine). This is a great time for me to check in with those in my network, share relevant articles, make new connections and schedule social media posts. Building a network takes time and work. I've seen women connecting 24/7 via an online network that never sleeps. That's powerful.
4. Finding the Right Match
I do love the organic flow of networking parties where you never know whom you will meet. But there is something to be said for the strategic nature of online networking. Ellevate's Inner Circle Tool allows users to pinpoint specific types of women that they want to connect with such as military veterans, working moms, business owners, or ex-pats. I also belong to a local group for working moms and a community of female entrepreneurs in NYC. These sub-communities share important commonalities that can provide a vital resource for professional women yet it isn't always easy to make these connections organically.
5. Getting the Most Out of Your Network
Members of the Ellevate community lead online workshops to help others develop skills key to career progression, mentor each other on short-term actionable goals, lead panel discussions aimed at providing inspiration, education, and professional growth, and share their thought leadership and insights. The impact of this collaborative community helps drive discussion, progress and change. Networking isn't all take and no give. It is important to find women that want to invest in your professional success just as much as you want to invest in theirs.
Kristy Wallace is the President at Ellevate Network, and is responsible for executing Ellevate Network's mission to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing professional women with a global community to lean on and learn from. She directs the Network's staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely with Ellevate's Chapter Leaders, Business Partners, and Champions to further Ellevate's impact.