Is Networking Behavior Hard-Wired?
Pick a fly, any fly on the wall at a networking event and ask them what they see. Chances are you will find that even if they are in the same room, men network on Mars and women network on Venus. Since striking out on my own last April I have been a party at more networking events than you can shake a slowly nursed martini at. And one thing that I noticed is that, I’m making a sweeping generalization mind you, women really do network a lot differently than men. It also seems that when at networking events business chicas tend to be looking for something different than chicos.
What could be so different? Well, it all goes back to when we were sitting in the sandbox. Next time you have the chance to observe a group of kids interacting pay close attention to the types of things the girls are saying to the boys. You may notice that the when talking to one another girls will ask relating questions to find the things they have in common. “You have a little sister? Me, too!” Boys tend to interact on almost the opposite side of the spectrum. When boys are talking it tends more towards asserting or maintaining a hierarchy, or to add their point of view to the mix. “I think we should build a fort.” Linguists and education types call this “genderlect,” and it is a phenomenon that follows us through the rest of our lives.
How does this impact business networking?
Naturally, if you are talking for different reasons you are expecting different outcomes, and a successful networking event for one person can be a total bust for another. It follows that while the intents for networking may not be gender specific, how it is accomplished can be dramatically different. If networking is making connections, and making connections is about talking, then women make connections differently than men, and women network differently then men do. I have experienced the communication disconnect a million times myself, and heard this sentiment echoed by many women both during and after networking events.
Just because women network on Mars and men network on Venus doesn’t mean that they can’t just all network together, somewhere among the ateroid belt. There are many different co-ed networking associations and groups throughout the metro-area that provide great opportunities to connect and build your knowledge and business. But maybe having a little insight as to why those connections and conversations seem to unfold so awkwardly (along with these tried and true networking tips) might give you a little confidence kick for the next time you are braving a night of business card passing.
This post originally appeared on Girls Guide to the Galaxy, and is reprinted in part with permission of both the site owner and the author, Melody Meiners.