Words by Bianca Asanache
Networking is an essential step of the career advancement process. Not only helps with meeting new people but it’s necessary to expand knowledge, gain different perspectives, open your horizon and unlock possibilities that might not be available to you otherwise.
For women, networking can be especially helpful because we’re more likely than men to lack the social capital that comes from informal networks, from being well-known and well-connected.
For professional migrant women, networking is even more crucial as mobility cuts ties with our connections from back home.
In one of our career progression focus groups, the most common answer to “What do you think would help you with your career advancement?” was networking! That’s not surprising as both migrants and refugees face invisible barriers to secure employment due to their lack of connections in the new country. 
Of course, networking these days is much more complicated. Masks, social distancing, lockdowns.The pandemic has forced us to avoid small talk and keep to ourselves. The end of lockdown could be a great opportunity to rethink how we connect to others. It’s time to rethink networking and how to build meaningful connections.
In one of the Lead to Soar podcast episodes, Mel Butcher and Michelle Redfern  invite women to think about where their network is right now. This means identifying people you already know and categorising them into:
- personal connections (because networking is in no way limited to the professional world)
- operational network (people can help you get work done)
- strategic network (people who can support you especially when you’re trying to break into a new industry or job market)
Networking may seem transactional but you have to be strategic and intentional if you want to go beyond do ut des . This doesn’t mean that you should be fake or artificial, just the opposite.
Have a SMART goal . When you reach out to someone, think about your intentions. How are you going to connect to people in a meaningful way? But most importantly, what can YOU offer, what is your special power?
This mindset would shift the transactional aspect of networking into something deeper, a collaboration, a way of bridging resources for a bigger purpose. It will also make it easier for the other person to understand exactly how they can help. Networking built on reciprocity would make people more willing to connect.
Find out as much as you can about the companies and the people that you will be networking with. This means you must do your homework and be prepared to take time to do research.
TIME & EFFORT
Allocate a specific time of your day for networking and make sure to do it every week. You will find that people who genuinely put effort into their networking always end up with the most gains.
Allocate a dedicated budget to networking and taking people out for coffee (when possible). That’s how you know you’re serious about it.
Pre-Covid, we used to exchange business cards and attend in-person networking events. During the pandemic, LinkedIn has made all that a bit easier and safer (and cheaper?). And, let’s face it, classic networking is no longer enough.
But as you wouldn’t poke thousands of people on their shoulders without uttering a word and then expecting them to talk to you (bit weird, right?), you shouldn’t send thousands of LinkedIn connection requests without stating your intention or at least introducing yourself either.
The same goes for connection requests that come your way. When you get connection requests without a note, then message that person back and ask them what sparked their interest in your profile. What’s their reason for connecting? This is a great way to start a conversation. Break the ice, don’t just accept the request and leave it at that. If you’re unsure about what to write, here are some great → templates. But, please make it personal, don’t just copy and paste.
If you’re not familiar with this powerful social media network yet, you’re missing out! By signing up to LinkedIn, you can start building a network of like-minded people, create powerful connections who are willing to share information that usually is not included in job descriptions and that potential employers can promote with people in their network. Also, social media is a great way to warm up your social skills after a lockdown. It’s a bit like riding a bike. You have to retrain your social muscles in the same way.
In your Zoom meetings/catch-ups, use the chatbox. It’s a great tool that allows you to have side conversations that in a normal face-to-face meeting you couldn’t have. Reach out to people, ask them how they are doing, ask them if they want to catch up for a coffee.
Internations is a great way to meet fellow expats who share the same hobbies and interests. You can join their many networking events, both for business and more casual purposes.
Meetup is another platform that facilitates networking. You can browse through numerous events and even find communities of professional women.
Reddit and other forums represent a social media hub where women could connect and discuss career-related issues.
In other words, meet your network where it is. If you’re a journalist, you may find that your tribe lives on Twitter, for example.
Don’t go to a career fair for the sake of it or because a friend recommended it. It has to work for you and your career goal.
ONE MORE THING…
Last, I want to touch on rejection. It may seem all nice and fine on paper but we all fear rejection, not getting a response, not belonging. Just remember that people are busy and may not be able to get back to you right away. Be patient and understanding. And if they don’t get back to you at all, that says more about them than it says about you.
Networking is about getting to know one another, learning from one another, and supporting people. This activity is particularly important to people who are new to a country and culture and need an extra hand to break into the job market. This is your way to move forward, Professional Migrant Woman. Maybe back home you were relying on friends, family, work colleagues. But how do you manage in a new environment? We’d love to hear your networking story.
 NSW SLASA submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration on The Economic, Social and Cultural Impacts of Migration in Australia.
 Do ut des dō ūt dās -“ I give so that you may give.” In Roman law, an innominate contract in which one party’s performance satisfies. – Oxford University Press “Guide to Latin in International Law”.