Networking Mistakes Women Make (from a female CEO who networked her way to the top)

Do you network enough? 

If it’s not an hour a week, it’s not enough, says Sallie Krawcheck, ex Wall Street powerhouse who’s worked at four companies and sat on 10 boards ‒ and all of these positions she’s gotten through networking.

Network, in person

cover.ownit“Find at least one hour each week to network, in person,” Krawcheck writes in her new book,  Own It: The Power of Women at Work (Crown Business).

Get a babysitter, leave work early, skip the gym, etc. “Whatever you have to do to find the time, find it,” she says.

Krawcheck, who’s been CEO of Smith Barney, CEO of Merrill Lynch and CFO of Citigroup, believes in the power of networking so much that she bought a professional networking company, Ellevate Network, to help women advance in their careers.

But she’s also found that it’s not enough to network ‒ what matters is with whom and how you network.

4 Networking Mistakes Women Make

Here are the most common networking mistakes women make ‒ and how to network more strategically, according to Krawcheck.

Mistake No. 1: Not networking

This is particularly common for professional women in their 30s, writes Krawcheck, who need to make it a priority. That’s when women have often achieved a level of success but, at the same time, are often focused on their families, putting networking on the back burner.

“That lapse often helps men leapfrog women in their careers at that stage,” she says.

She’s aware that “standing around awkwardly drinking chardonnay and talking business with strangers” is not that much fun. But in-person events are vital and much more valuable when you’ve proven you’re good at your job, she says.

This doesn’t mean you have to accept every cocktail party invite that comes your way. Choose carefully, she says, but put it on your schedule and don’t cancel. Simple as that.

Mistake No. 2: Rushing it

Professional relationships, like any other, need tending, nurturing ‒ and that takes time, writes Krawcheck.

Sallie Krawcheck 300 DPI.jpg LARGE
Sallie Krawcheck talks networking mistakes women make in Own It.

The new contact you make likely won’t find you a new job or get you a big deal next week. It may take months or years. So instead of asking for specific information upfront, share a website or an article you saw, perhaps related to what you discussed when you first met.

And in the meantime, keep meeting other smart, interesting people who will help you see new perspectives, learn new things and open you up to new career opportunities.

Mistake No. 3: Not following up

Once you’ve connected with someone, get in touch within a week. You might send a LinkedIn invitation or a quick email mentioning that you’d like to keep in touch to discuss future collaboration, jobs, etc.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into someone and they did the old ‘slap the head with the hand’ thing and said, ‘Oh, man. I just heard of a project you would have been perfect for, but I referred it to someone else,’” said Krawcheck.

Don’t let that happen to you, she recommends. Stay in better touch. And let technology help you out.

Do a quick text message check-in with someone or send a tweet linking to an article your contact might find interesting. “Following up doesn’t have to be time-consuming; it should be purposeful, though,” she says.

Mistake No. 4: Not networking outside your company

It’s important to network within your company, she says, but it’s way too limiting.

So if you’re thinking, Yeah, but I’m not going anywhere, think again. Krawcheck thought the same thing, until she found herself “restructured out” from her head of global wealth management job at Bank of America and most of her contacts there dried up pretty quickly.

“Boy, the incident sure drove home the point that an external network is key,” says Krawcheck.

Start networking now, both inside and outside of your company. Think of it as a way of forming and maintaining relationships with people who can provide you with information, advice and contacts, which every great leader constantly needs.