From New York Times: November 2, 1997
Networking has long been credited as a critical part of finding a job, doing well in a career, winning promotions and maximizing opportunities. It stands to reason that Web sites, newsgroups and e-mail would be absorbed into that process. It's not quite the same as forming personal acquaintances that serve as the conduit for the word-of-mouth pipeline. But at the same time, what is the Internet if not one big network?
Look at any one of dozens of the biggest, most popular career and employment sites and you'll see admonishments for networking. If the career arena has a holy grail, networking is it. That's particularly true for finding a job, since the majority of openings are never publicly advertised.
But a California management consultant says that the most successful women executives believe networking is a waste of time and effort. Instead, they rely on something she calls "alliancing."
Women Build Alliances Rather Than Networks
By SABRA CHARTRAND
At the Women@Work site, there's a message board where women from across the country can post queries, comments and information. It's networking in cyberspace, designed just for women who come to the site owned by the National Association for Female Executives.
"When I first started this research I thought that networking was what these women had done to be extremely successful," said Carol Gallagher, who is a principal at American Management Systems Inc. and a consultant on the advancement of women. "But they said they don't network, they don't like the word, and they're not good at it. Networking has a negative connotation in executive ranks. It means passing out business cards and high-level chit
"Instead they said they rely on strategic alliances, the kind formed by working on tasks or serving on boards," Gallagher explained. She interviewed more than 70 women executives from companies like AT&T, Intel, Exxon and Bank of America. Each was at least a vice president, and Gallagher wanted to know how they got where they are. The women told her that their greatest satisfaction and success came from a mere handful of professional relationships with deep roots based on shared experiences ｷotherwise known as allies.
"Some were intentional and some were circumstantial," Gallagher said. "These women would identify certain people they felt they needed to develop an alliance with. They would proactively search them out and work on a project together. Or they would work on a project with someone as they became available and the alliance would grow from that."
The executives said that half of their alliances were formed with other women, and half with men. Only 10 percent built alliances just with people who worked in the same office. The others found compatriots in other departments, and half said they created alliances with colleagues in other companies.
The women said these relationships were often with people who played a critical role in the progress of their careers.
"How do people get promoted? Through other people. The alliances built were critical to promotions. What they learned from working together was important too. But it was really the relationships with other people that they said helped get them where the are," Gallagher reported.
For many women, the kind of interpersonal relationships that grow out of alliancing might be easier to create than the traditional, more shallow contacts prevalent in networking. Pure networking says that everyone you encounter should become a professional resource, and when you are changing jobs, looking for new projects, or have questions, you should draw on those resources. Call people you barely know. Ask acquaintances to give you a name. Contact an ex-boss. Exchange information with a colleague of a colleague.
Many career counselors advise clients to build networks -- each call should unearth one name, two names or five names of other people or companies to call. Keep calling, keep building a network of names, until you find the job, the opportunity or the information you want.
Overtures like those don't come easy for many people. Calling strangers or associates makes a lot of people nervous. It makes them feel vulnerable and often intrusive. In the end, they just don't do it. Alliancing takes advantage of the natural relationships that grow between colleagues. It may be that successful women find alliancing more effective because they are more comfortable with it. That makes it easier, which in turn helps produce results.
Still, the female executives in Gallagher's survey said they often had to come up with creative ways to generate and nurture alliances.
"Women have to build alliances in a different way than men," Gallagher said. "Men do it more naturally because they easily connect with other men. Women don't always fit into men's social groups. So how do they do it? One woman president at Pacific Bell would throw theme parties. She'd have people over that she wanted to get to know and have everyone work on something. Once she had everyone come over to help paint her house. When you're working together, that's where the alliances come into play.
"Many of the women went on to say that the best way to get to know someone, to learn who the real person is and to trust them, is to work on a project where there is a crisis or a deadline," Gallagher said. "These are all women who found the window in the glass ceiling, and got through it, and they said alliances were critical to that."
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Women@Work: National Association of Female Executives
<http://184.108.40.206/> American Management Systems, Inc. <http://www.amsinc.com/>