National President 2019-20, National Association of Women in Construction
Building connections by networking is an invaluable opportunity to further your career goals. Networking is hugely beneficial as the old cliché “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” takes on a whole new meaning for a woman working in a male-populated industry.
The number of people in your network is not as important as the relationships you build with each person in your network. Building solid relationships provides numerous benefits on a personal and professional level. The most successful networkers go beyond thinking “what’s in it for me?” to “how can I help?”
Unlike their male counterparts, tradeswomen face challenges every day, including harassment, pay disparity, lack of promotion opportunities, and ill-fitting personal protection equipment (ppe), just to name a few.
Although a network may not solve all these issues and challenges, it may help manage them or change the situation. By reaching out to your network, you have a greater opportunity to make the connection that can help change to your own situation or even someone else’s.
Building connections, influence, and opportunity
A strong personal network made up of solid connections increases your influence. Make it a point to connect people you feel have something of genuine value to help each other.
Your direct contacts spiderweb out to indirect connections, who may have even more connections and influence. Opportunities to propel your career goals forward could be found in your network. Each relationship opens another door to the next step up on the ladder to your success.
As your network grows, so does your voice and visibility. Attending conferences and events increases your recognition within the industry. Through conversations, you may be recognized as knowledgeable or an expert in your field. Your reputation grows with each step.
With increased visibility, the responsibility is yours to pass along experience to those who follow in your footsteps, raising awareness to the next generation of the opportunities that exist as a tradeswoman. Young women may look at you and think, “If she can do it, I can do it.”
Supportive resources and advice
Through networking, you may gain access to resources and expert advice that you may otherwise have not known about or considered. No one understands a situation more than someone who has personally experienced it. Talking to others who have been through the same trials and tribulations is a great resource for how to effectively manage a situation.
Extract factual advice from opinionated responses. Sometimes it’s as simple as needing someone who understands to listen to your situation. Other times you may need to reach out to your network to find specific legal or business resources to help you through.
If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. Little things like that mean a lot to people, and just one introduction or follow-up can change someone’s life for the better.
Empowerment, growth, and confidence
In the end, your network will empower you to successfully do a job you love and are passionate about. The opportunities you create from your network are priceless, and will provide access to resources that will help you gain knowledge and expertise to grow personally and professionally. You will gain the confidence and knowledge to change the norm and build a better future for the generations that follow.
In today’s construction industry, tradespeople are in heavy demand and women can help fill that void. Women make up less than 10 percent of the construction industry. As women, we need to use every resource in our network to influence a change in the perspective of the industry.
Skilled trades and construction in general are viable options for a career for any young woman. Use your network in a positive and powerful way to change the face of our industry, and pave new roads to careers in the trades.
Diane Mike, National President 2019-20, National Association of Women in Construction, [email protected]