The Power of Networking
For almost 35 years, I have worked as an environmental engineer and consultant in what has been traditionally known as the male-dominated industry of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC). Early on in my career, I’d often find myself the only woman in the room. But this has been changing over the years as more women have been encouraged into diverse careers, including STEM, and have been entering the AEC industry. At a recent eight-person meeting, I chuckled to myself when there was only one man at the table!
Advancing my career at GEI required me to generate new clients and business. I found much of that success through women’s professional organizations and their connections. I met clients, peers, and future employees, and developed lifelong friendships that helped me along the way.
Find those connections that will grow your career. Remember that strong ties with peers early on in your career will stay with you through the long term. These networks are great resources for the exchange of advice and key information, which is crucial for career advancement. Women’s networks can also help develop self-confidence and establish your expertise. Look for opportunities to promote your expertise, such as speaking opportunities and publications, while participating in professional activities. Use the skills learned to network up, not only within those organizations, but also in other professional organizations with powerful colleagues or superiors.
Network up to promote yourself, but also network down to inspire and uplift others. Inside GEI, as one of the senior women in the firm, I have tried to encourage, promote, and mentor younger women. Work to create new opportunities for women who aspire to lead, recognize their achievements, and challenge them to take risks that will benefit not only individuals, but also the organization. Provide natural mentoring and develop strong relationships with staff to support their advancement. Encourage your colleagues’ self-confidence, and make sure they know they have earned their successes.
The advancement of women over the years is attributable to many factors, but we would not be where we are today without women supporting women. I can’t say it enough times: creating, nurturing, and promoting women’s networks are critical to your personal success and career advancement.