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The Right Way for Women to Network

Mar 29, 2017

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: “What’s one thing every woman should know about climbing the corporate ladder?” is written by Jyoti Chopra, global head of diversity and inclusion at BNY Mellon.

In the digital age, “networking” has come to refer to brief interactions—a few words or images shared with followers or friends and colleagues on our social platforms. While digital engagement is certainly a key tool in career advancement, when I share advice with colleagues and acquaintances on building a lasting and fulfilling career, I always encourage people, especially women, to dedicate as much time as they can to face-to-face networking and investing in meaningful, sustainable relationships with people across all sectors and levels of seniority, both within and outside of their organizations.

Be purposeful, consistent, and persistent in the relationships that you foster, particularly early on in your career. In my previous role as the global communications leader for Deloitte, I reported to the global chief operating officer, who once told me before all else to “always invest in the success of others.” I have since made it a guiding principle and a key part of my leadership philosophy. Because, in doing so, I’ve ultimately found that I’m investing in people and relationships, which can be incredibly fulfilling. Building a community around you based on mutual support is crucial for career development and long-term advancement.

See also: The Corporate Ladder is Not Always a Straight Climb Up

BNY Mellon recently released a report in partnership with the UN Foundation that found that closing the global gender gap could release $300 billion in annual global spending by 2025. As our chief diversity officer, I’m focused on how to advance opportunities for women across the globe. A significant part of that mission is to encourage women and men, including my colleagues at BNY Mellon, to build a professional support system that motivates them to pursue their goals and open doors for others along the way.

I often encourage women to build their own personal board of directors. When facing professional crossroads, the guidance of a close group of trusted colleagues and friends is truly invaluable. Assemble a group of mentors who understand your goals and may have a clearer view of how to achieve them. Rely on this group to advocate for you, advise you, and walk you through how they’ve made their own goals come to fruition. Oftentimes, my “personal board” will come to me with career opportunities, advice, or even direct feedback. This outside-in perspective is especially crucial for women as we continue the push toward gender equality in the workplace and in corporate leadership.

Building a network is not just about mingling with new people. It’s about having a real and reciprocal stake in your connections and their success. Aim to surround yourself with a cross-section of professionals, ranging in experience, role, and industry. Look to people who inspire you and take the time to consider their unique perspectives. I’ve spearheaded efforts at BNY Mellon to enable our employees to foster these cross-sectional relationships through our business and employee networks. In seeing the long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships that these networks foster, I’m deeply committed to championing these connections and creating pathways for people to realize their full potential.

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