Finding a networking group for women who lead in your profession could be hard to find. Some fields, such as industrial and tech sectors, are less populated with women and have fewer networking options. And you likely don’t have the time to travel several counties over to monthly meetings.
So why not organize one yourself? It could be easier than you think. There are probably many women out there who have the same idea you do—all it takes is making the connection. Start with these six steps:
- You don’t have to rely on a national network—but it might be a good start. Jessica Brown, of the marketing group Imagebox, says she tapped into a national network called Levo League, a New York-based online community for career-driven women ages 18-34. Brown saw that the site also included smaller, in-person networking groups called Local Levo. But when she looked for her hometown of Pittsburgh, it wasn’t on the list. So she started the group there herself.
“[There are] probably others in similar positions [who] are looking,” Brown wrote. “I heard from many women at our first meeting that they’d been looking for a group that fit their needs as young professionals.”
- Do use online tools to help. Sites like Facebook, Meetup and LinkedIn have become invaluable tools for networking. All it takes is setting up a formal Group page for your area of business interest. Setting up a group that caters to a wide geographical area gives you a larger potential pool of people to chat and swap ideas with. You could then set up a smaller subgroup more localized to your own community. This makes it easier for group members to meet in person and even expand to holding small seminars and gatherings.
- Consider joining forces with an existing group. There might be a similar networking hub in your area that focuses on your career field. Attend some of their events if you find them to see what works, suggests Laura Vanderkam, Fast Company blogger and author of several books including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. “You can meet people, learn the local landscape, and save yourself work if you figure out that another group is amenable enough to your interests that you can steer it that way,” Vanderkam says.
- Cast your net for a range of ages. People might assume that most networking organizations are mainly for those just starting their managerial careers. But the age of the average person in networking groups is higher than some would expect. A survey of networking group members conducted at St. Thomas University showed that about 30% of the members were older than 50 while only 10% were younger than 30.
- Focus on cultivating energetic members. One of the best ways to do this is to take time out of local or national conferences you attend for work, and pass a card around announcing your networking group idea. Even if you meet women in your field from other locations, they could still become an asset for your group—even as potential speakers.
- Last but not least, set a date. Vanderkam recommends that once you have even a small core group of women who are willing to meet, set a day and time to do so. The sooner you get the network rolling, the larger it will get. “You need an event so you have something specific to invite people to. But get [a second] date on the calendar too.” If meeting monthly seems the best option, then target a second network event a month later. This way, the group tends to stay in members’ minds and on their busy calendars.