Active networking is vital to career growth. Networking is about building relationships and a reputation over time. It involves meeting and getting to know people whom you can assist and who may provide you with help in return. Your network includes everyone from friends and family to work colleagues and members of groups to which you belong.
Networking is both a business and social skill, and there’s no doubt that it is a fundamental part of the modern business landscape and an essential skill to leverage in the workplace.
These beliefs underly the activities of a New Jersey-based professional women’s group event, Network to Network, or N2N.
Recognizing an important need
The events offer “an excellent way for professional women in New Jersey to develop their personal and professional skills and to get the most out of a cross-industry networking experience,” said Kelly Watson, managing partner of KPMG New Jersey and a cofounder of the group. “The women on the N2N Steering Committee donate their time to share best practices, raise awareness of business issues affecting all companies and continue the discussion around the importance of creating inclusive work environments for women. We hope that the women who participate walk away with new perspectives that they can then apply to their own careers.”
Watson founded the group with Valerie Mauriello, vice president of risk management at Prudential, recognizing that there was a need for an organization to support the business goals and aspirations of professional women in New Jersey. Since 2007, events sponsored by Network to Network have helped to support work/life balance and upward mobility for female professionals, serve as a forum for corporate female leaders to discuss issues important to them, and gather high-performing professional women in New Jersey.
Mauriello added: “Kelly and I saw Network to Network as a great way to help professional women grow, develop and build productive relationships through networking.”
Network to Network is comprised of a consortium of prominent New Jersey companies, including KPMG, Merck, Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc., Prudential, Sovereign Santander Bank, Verizon Wireless and Sanofi US. Network to Network’s primary goals are to support work/life balance and upward mobility for female professionals, share knowledge and tips among organizations in support of strengthening personal and professional networking, and continuing to attract high-performing professional women in New Jersey.
An N2N event in September 2013 drew 96 professional women to Bridgewater, N.J. Jennifer Asay, a member of the N2N committee, hosted the day-long event at Sanofi US’s corporate office. The day’s theme was “Advancing Your Career Purposefully with Leadership and Influence.” Anne Wargo, of Anne Wargo Consulting, facilitated the event, focusing participants on topics such as gaining greater awareness of yourself as a professional, learning to be your own advocate, managing office politics, building career networks and using the language of success.
Wargo believes there is still a need for many women to gain the confidence needed for success in a professional environment. During the session, she facilitated exercises for the participants to introduce themselves using words and body language that demonstrate power, confidence and professionalism. She also discussed ways to interact productively with a mentor or a protégé. Wargo told participants that articulating their values and goals, learning how to win at the game of politics, managing their expectations and determining how to maintain their professional value in a rapidly changing world are essential success factors for women.
One of the most valuable parts of the day proved to be the panel discussion of issues raised in Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book about workplace empowerment for women, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Four panelists spoke honestly about managing careers and families, the pros and cons of taking risks in their careers and the myth of “doing it all.” The panelists also addressed issues such as how to share your perspectives and opinions openly and assertively without being labeled “aggressive” or too self-promotional, and how to set boundaries for satisfaction in your personal and professional lives.
Melissa Rioseco, Communications Business Partner at Horizon Healthcare Services Inc., found the day’s events valuable and said, “It was great to network with other women in different fields who face the same issues that most women face.”
‘A safe, collaborative environment’
Alison Banks-Moore, Chief Diversity Officer, Horizon Healthcare Services Inc., and a member of the N2N committee, agreed and added, “This event creates a safe, collaborative environment where women can share the challenges that they face in the workplace, network with women from other companies and learn different approaches to important issues in the workplace.”
Kelly Waters, a member of Network to Network and a partner at Coughlin Duffy, a full-service law firm in Morristown, NJ, said that the firm’s female associates add value to the work and cultural environment at the firm. Waters mobilized many women at the firm to attend the N2N event, believing that encouraging the female associates at Coughlin Duffy to develop themselves and avoid being defined solely by their billable hours was a priority for the firm.
“They should understand that their leaders are invested in them,” Waters said. “We wanted the event to motivate women to develop themselves and their brands.”
She added that many of the participants have taken this lesson to heart: “Women who attended the event have put what they learned into action. They are retaining female power at the individual, organization and state level.”
Waters noted that the women participating in Network to Network, although all successful professionals, are still a diverse group with different ethnicities, values and professional backgrounds.
Banks-Moore said she enjoys the quality of the programs shared with the women and the efforts to help them grow and become more professionally self-aware, The events provide participants with a new perspective and a feeling of being “refreshed,” she said/
Participants were encouraged to meet with other women at their companies and share what they learned at the event.