The Power of Networking
“Utilizing the power of networking is important to everyone, and not all women are taught that,” says Girl Scout alum Hannah Gordon.
“Seeing it as relationship-building makes it easier because the word ‘networking’ can have a negative connotation,” she adds. “Many of us don’t like asking for help. But we can all embrace opportunities to get to know other people.”
Hannah, who worked her way up within the NFL to her current role as chief administrative officer and general counsel for the San Francisco 49ers, recently launched SZN of Change: The Competitor's Playbook for Joy on the Path to Victory. The book provides eight weeks’ worth of guidance designed to help readers realize the next steps in their career goals.
She notes she’s seen myriad ways that networking has changed in the last year.
“It is a different experience than it was before COVID-19. In some ways, people are narrowing their circle rather than expanding it,” she says. “But people are hungry for connection, and it’s more possible now to reach people over telephone or a Zoom meeting. In fact, it is probably easier than ever before to meet with people who are not geographically close to you.”
She doesn’t think a shy personality—or a lack of gumption—should pose a barrier to building a professional network.
“What do you have to lose? If somebody hasn’t responded to you, what have you lost?” she asks. “The cost-benefit analysis is pretty simple.”
Here’s her advice for those who might feel timid about building their network, especially in this challenging time when the workplace has largely gone virtual.
1. Start with online research.
Hannah says that LinkedIn can be a great place to begin. Once there, who you look for depends on what relationships you’re looking to build.
“If you want an internship, for example, research who the hiring managers are at companies that could be a fit. Once you have the names, figure out their email addresses and reach out.”
2. When you are in public spaces, take the time to talk to people.
“The internship I did at Fox Sports West was the result of [a relationship I forged with] a reporter who sat next to me at a football practice I was covering. She became a mentor and later brought me to Fox Sports West,” Hannah explains. “So much of business is about relationships. I didn’t learn that growing up and had to learn it as an adult.”
3. Ask for informational interviews.
Once you’ve made a connection online, consider asking for an informational interview as a reason to connect face to face—the point is to continue the conversation, whether in person or via video chat.
4. Look at everyone as a potential strategic partner.
It’s not just hiring managers who can help you—Hannah says it’s important to think of the people that you’ll need on your team as strategic partners. These can include everyone from more experienced mentors to professional acquaintances who can offer a safe space for you to bounce ideas off of.
“No matter how hard you’re working, there are going to be setbacks,” she says, adding that those setbacks are easier to deal with when you have a support system in place.
5. Be sure to pay it forward.
“I think information is power, so passing on information to other women is important,” Hannah says. “There’s no other secret to success. It’s just hard work and perseverance.”