The New Year is the perfect time to reflect on the year that's just passed and decide what you want to achieve in the year ahead. Whether you're the type to make New Year's resolutions or not, January is the ideal time to set goals to work towards.
The sorts of resolutions I'm talking about are the professional sort. What do you want to achieve in your career this year? Are you aiming to climb the corporate ladder? Or perhaps thinking this is the year to change jobs? Just achieving a pay rise in itself may be sufficient a challenge with 2012 promising to be another tough year for business. I have two words of advice for you: get networking.
A recent study has shown conclusively the effect that a network can have on your remuneration levels. The study, which was summarised in The Economist, has found that women are worse at using their networks to their advantage than men.
Looking at a database of board members in Europe and America, they found that if they compared two directors who were exactly the same, except one had 200 ex-colleagues sitting on boards while the other had 400, the latter would be paid, on average, six percent more. The gap for non-executives rose to 14%.
The researchers also found that among executive board members, women earn 17% less than their male counterparts. There are many well-documented reasons for the differences in women and men's salaries. Women's salaries are impacted by taking time out to have families, by real or perceived discrimination and of course by the field that they work in. But looking at the very high level that board directors operate at, the researchers found that the pay gap can be fully explained by the effect of executives' networks. Men are more effective at leveraging a large network to achieve more senior positions.
Women appear to have fewer but stronger connections, while men are better at converting passing acquaintances into a network of business contacts and maintaining a high profile through these. Often the most desirable jobs are filled not through advertising, but through networks and word-of-mouth. Getting on the shortlist can sometimes be the most difficult job.
So what should be done by a woman looking to power forward in her career? I say do what the men do. Get networking and join clubs! While networking is traditionally seen as happening face-to-face, which can make it difficult for women who are trying to balance work and family life, with the help of the internet it can be done from home or on-the-go on a smartphone.
Networks not only help you meet people who may have intel on your next job opportunity, they are also a great forum for sharing ideas, seeking advice, or just feeling supported by people who have been in the same situation as you. Whatever stage you are in your career, there are benefits to be had by promoting yourself through networking.
So let's make 2012 the year we make networking a career priority. Set yourself some goals about how many new contacts you're going to make and how many networks you'll join. Then next year we can look back and marvel at how far we've come!