It's All About Who You Know

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It's All About Who You Know

Q&A with Marny Lifshen

Senior executive women attribute a key part of their success to making and maintaining connections. But according to a study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. of 118 companies (2012), only 10% of women who held leadership positions credited their professional advancement to 4 or more connections. When looking at men in similar leadership positions, 17% of them associated their success to the same amount of connections made through networking. Marny Lifshen, author of the book "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women" saw first-hand the negative effects that this lack of networking had on professional women. She recognized that women had different methods to building relationships but could use those strengths to build the same supportive group of mentors that may come more easily to men. We wanted to know more about her professional career, personal life, and what to drove her to follow her passion. 

What did you see that was lacking in the workplace that made you want to write a book specifically about networking for women? 

Hands-on mentoring and sponsoring of women was not as consistent as it was for our male peers – we don’t have a “good ‘ole boy” network to give us feedback, introduce us to the right people and give us opportunities. But mostly I just think that we make and manage professional relationships differently than men – and that’s okay. I wanted to create a guide for how to take advantage of our natural strengths as women, but also to acknowledge what we can learn from the guys – like actually leveraging the network we work so diligently to create.

What impact do you think the book has made since? 

I hope it has helped a lot of women to understand and embrace networking as a critical career tool, and to correct some common misconceptions about what networking is really all about.  I also hope that readers understand that we don’t have to do it the way the men do in order to be successful.

How did you discover your passion? 

I have been very lucky to have incredible mentors throughout my career.  Through them, I was exposed to great opportunities and experiences, met amazing people, learned new skills and developed as a leader.  It was by learning to say “yes” to new things that I found my passion for consulting, writing and speaking about networking, communication and branding. 

What was a defining moment in your career? 

I am not a natural risk taker. When I faced a cross-road in my career and was considering leaving the firm I had built and loved for 9 years, I was very unsure. I relied on my network to give me honest feedback and advice – and that is what gave me the courage to start my own business.  

In terms of your personal life, what place were you in at that time? 

I was a partner in a PR/Communications firm and loved it. But I was also a newlywed and wanted to have children. I couldn’t figure out a way to make my 50+ hour work weeks fit with my desire to be a mom. Going out on my own as a consultant gave me the flexibility I wanted and the opportunity to explore new professional paths. It was scary but worth it!  

What was the biggest challenge when you decided to start your own consulting business?

For me the hardest part was leaving the security of a full-time well-paid job for the unknown.  It was also hard for me to have the confidence that I could “make it” on my own, but a wonderful group of mentors convinced me I would succeed and encouraged me to take the leap!

 How are you able to apply your personal strengths to professional life?

I believe that consistency is a key to success. You can’t be one personal in your personal life and a different person in your professional life. You must be authentic in order to build real relationships and credibility. While I strive to always be professional and polished in a work situation, I am also my energetic and friendly self. Think about what makes you unique and memorable and make sure those attributes shine in your professional roles, as well.   

 What do you NOT let get in your way?    

I don’t hold grudges. I think that holding grudges against people is pointless and may in fact keep you from opportunities with that person in the future. Just because something went wrong in a professional relationship doesn’t mean that you won’t find a way to work together or help one another in the future. 

What motivates you to coach others through your writing, speaking, and consulting? 

The feedback I get from people who see me speak is very inspiring and motivational for me.  Knowing that I am actually helping people overcome challenges and succeed in their professional lives is what makes all of the work worthwhile.  It just plain makes me happy to help them!  

One thing you would like to tell your 20-year-old self? 

Chill out!  Everything will work out!  You don’t need to have a 5 year plan or 10 year plan.  Just work hard and be open to opportunities. 

 What are three things  you want other women to know? 

  1. Be kinder to one another.  We need to support and encourage each other as women, rather than judging the choices we make.  

  1. Take risks in your career and be okay with a little failure!  This is one thing that men do consistently better than we do and it may well be holding us back. 

  1. Ask for help.  There is no shame in needing support, advice and assistance – in fact, there is strength in learning to ask for and accept help. 

 

Marny Lifshen

Marny Lifshen is an author, speaker, coach and marketing communications consultant with more than 25 years of experience.
Find her here:
http://marnylifshencommunications.com

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