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NEW CEO Toth shares networking tips with PepsiCo women

Monday, November 07, 2011  
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Women are great at personal networking, but they need to use that skill more in the workplace if they want to advance their careers, Network of Executive Women President and CEO Joan Toth told 60 members of the PepsiCo Women’s Inclusion Network during a webinar Nov. 4, 2011.

"So much of what we do, both business and personal, is based on networks, referrals and connections,” Toth said. "Women are especially good at personal networking – that’s how we find a dentist, an accountant, a babysitter. It’s important to take that same skill to the business world.”

To make the most out of networking, women must understand their needs at any given point. "When you go to a conference, seek out the attendee list ahead of time and think about your current objectives,” Toth advised. "For example, do you have cross-functional customer connections? At large companies, people move around functions. The finance manager today may be a category manager tomorrow. Or internally, you may need to develop relationships with the company’s human resources department to help you recruit a new team member.”

A crucial component of networking is the elevator speech, which should include who you are, what role you play and why you are there or what your current needs are, she noted. "That 30-second introduction will instantly set up who you are, what you do and the context of your conversation,” Toth said. "Planning this speech ahead allows you time to focus on the other person and how you can add value to them.”

Seek to add value to new relationships, she advised. "Don’t collect business cards unless there is a reason for follow up. Be respectful of your contact’s time. Schedule follow-up time if needed.”

Toth told the women’s group to be selective when networking. "LinkedIn has made it easy to rack up contacts,” she said. "That is not necessarily effective.”

Not everyone is comfortable walking into a room and starting a conversation, Toth said. "A good strategy is just to find someone alone, stick out your hand, introduce yourself and give your elevator speech. And of course – ask them for the same! Seek to find common connections. The old tried and true, ‘Where are you based?’ is a good conversation starter.”

The NEW CEO advised younger, entry-level professionals to find someone who isn’t talking with anyone or seek out a colleague who is more familiar with the group and ask him or her to introduce you to a few people. "One great strategy that some of our leaders who are more introverted use is to follow around a more gregarious colleague for a little while,” she said.

Another critical step is to identify your objectives ahead of time. "I go through every conference attendee list and make a list of my objectives by person and company,” Toth shared. "Very often I’ll have as many as 50 or 75 objectives for a conference. I never connect with all on my list, but I do uncover new opportunities I hadn’t planned.”

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