The Quest for Belonging
Let’s see if you can relate to this. As kids during school days, if we were called out for not completing our work, the first thing we did was to check if there was anyone else in the same situation. Even as kids, we instinctively knew that it is easier to navigate difficult situations when we are not alone. And we always felt safe, secure and confident when we were part of a group. This feeling is reinforced at various stages of life. We tend to make friends and join communities to revel in the company of others who have similar interests or pursuits.
However, as we grow older and get busier, our networks tend to dwindle. This could either be because we do not have enough time to make new friends and cultivate relationships or because we move into areas where there aren’t as many people like us. And considering the super-charged lives we lead, networking becomes even less of a priority. While we may still have social networks, our professional networks are limited to colleagues or alumni groups. That isn’t enough, though…is it?
In case of women, the problem is amplified because the percentage of women in workforce is much lower than men and the problems or constraints that women face are very unique. Hence it is even more critical for us to form or find a community that we can belong to.
Here’s why I think it is important to create professional networks based on your industry, profession, area of interest, niche skillset or professional pursuits. Active professional networking communities make a strong case for women. They offer far-ranging benefits such as:
The feeling of being understood, since people within the community may be experiencing or have experienced similar circumstances
The pleasure of getting appreciated for your accomplishments and recognized for the value you bring to the group
An opportunity to seek advice from people who are in similar fields and can guide you through their knowledge and experience
A sense of security and confidence that stems from knowing you belong to a community and can rely on the people within it for support
An opportunity to draw inspiration and learn from those who traversed similar paths and emerged successful
The ability to unite forces and pursue common goals, some of which may be much bigger than the group and can have a lasting impact on society
The opportunity to learn from others, discuss industry trends and happenings and share your perspectives
The ability to share anything that is on your mind — issues you face at work, work-life balance, organizational policies, culture and even office politics
The ability to gain insights, information and leverage connects that may help you while you navigate career transitions
The gratification of being able to help and support others through your experience and knowledge
In the current hyper-connected world, we can network with women globally. It is very likely that there are many women across countries who share similar interests and professional aspirations as you. When you interact with women across diverse cultures, you gain exposure to a wide range of perspectives, opportunities, cultural nuances and lifestyles. This makes the entire experience of learning and sharing, substantially rich and fulfilling.
So here’s a shout out to all the wonderful women out there. Do make the time to network. Get to know other women, form your own networking communities, share, support and motivate each other. The quest for professional fulfillment is not always easy and it helps to have your own little cheering squad. If you do not have time to meet, at least find a digital avenue to chat and catch up with the group on a regular basis. And every once in a while, make it a point to attend in-person meets to maintain personal connect.
In keeping with this philosophy, we are launching a professional networking platform called ‘The star in me’ (www.thestarinme.com). The platform enables women to create and join networking communities to share, discuss, inspire, learn and support each other in their professional pursuits.
So if you’re still wondering whether to belong or not to belong, I’d say ‘Go Belong’!