Nurturing Your Networks with Debra Adey
Are you looking for another job or to make a career shift? Are you reluctant to ask for help because it feels like you’re being a nuisance? Do you undervalue networking?
Debra Adey is a Career Strategist and outspoken advocate for humanizing the workplace. She has spent over 20 years in the talent solutions industry in roles that have combined recruitment, HR consulting, account management, career coaching, learning, and facilitation.
Debra has completed a business degree and holds certifications in Human Resources Management and Adult Learning and Development. Throughout her career, Debra has supported hundreds of individuals and many organizations during times of significant change. As Founder of Work Revolution, she is helping job seekers and leaders pivot in the new world of work.
While grounded at home during the pandemic, Debra launched the Work Revolution podcast where she explores the dysfunction in today’s workplaces and what needs to change so that individuals can be empowered to do great work.
In this episode, Debra talks about the magic nurturing your network makes. Here, she talks about the workplace fact that it isn’t structured for women, and also shares ways on how you can thrive in doing business as you help other people do the same.
What you will learn from this episode:
Know how you can be more of a leader in a corporate world that isn’t designed for women;
Understand how important it is for you to be more direct in your asks; and
Find out how you can successfully nurture your network while also helping other women do and reach their goals.
“Block time in your calendar for networking. Understand that this is a valuable use of your time that contributes to your professional development and your career advancement.”
- Debra Adey
Valuable Free Resource:
02:05 – Challenge is that women are getting stuck in the middle management spot because of the difference in men and women’s career peak, and they're not moving up into the more senior management roles at the same pace as their male counterparts.
06:13 – People do not put enough focus on their network and women undervalue the importance of nurturing and utilizing their network for career advancement and for job search: the common mistake business women leaders make when trying to change.
07:46 – One free and actionable tip you can do to nurture your network: Block time in your calendar for networking and understand that good networking is reciprocal in nature and that you also have valuable information, insights, advice to offer other people in your network.
12:11 – Q: What do I most want women to know and what is my ask of women moving forward? A: Workplace was not designed for them. The systems and the structures that govern how we work – that wasn't designed or created by women and in fact, it wasn't even co-created by men and women together.
“Humility is a good thing.” – Debra Adey
“Good networking is reciprocal in nature and that you also have valuable information, insights, advice to offer other people in your network. It's a two way street. You're also looking for ways to be helpful to others.” – Debra Adey
“The more that we can go about networking in the spirit of reciprocity, we’ll feel more comfortable and confident in the process.” – Debra Adey
“The workplace is the problem and it needs to change, but we really need that critical mass of women in all spaces and in leadership for that change to become a reality.” – Debra Adey
Ways to Connect with Debra Adey
Ways to Connect with Sarah E. Brown
Debra Adey 0:00
Block time in your calendar for networking. Understand that this is a valuable use of your time that contributes to your professional development and your career advancement.
Sarah E. Brown 0:20
Hello everyone. Welcome to The KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women where we talk about challenges senior female leaders face in being happy and successful at work. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah E. Brown.
My guest today is Debra Adey. She is a Career Strategist and outspoken advocate for humanizing the workplace. She’s spent over 20 years in the talent solutions industry in roles that have combined recruitment, HR consulting, account management, career coaching, learning, and facilitation.
She has completed a business degree and holds certifications in Human Resources Management and Adult Learning and Development. Throughout her career, Debra has supported hundreds of individuals and many organizations during times of significant change. As Founder of Work Revolution, she is helping job seekers and leaders pivot in the new world of work.
While grounded at home during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021, Debra launched the Work Revolution podcast where she explores the dysfunction in today’s workplaces and what needs to change so that individuals can be empowered to do great work.
Debra, welcome. Thanks for being here today.
Debra Adey 1:52
Thank you so much, Sarah. It's a pleasure to be here.
Sarah E. Brown 1:56
Tell me. What is the biggest challenge you help female leaders face in business today and what might be the symptoms of that challenge?
Debra Adey 2:05
Well, in the individual work I do with people in general, but certainly with a focus on women, I'm working primarily with professionals who are at a point where they're looking to make a career shift and may even be in job search mode. So I'm going to focus my responses today for people who are in that process, so to speak.
Sarah E. Brown 2:31
Debra Adey 2:31
So we're looking– yeah. So, we're looking at a point of career progression or job search, and that might be because they're experiencing a period of unemployment or they're just at that point where they want to make a change.
So, research is showing us that women's careers tend to peak at about age 40 which is in contrast to men's careers which peak at about age 55. So what we know is that a lot of women are getting stuck in that middle management spot and they're not moving up into the most senior– those more senior management roles at the same pace as their male counterparts.
So, this is due to a variety of systemic barriers and challenges, and also in part, due to women sometimes see the sacrifice as too consequential for them, given everything else that they might be balancing in their lives and the degree to which they might feel like they need to behave in ways that are a little bit counter to what their natural inclinations are in order to fit in.
So sometimes, because of that, they're actually self-selecting out as well. But whatever the reason,they're having trouble. They're getting to a point where they're having trouble maneuvering into the more senior roles.
Now the symptoms of that I see in my practice are a sense of frustration, stagnation, sometimes overwhelm, maybe feeling like a lack of control, and I would also say that there's a sense of loneliness sometimes that I'm seeing where women get to a point where they're looking around and thinking, “Hey, where's my– where are my role models? Where's my support system?” And so, I'm seeing that more and more as well.
Debra Adey 4:18
So, how do I help? I would say that I help women start to see themselves more as leaders and also to speak and write about themselves in a way that conveys that when they're out talking to people, when they're networking, and when they're in job search mode.
So, I use a couple tools and techniques as we go through their behavioral strengths profile and their accomplishments to coach them to use more powerful language. It's more powerful than maybe they're immediately comfortable with, because in my experience, there's many many people but especially women tend to use more meek or maybe humble language, and as a result of that, they can sometimes really undersell themselves and their achievements.
Now, I'd like to make a caveat to that and that is that humility is a good thing. So I don't ever want to communicate that “Hey, you should be less humble and you should change those character traits” because those character traits are really good things and we're seeing now in the research that actually, humble leaders often are much more effective leaders.
So, we don't want to change that necessarily but we need to find our times and places where we're going to push ourselves a little bit more out of our comfort zone.
And I also focus on helping them be more direct in their asks, right?
So, what I mean by an ask is maybe asking someone in your organization to help you, to help use their influence to sponsor an idea or an initiative that you're working on, or an ask might simply be just asking for a networking meeting.
Sarah E. Brown 5:56
I was getting sad when you were starting to describe the challenge and I’m much more uplifted now that I hear how you're helping them get over that challenge.
So what do you see is the biggest mistake your clients make before working with you?
Debra Adey 6:13
So when people decide that it's time to make a career move, and especially when they decide on “I’m going to look for a new opportunity,” their natural inclination is to go polish up their resume and start applying for jobs that they find posted online. And the problem with that is that most people don't get jobs that way.
That's a process that's really time consuming – it can be very frustrating, it has a terribly low response rate, and in many many cases, it's often the very tip of the iceberg. The things you might see posted are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what might be available out there.
So, I would say the mistake that I see people make is they don't put enough focus on their network and that can be an internal network within an organization that you're already working within or it could be an external network – I'm speaking about both of those things – but in general, I think women undervalue the importance of nurturing and utilizing their network for career advancement and for job search.
So this is common amongst many people – certainly very common in the women who I work with – and generally speaking, what I hear is that they say they feel reluctant to ask and there's this feeling like maybe they're bothering people or being a nuisance or being seen as wasting the other person's time.
Sarah E. Brown 7:39
Hmm. What is the number one free and actionable tip you can give them to address this challenge now?
Debra Adey 7:46
Okay. So, I'm going to give you something that everyone can do today to start nurturing their network.
So, in the same way that you block time in your calendar for meetings and projects and all the many many things that you need to do, block time in your calendar for networking. Understand that this is a valuable use of your time that contributes to your professional development and your career advancement.
So just like taking time for self care, this is something you do for yourself and it requires being proactive and intentional about making yourself a priority.
And also understand that good networking is reciprocal in nature and that you also have valuable information, insights, advice to offer other people in your network; so, it's a two way street.
So you're also looking for ways to be helpful to others. And the more that we can go about networking in the spirit of reciprocity, we’ll feel more comfortable and confident in the process.
Debra Adey 8:51
So I'm going to give you a specific habit that I always recommend that people try to adopt as an example.
In addition to maybe ongoing networking throughout the year that you might do, block some time two times a year in your calendar. Now I like to choose right before the summer holiday season and around you know, mid December up until the early New Year – somewhere in that timeframe.
So, these are times of the year when many people are maybe starting to think about taking some time out of work, planning for vacation, or perhaps celebrating some cultural or religious holidays. It's a good time to reconnect with people.
So what I recommend is start by writing a simple generic little message that you can copy and paste into a LinkedIn message or to an email and that will help this go faster. Go through all of your LinkedIn contacts and prioritize all the people that you think you know, you should– it's time for you to touch face with people in your network and you want to do that a couple times a year.
So, copy paste this little, this little message and then you're going to go through and you're going to customize it a little bit depending on who you're sending it to – there'll be people where maybe you want to personalize it a little bit – and in some cases, you might say “Hey, I'd love to reconnect. I want to hear what you're up to.” And so, you might even book some follow up meetings or coffee dates as a result of that.
So this will help you stay top of mind, increase your visibility, and help to keep you in the know about what's going on in your industry and the people in your network, and it makes it a lot easier to reach out to people at times when you might need advice or an introduction.
Sarah E. Brown 10:39
Mm-hmm. Really good idea.
So what's a valuable free resource you can share with women to help them understand this challenge better?
Debra Adey 10:49
Well, I'm gonna do a plug for my own podcast.
Sarah E. Brown 10:52
Debra Adey 10:52
So, yeah. So by the Work Revolution podcast, it's just Work Revolution. You can find that on Apple or Spotify or anywhere else you get your podcasts, and we talk about workplace challenges.
We do put a big focus on women and what are the things that are getting in their way of people doing their best work and progressing through work. And so, we talk about what's getting in the way and what are some solutions for that.
I also want to give a really quick tip; it's not related to this problem but this is a great resource I just came across. I'm really excited to share it. It's called FLIK. So the website is just– if you just Google FLIK which is F-L-I-K – it stands for Female Laboratory or Laboratory of Innovative Knowledge – and it's actually an apprenticeship program that I discovered that matches ambitious women with female founders and leaders. So this is a resource I'm using in my business and I've got a great woman helping me with some work projects and I got connected to her through the FLIK program.
So I would suggest, it's worth checking out.
Sarah E. Brown 12:00
Debra, what's one question that I should have asked you that will help our audience take action to address this challenge now, and would you please answer the question?
Debra Adey 12:11
Sure. Okay. So, I've got I've got a two-parter question for myself. So, one is “what do I most want women to know?” and “what is my ask of women moving forward?”
So the thing I think is really important for women to understand is that the workplace was not designed for them. So by that, I mean the systems and the structures that govern how we work – that wasn't designed or created by women and in fact, it wasn't even co-created by men and women together.
So it's not, it's just not supportive of women in their careers. And I would also argue that it's not supportive of modern day families and parents either.
But the thing to know is women, that we're not the problem. The workplace is the problem and it needs to change, but we really need that critical mass of women in all spaces and in leadership for that change to become a reality. Because you know, I've really come to believe during this past – as I've gotten further on in my career – that gender qualities, it's not just going to happen.
We're going to have to really work for it.
And that leads me, I want to talk a little bit about this dilemma that I mentioned before and I talked about humility and then I'm going to get right into my ask for women. The dilemma, and we've talked a lot about this in the past; I'm sure people have heard this before.
This dilemma that we have for women in business and in society in general where we just tend to really undervalue and I would say almost trivialize what are considered to be more – and I'm using air quotes – “feminine traits”.
So if I quickly Google what are feminine traits, I'm going to get words like sensitivity and supportiveness and gentleness and cooperation and expressive and humility, as we talked about already. And even though women do not have a monopoly on these traits by any means – and I certainly don't care what package those traits show up in; I would argue that we need more of these things in business, not less.
And women are often being taught to park those attributes in replace of the more stereotypically masculine traits in order to move forward and be successful. And in fact, I just kind of suggested that in the beginning of my talk. I said, you know, sometimes you have to be more assertive and things like that and there's definitely a time and place for that, but we still want to create workplaces where women can show up as themselves and be themselves, because now we know that those traits are also really important in business.
Debra Adey 14:47
So this leads me to my ask and I'm going to connect it back to networking.
So if you are a woman who's already in a leadership role, my ask of you is to think about how you can help other women and think about, are you proactively networking? Are you making time?
Are you making time in your calendar to be available to women who are more junior than you or even your peers and people you might see almost as competitors? I think we need to really be supportive of one another. Are you proactively doing that for other people? Are you offering up candid advice and information and resources to help women maneuver?
And also, I think it's just really important to share your own experiences in your own struggles along the way. We can't pretend that this has all been easy for us. We really want to help people understand the reality of the challenges and what they can do. And also, are you using the influence that you have to help create the changes that are needed in the workplace to make them places where women can thrive?
So, if you've been lucky enough to have great female role models and people who really cheered you on in your career, you know how important and valuable that is, and if like many women you haven't had that, you know that's unfortunate and it sucks, but we can really change that cycle.
So, we want to think about, you know, think about what it would have meant for you in your career and we want to seek to do that for other people, because there's a lot of great talent out there that's being underutilized right now.
Sarah E. Brown 16:28
Terrific. Terrific idea. Debra, thank you so much for being with us today.
Debra Adey 16:33
Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. It’s been a real pleasure.
Sarah E. Brown 16:36
Thanks for listening to The KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women. If you like what you're hearing, please go to iTunes to subscribe, rate us, and leave a review.
And if you would like more information on how we can help women in your organization to thrive, then go to https://www.sarahebrown.com/. You can sign up for our newsletter, read show notes and learn more about our podcast guests, read my blog, browse through the books, or contact us for a chat.
Goodbye for now.
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