Women of Power: Debra Langford on Successful Networking Strategies

How to build quality connections for professional and personal advancement

Debra Langford: The Power Networker (Image: NBC Universal)

When it comes to professional success and climbing up the ladder, the importance of a solid network to drive the momentum can’t be denied. But just how do you build such a network, one that will not only help you advance in your career but also enrich your social and personal life?

Debra Langford, vice president, inclusion and business diversity, at NBC Universal,  can attest to the power of a great network. “When I have made career transitions, it was because my network believed I could do it,” Langford says. “They helped me move up and helped me strive. I had my network’s support.”

BlackEnterprise.com talked with this industry veteran and woman of power on how to ensure your power networking strategy is one that will bring lucrative results and career success.

BlackEnterprise.com: What are three tips for creating a power network?

Debra Langford: Start with the three Ps:

  • Preparation: Be prepared with your 30-second elevator pitch, or brief introduction about yourself, so that you’re not caught off guard. It doesn’t have to be rehearsed, but be comfortable with it. Also, know who will be in the room when you do network. Know who you’re interacting with or who you would like to interact with.
  • Presence: Attend events. It’s not just enough to be on social networks. You have to have a physical presence and interaction as well.
  • Purpose: What’s your purpose in building your power network? What are your goals? Is it to be more successful in the area you’re in or to communicate that you want to do something different? You must determine that.

How important is it for black women to create a network of support among themselves in working toward career advancement?

It’s incredibly important to have a strong network of black women, but it’s not the only thing they should do. The people within your network should be pretty diverse–from men to people of various backgrounds and races.

You must also build networks both internally and externally. I need to have a strong network of people at my company, at other companies, outside of my industry and socially.

How can Black women in the workplace get past an unhealthy sense of competition between one another, and build a network of support in the professional arena?

I always advise people in building a network to offer assistance to someone. Ask what you can do for them. That would be my advice to decrease the perception of conflict among ourselves. It’s not a healthy or smart strategy. It communicates that you are not a team player.

Once you have your network in place, what are way to expand it or keep the ties strong?

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. Keep thoughtful notations. Before I arrive at this year’s Women of Power Summit, I’ll reach out to the women I met at the last conference. I’ll send an e-mail saying it was great meeting you and develop a dialogue.

Also, in my notes in Microsoft Outlook, I indicate where I met someone. I might send them a nice note at Christmas time. If I’ve met someone, and I see or hear that they’ve been promoted, I’ll send a note of congratulations. It’s all about the follow-up.

How can women navigate a corporate arena that still seems to embrace the good ‘ole boy’s club?

Don’t get distracted by that. Have your own strong network. Your network may be beneficial to you in ways you may not see now. Don’t worry about the things that you can’t control. Concentrate on having a life of purpose, and let that drive you.

Debra Langford will join Black Enterprise at our annual Women of Power Summit February 23-February 26. Not able to join us? Then tune in to our live stream of some of our Women of Power events starting at 9pm on Wednesday, February 23th where we’ll cover awards ceremonies and panels and have interviews with women of power like Debra Langford.

Have a question for someone appearing at the conference? Just log on to blackenterprise.com/wps and we’ll be sure to answer the question live!

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