I came across a blog with a title that made me naturally curious: “The Single Biggest Mistake I've Seen Women Make at Work.” I wasn’t sure what to prepare for, but was surprised to read that the single biggest mistake that women tend to make at work is not something they do; it’s something they don’t do enough: network. The blog’s author, Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street CEO and founder of Ellevest, a financial services firm that targets women’s investment needs, believes that women who don’t network as much as their male and female peers bring this habit with them from school.

“I can’t tell you how many women I’ve spoken to who think that delivering a great project on time, ticking and tying the budget, landing the new client are the keys to success. In other words, getting an A. With a bit of prodding, they further tell me that they believe that if they keep their heads down and “get that A,” they will be given the next great project or be promoted or granted the raise. In other words, that they will be rewarded for a job well done.”

Of course you need to excel in your position, but being great at your job may not be enough, she says, because your next opportunity for advancement is more likely to come from an encounter at an industry meeting rather than from your colleague in the next office.

That may be true, but what the author didn’t say was that networking is a powerful tool for more than just individual professional brand-building, it’s also great for business overall. When you network, your ideas are shared, compared and held up for future conversations, and your organization benefits from your representation of its brand. This isn’t insurance-industry specific; Krawcheck says networking is the #1 unwritten rule of success in business.

I agree with Krawcheck’s perspective, but from a different angle. Career advancement it isn’t all about networking or who you know: Once your connection decides to take a chance on you, you must absolutely do your superior best, but not with your head down and away from developing and increasing further insurance-related connections. You need to find the balance between outstanding performance at work and excelling at establishing long-term, meaningful professional relationships via networking.

Such is the hallmark for the Women in Insurance Leadership forum, a program I’m proud to say has grown since its inception in 2006 to be one of the highest quality educational and networking events in the industry. Next week, female (and a few male) attendees will gather in Chicago for a chance to learn about the latest business and technology trends impacting their organizations and network with the most successful female insurance executives from all lines of business – women who have done their superior best--and who want to help bring others up through the ranks.

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