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As development surges, women in the construction industry face, and should embrace, opportunities to advance their careers and work on impactful projects. While the “maleness” of the industry can present challenges for women, certain tools are available to assist in the success of women in the construction industry. These tools include networking, teaming up with a mentor and finding a balance in life, family and work.

Networking is key to success in the construction industry. To unlock leadership potential, it’s important to build connections. Recall the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Who you know will assist in getting a foot in the door, establishing a role and moving up the ranks. Once that's established, construction employees can then focus on what they know.

How should women in the construction industry approach networking?

Professionals either love or hate networking. Events typically involve rooms full of people, and those who already know each other huddled up making deals. The following three tips may assist in taking a fresh approach to networking.

  1. A network exists everywhere, not just at planned business events. Networking can be done in a neighborhood, with an alumni group, at church, through sports teams and more. Seeing networking opportunities everywhere will open doors to additional opportunities. When it comes to “forced” networking events, the second piece of advice takes hold.
  2. You have nothing to lose. Attendees at a particular event typically attend because the group, topic or location is of interest to them, so dive in and start a discussion about the topic or group. If an attendee’s personality is suited to a strength-in-numbers situation, take a colleague or a friend who is entirely unconnected to the event and introduce them to the group or topic.
  3. Fine tune communication skills. It is essential for the attendee to communicate clearly and concisely about what they do and what they aim to do. Communication goes beyond the scope of interaction with industry professionals. A network will not necessarily include only industry professionals. A network might also include the grandmother who lives in the neighborhood whose son or daughter is a developer that might need the company’s services. Being able to clearly communicate with any type of audience allows industry professionals to tap into more connections.
What women should look for in an industry mentor

Following networking success, an integral step in advancing a career is finding someone with industry experience who can provide guidance and help flesh out ideas. Seek out mentors. While women in the construction industry do not necessarily need female mentors, having a mentor in general is key.

Establishing a rapport with someone who has experience in the industry can provide great career insight and helpful advice, and even open doors. Ask questions and express interest and the network will grow.

How to maintain a healthy work-life balance

With so much focus on networking, mentoring and career advancement, it’s easy to feel pulled in different directions.

Work-life balance is a puzzle. People tend to define their roles in life: the parent, the spouse, the employee and then attempt to divide their time to fit each category. However, dividing time, effort and attention across categories is not ideal. Each category demands or deserves 100 percent, which is actually an attainable goal in the work-life balancing act. Give 100 percent of yourself in that moment, in the office, to your career. Give 100 percent at home with  family. Give 100 percent to being a spouse, neighbor and friend.

However, life is not always that easy. There are going to be times when family issues come up during business hours and vice versa. The idea is to not think of work-life balance as a division across categories, but instead as a focus on 100 percent of what can be offered at any given moment.

By putting certain tools to work such as networking, mentoring and giving 100 percent in a focused manner, women in the building industry will continue to advance, gain leadership roles and succeed.

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