Networking with a plan
Building your networks takes time and effort. There is never a quick fix – rather, it is a strategy you should implement throughout your career.
Networking will accelerate your reputation as a thought leader, develop new customers and revenue streams, extend your reach of influence, and generate job opportunities.
Network now, for tomorrow. Because networking tomorrow will be too late.
It’s essential to approach networking with a plan, so you can do it consistently and strategically over the course of your career. Consider these key steps:
1. Keep in touch with former and current colleagues.
You have built trust and credibility with these people through your work. They have experience working with you, and as such they are your biggest advocates. Meet annually if not more frequently to keep in touch and connect on LinkedIn.
2. Attend industry events
Take the time to chat to people including your peers, the speakers, customers, and suppliers. Most industry events have the same people attending over time, so get to know them and extend an invitation to a coffee or meeting after the event. Also remember to connect on social media, specifically LinkedIn.
When you sign up for an industry event set yourself a goal Then plan to meet each of the five for a coffee after the event and annually after that.
3. Attend learning or commercial events
Networking outside of your industry is as important as networking within. Having an external view can give you lateral ideas and help you think differently about bringing innovation to your industry. Get to know them and extend an invitation to a coffee or meeting after the event. Connect on social media, specifically LinkedIn.
4. Keep in touch with your customers
Customers have witnessed your expertise and been the direct recipient of the results you’ve delivered. They are your advocates. Meet with them regularly and build meaningful relationships, as well as connecting on social media, specifically LinkedIn.
5. Other industry executives and thought leaders
People are always eager to grow their networks, so leverage this to build your own network. Take your initial meeting to the next level and form a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial to both them and you.
6. Invest time in networking
Plan out your year and leave time for all the industry and learning events you want to attend, as well as budgeting time for coffee catch ups and lunches with your close networks. Relationships take work and the more you invest in them, the more you get back.
7. Plan who to network with
Remain open to networking with different industries and levels of seniority, as this broadens your network and increases your reach. You will never be disappointed if you plan to develop your network well.
Before attending a conference, do your research. Most conferences and events have a list of attendees, so look them up on LinkedIn, follow them on social media and look at their company website. Consider who would be important to network with and how they will complement your network.
9. Be present and engaged when you network
People will know by your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice if you are present and engaged. Be interesting to them and be interested in what they have to say. Always consider how you are making them feel – if you’re looking around the room to see who else has walked in, then that will not make them feel good. This is your personal brand and if you do not present well, you can lose networks, not grow them.
10. Leverage social media
For professionals, the number one platform on social media is LinkedIn. Connect with people across industries, geographies, and levels of seniority.
Set a target of connecting with 25 people on LinkedIn a week – friends, customers, peers, colleagues, and industry experts. Send each an invitation – it is up to you whether you just send an invite or write a personalised message, as both can work well. Accept connections that are sent to you.
One golden rule: when you send an invitation, do not be too quick to send a long message selling yourself. This can put people off. Let your new connection spend some time to get to know you and seeing how you can add value to them. This is where your thought leadership and personal brand comes in, so use your social media posts to communicate messages that add value to your networks.
Networking is an important skill to learn and maintain throughout your career, not just when you are looking for a job. The value of your networks is priceless. Jobs, leads, referrals, ideas, friends. The benefits are endless.
If you don’t have a strategic networking plan, then now is the time to formulate one.
Hunton Executive can help you develop your networking strategy.
Interested in learning more about how to develop your executive career? Contact Hunton Executive for a confidential chat.