For successful executives, leaders and entrepreneurs alike, there’s never a point in your career where networking is done. Just because you feel you’ve reached the top or don’t have time for it, networking—especially “offline”—is tremendously profitable in attracting new opportunities, ideas and talent.
While digital networking is important, with 80 percent of global CEOs engaging socially on LinkedIn, it will never replace going out and actually cultivating and building your network.
Great leaders are proactive in developing inner circles that balance like-minded individuals with those that challenge them, ultimately providing new business opportunities. As executives, however, we don’t have time to waste, so I use the following tips to make the most out of every networking opportunity—and you can use them too.
Focus Your Purpose
Making the most of every executive networking opportunity requires you to be specific in your purpose. If you don’t have a clearly defined business goal or aren’t certain what your “why” is, then how can someone else help you?
Networking will be most profitable for you when you master this targeted approach. Focus on meeting with and building a diverse group of individuals and surround yourself with the people that can help you reach specific business goals. Commit to your purpose and as these relationships grow, consider how they fit into that burgeoning “why.” Someone may be more valuable in expanding your business while another person would serve you best in a mentor role.
As you provide your value to them as well, you’ll find that this purposeful networking leads to more satisfying and effective connections.
Cultivating a Network Actually Takes Work
Rather than building a close circle of close friends and people from your company, concentrate on finding a small group of insightful outside voices. In a recent blog post, 8 Actionable Tips for Entrepreneurs, I talk about the importance of consistently keeping your eyes open for these connections because they won’t come to you organically, or surface from day-to-day operations.
Quite the contrary, finding people who challenge your ideas, push you to be better, and give you developmental feedback—the trifecta for success and growth—requires hard work. Find events, networking and otherwise, where you can connect with people that cross geographical, organizational and hierarchal lines, and you’ll be on your way to success:
“The executives who consistently rank in the top 20 percent of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks—made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy,” says Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas, Harvard Business Review.
Give First, Be Authentic
Authenticity—both in business and in networking—is important for establishing reciprocal relationships with others in the executive arena. Long-term, rewarding professional partnerships don’t begin with a selfish attitude.
When first meeting someone you think could be helpful, offer your services first. Ask: What do you need help with right now? What do you see yourself needing the most support with in the future? Being authentic with connections and always trying to provide greater value makes them more likely to do the same for you. This sets the foundation for a strong network that is instrumental for everyone involved.
Executive networking is critical, and the right connections can help you scale your business and reach new levels of success. Remember to find your purpose, be authentic with everyone you meet, and put in the work to cultivate a network that works for everyone involved.