May 4 2014
When we think of professional networkers, most of us think of executives because they regularly apply many of the principles of networking to their own teams and internal organization departments. They gather information that is actionable and timely: industry trends, opportunities, competitors’ activities, customer feedback, sales projections, etc.
However, many executives don't apply this same strategy when networking for their executive job search. Are they using their network to showcase how desirable their skills are in a changing market? Or to tap into contacts who may have or know of job opportunities that could be a perfect fit? Are they checking out what their competition is doing so they can set themselves apart?
Why is that many executives don’t apply this same strategy to their search? Because when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone, this can be a somewhat paralyzing experience. The default reaction may be to avoid networking altogether, when the action should be to work on strengthening an existing network and continually building new contacts.
An executive’s networking effectiveness is raised exponentially with the help of a network. When it comes right down to it, the power is in the people who help you vet and get introduced to possible allies and trusted connections, and who understand your assets, target market, and intrinsic value.
Executives who are likely to fail at networking:
- Have many excuses not to network
- Think networking is all about them
- Believe networking is about selling
- Get impatient or frustrated when networking doesn’t generate instant results
- Don’t network regularly and consider it part of an ongoing process
- Aren’t strategic, purposeful, or prepared
- Don’t understand how to make the most of networking
- Neglect to follow up after making initial contact
Executives who have achieved the most success at networking:
- Build relationships first
- Invest in long-term results
- Make networking part of their professional protocol
- Are strategic, proactive, and purposeful
- Are open to learning about and meeting new people
- Learn and consistently practice good networking skills
- Have a warm and friendly approach
- Invest in timely, appropriate follow up
Make networking count. We only have so much time in a day to accomplish all that is necessary: work, family, exercise, etc.
A few questions to ask yourself about your contacts: Is this someone who…
- I can learn from and be inspired?
- Has experience I wish to model and learn?
- Is pleasant, natural and energizing?
- Has a good network to tap into?
- Understands and values my experience and services?
- Has important information to share?
Create a plan. Executives are all about planning when it comes to business; it is usually one of their strengths – creating a plan, developing a budget, and assigning actionable steps. This strategy translates easily to networking.
Plan – keep it simple. Identify the contacts you currently have and want to nurture, and new people you want to connect to and build relationships. After you have created your list, how many of these connections are you willing and able to make in a week?
Budget – be realistic. Asking contacts to meet you for lunch, or joining a local association or networking group costs money. These costs of networking are minimal when considered into the overall outcome – a new position – but should be budgeted and tracked not only for cash flow, but potential tax benefits as well.
Steps – pace & track yourself. What steps do you need to put into place to achieve your goals? Staying organized is one way to manage the networking process. One effective method is to create a spreadsheet with your contacts, phone calls, meetings, opportunities, and follow up.
Develop network intelligence. Tap into other people’s knowledge. It is an indispensable source of information because people observe and relay information differently than a newspaper or magazine for one thing. A person can clue you in to an unannounced job opportunity being created at their company, or specific idiosyncrasies of an organization. Those insights are invaluable when looking for another position.
People also offer contextualized advice (wanted or unwanted). When you have a well-nurtured network, they will know your interests and goals, and can tailor the information they pass on to you accordingly. In other words, they won’t bother sharing a manager position with you because they know you are looking for a C-level career move.
So start tapping into your network. Start investing time to nurture and develop your contacts, and pursue opportunities before you think you need them. Consider networking a lifelong key to success.
The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Advanced Job Search
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to: