These days, it’s not so much what you know as who you know. While you need experience and credentials to give you the know how to lead a team or run a company, it’s often the handshake of someone you know that will get your resume on the desk. Whether or not you think this is fair, networking is a crucial part of every career and should be a habit of every executive.
The rules for networking are very simple. The bigger your network is, the more people you know and the richer your connections, the more opportunities you will have.
Here’s our quick guide to the why and how of networking for executives and leaders:
You might have gotten to your current position through your own hard work. But when you enter a management role, you’ll start to appreciate the importance of knowing people in other departments, companies, and industries.
- Networking gives you ideas for current and future projects. When you have a diverse network, you can usually find an answer with just a few phone calls, or someone you know will know someone who has the solution.
- Your network can also give you feedback on your current ideas or problems, and let you know what you can do to improve.
- Are you looking for your next job? You’ll have your ear to the ground for more opportunities when your network is large. Someone you know can refer places that are hiring or looking for a fresh face.
Here’s how to make the most, while having fun, at your next networking event:
Networking events are great places to meet new people and strategically grow your network. Preparation is crucial to making the most of these events and your precious time.
Don’t just show up. Prepare a self-introduction. Your introduction should be short but interesting, and not make you look arrogant.
Scan the guest list ahead of time if it is available, and know who you want to speak with. Think of three to five questions that you want to ask those people.
For instance, are there leaders in your field, or people who can introduce you to key people in your industry? Do a little research. Think of things you’d like to ask them and read up on their latest work or their projects so that you aren’t going in blind.
If you have a little knowledge about their projects, share some tips or point them in the right direction—nicely. No one likes a know it all.
Before you go in, check the dress code. This is for your own comfort, as well as looking professional. Wearing something inappropriate can ruin your entire night, and make you look unprofessional, rather than someone to be reckoned with.
When you enter the room, scan it quickly and don’t forget to smile. Remember, confidence goes a long way.
As much as you may want to go home after a long day at work, plan to go out at least a couple of nights a week. Think of it as part of the job.