Amid a global pandemic, professional networking is probably not the first thing that springs to mind as you plan your work week. But for senior leaders, it’s actually an ideal time to reach out and connect.
Last year, 83 percent of our executive clients found their next job through networking. At a vice president level or higher, there’s simply no substitute for the power of these one-to-one conversations.
A strong network delivers in countless ways, helping you:
- Stay on top of industry trends
- Gain new ideas and perspectives
- Build a peer community
- Identify “hidden” job opportunities
- Learn new tools and resources
- Meet potential mentors, partners or clients
- Share your expertise
It’s especially beneficial in the C-suite, where professional development opportunities and true peer-to-peer conversations can be limited. Growing relationships outside the office expands your options and strengthens your resources.
Leaders Report Less Friction, More Generosity
While it may seem counterintuitive, this spring has been a great season for executive networking.
A few factors are contributing:
- No business travel
- Less time spent commuting
- Stronger need for human interaction
- Greater willingness to give back
In short, there’s less “friction” in the system. There are fewer gatekeepers protecting executives’ schedules, and fewer team lunches, industry trade shows and client visits on the calendar. There’s even time regained from the daily commute, now that many executives temporarily are working from home.
Finding time for a 30-minute coffee also takes less effort when it’s virtual rather than face-to-face. Instead of four emails (over several days) to make an introduction, figure out a convenient time and location, then follow up with directions and parking instructions, it takes just a couple of clicks to send a Zoom or FaceTime invite. Location problem solved—just bring your own cup of Ethiopian dark roast.
The other dynamic that benefits executives right now is our natural instinct for compassion and togetherness. Physical distancing and remote work limit our social options. Many of us are talking to a much smaller circle of coworkers, family and acquaintances than normal. There’s a craving for conversation and human interaction. At the same time, with unemployment at record levels, there’s a renewed focus on generosity. We naturally want to help those around us.
Five Ways for Senior Leaders to Connect
As a senior leader, there are a number of ways you can move forward. It’s important to remember that networking is a two-way endeavor, as well as a constant across the lifecycle of your career. Even if you’re in job search mode and actively seeking meetings, you can also focus on giving back to others. If you’re content in your current position, it’s still smart to maintain industry and peer relationships that you can leverage down the road. Finding the balance is what matters.
Five options we recommend:
- When you’re approached, say “yes” to professional introductions
- Proactively reach out to past colleagues and industry peers and offer your help
- Leverage LinkedIn as a tool to widen your circle
- Share meaningful content or invite a peer to a virtual event
- If you’re asking for a meeting, bring the technology and be the host
Don’t forget to follow up as usual with a heartfelt thank-you. Consider buying the coffee or lunch with a virtual gift card to a local coffee shop or cafe. It’s a great way to do good on two levels: Thanking your fellow networker for their time, just as you would in a face-to-face setting, and supporting a restaurant at a time when many food service businesses are struggling.
At Navigate Forward, we encourage all our clients to cultivate strong professional relationships, whether you’re seeking your next gig, looking for a seat on a corporate board or planning your legacy career post-retirement. There’s never been a better time to start (or continue) than right now.
Not ready for your close-up? Review our Dos and Don’ts for Virtual Interviews and Networking for tips to make a great first impression at your next virtual meeting.