With busy schedules and high-pressure jobs, professional networking is probably not the first thing that springs to mind as you plan your work week. But for senior leaders, cultivating a strong professional network is essential, even when you’re not actively in career transition
Last year, 84 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, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted several changes that make it easier to connect with busy executives. One of the biggest is the pivot to virtual and hybrid work environments.
Since 2020, we’ve seen less time spent commuting and on business travel. Simultaneously, we’ve recognized the value of human interaction, leaving many with a greater willingness to give back through networking.
At a vice president level or higher, there’s simply no substitute for the power of networking
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.
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. If your meeting is virual, consider buying the coffee or lunch with a digital 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 local restaurant or small business.
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.
Still anxious about networking? Check out these tips to reframe your outlook and meet new people with confidence.