Networking isn't just about collecting business cards or adding LinkedIn contacts. Rather, successful networking means establishing meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships can then help you find a new role, fill a position and/or tackle a business challenge. So said our panel of business leaders at the May program of Boston Women in Finance, led by moderator Donna Walsh, Financial Advisor, AXA Advisors.
Start Making Connections Now Joyce Bell, CFO, Nexage, explained that early in her career she did not take the time to have a cup of coffee or meet with someone interested in an informational interview. Rather, “I was heads down, focused on deliverables.” Following the sale of her employer, however, she found herself without the necessary relationships to help jumpstart her job search. This convinced her of the importance of cultivating a network regardless of any immediate needs.
Think of Networking as Connecting to What’s Possible “ You should not dread networking as something to be done with a specific goal and on a pre-determined timetable,” said Victoria Nessen Kohlasch, Founder and President, NK&J. She advised the audience to consider networking as an opportunity to be curious – to broaden your understanding of people and industry.
Use Social Media to Maintain Relationships LinkedIn, Newsle and other services allow you to keep an eye on what your connections are doing. Send a congratulatory note when someone has a job anniversary, or pass along a news article that would be of interest. These small, ongoing outreaches can strengthen your connections.
Use Your Contacts’ Time Wisely Roberta Zysman, CEO, Dedham Medical Associates, reminded attendees to be considerate of their contact’s time. “We are always happy to help you make decisions about your next move,” she counseled, “But we need you to help us with some basic research on areas that you think might be of interest.”
Make Sure you Follow Up All three panelists agreed that follow-up is critical. If you say you are going to send something or contact someone, make sure you do it. Joyce recounted a story of a candidate who she referred to someone else, but that candidate did not reach out in a timely manner. By the time the outreach was made, the introduction had gone cold.
Follow-up Also Means Closing the Loop “Let us know how the story ends,” said Victoria, echoing the request by the other panelists. "We are always happy to help," said Roberta, "In return, let us know how things worked out." So make sure you connect back with your network when you land the new job, fill the position or succeed with the new assignment.