I must admit, I wince when an executive admits to me that they do not know anyone in their industry, or do not keep in touch with former colleagues or bosses. If you are serious about building your executive profile, the addition of networking to your list of To Dos is a must.
So how do you build and engage a network that will help you in our career? Here are a few suggestions on how to get the party started:
1. Build – As we do in the search business – first identify your key targets. Key targets in this case being people you're impressed by. Those you aspire to be like. Those who were helpful with advice, or even made you giggle. Who have you worked with or for in the past? Do you know where they are today?
2. Engage – Keeping your network active is essential. The best time to network is when you are not asking, but giving. Send a quick email to congratulate someone on a promotion, offer industry intelligence (I hear one of our mutual competitors is looking for a VP of HR…), or even share a wine pick. The intent being simply to engage. When the time comes, asking for information, advice, a reference, or a referral will be much easier if you are asking an active connection.
3. Update – Continue to add to and modify your networking list. Which executives have you recently met (at an industry event, a party, or on a soccer field) that you would like to stay connected with? There is no limit to the number of people in your network, and they can come from varying industries and executive levels. Be sure to keep contact information up-to-date in real-time. You never know when you might want to reach out.
Drive and hard work are definitely essential pieces of a successful executive profile. Complement this with a solid network, and you are well on your way to building a successful executive career.