Network even when you’re comfortable
If you are comfortable in your current role, you might think you can back off networking until it’s time to find a new job. However, your professional network needs regular attention to solidify relationships and keep a pulse on the competition.
“Don’t wait to network. It’s not about finding a new job; it’s about broadening your knowledge by learning and sharing experiences with others,” Cohn says.
You should always cultivate a strong professional network, because it can give you more than good references and job opportunities. And, if you maintain your network, when it finally is time to find a new job, you won’t have to start from scratch — you’ll already have a strong base of contacts to tap into.
Create a talent pool
Your network is a great way to keep a competitive edge in your industry — and it’s a valuable hiring resource. As an executive, you will need to build a strong team, which requires solid hiring decisions. With a full network, you can “find great people directly or by referral,” says Matt Hoffman, VP of people at DigitalOcean, a cloud computing platform.
“Senior-level positions are most often filled through introductions and referrals. Keeping a strong network is the best way to keep the pipeline full, and be aware of competitive positions at other companies,” he says.
Give back to your network
Maintaining a strong network requires more than one-way transactions that benefit you and your career — it’s important to give back. You want to go into every relationship prioritizing the other person, rather than yourself.
“Approach the conversation with a curiosity mindset — what can I learn from this person, rather than what they can do for me? Focus on listening to them to understand how you can help, and offer to do so with no expectation of anything in return,” says Hoffman.
If you are “willing to offer more than you receive,” it will help build your reputation, and by supporting others’ career goals, they will want to support yours.
It’s not about closing a deal
“Don’t approach networking with a sales mentality. It’s not about introducing someone to help close a deal. It’s about furthering relationships and helping others where you can,” says Hoffman.
Instead, find ways you can help other people, rather than figuring out how they can help you. Learn about their interests, introduce them to people you know and find ways to further their career or strengthen their network, he says.
“Great networking hinges on giving freely of your ideas and sharing best practices. It should be approached with a genuine humility about the fact that you always have more to learn and you should always be looking for new ways to do things better,” says Hoffman.
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