Recently, I informally asked 25 professionals at different stages of their careers to share their thoughts on networking.
In every case, the word itself elicited a sigh, groan or eye roll, and a story about fears of being in a large room with a lot of strangers. Networking to build your personal brand is different.
- It has specific purpose – a means to achieve your reason for action
- It should be tightly targeted to the right individuals – those in your stakeholder plan.
- And it can be done only in environments where your value proposition can shine. It doesn’t have to be done in a big room with strangers if that’s not your happy place.
Let’s talk about three tips for networking
First, before casting your net wide, establish your own personal Board of Directors. This is no more than 5 individuals who can help steward your brand and both spark and direct your networking. Your board is made up of:
- A few connectors (those that make introductions).
- A mentor who may be a technical expert and knows your space.
- And a peer-level individual who can serve as your reality check without competing with you.
Second, know your ask. Knowing what you stand for and what you need makes it easier to engage and network.
Example: Hi, I am an investor relations professional developing a specialty in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Would you be willing to spend 30 minutes sharing your perspectives on ESG?
Asking is uncomfortable because it puts us into a potentially vulnerable spot. A recent book about networking and influence said it well, “Ask for what you want. Be specific. Give other people the opportunity to say yes.”
Finally, engage in a comfortable and authentic way. If that is engaging 1-1 through introductions from your personal board of directors, that is great. If it is forming your own small group breakfast discussions. By all means.
Our investor relations professional may never need to step foot into a large meeting again if he is successful connecting 1-on-1 with chief financial officers and other investor relations professionals as part of his ESG learnings.
These are three ways to help you change your game around networking and focus it on building your personal brand and achieving your reason for action.