This week we held our 2nd "Leading Women in Finance Network: Connection Beyond the Numbers" Dinner. It was a stunning evening filled with great food, great conversation and most importantly great people. One of the pieces of feedback I received from the night was, "I was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed vibe, and that it didn't really feel like a "networking event" which usually feels like work!" And I reckon that's a feeling we can all relate to.
Naturally the topic of 'networking' and 'our network' came up in one of the conversations and in particular, how we didn't think about our network and networking until it was perhaps too late.
Why we don't network
We get told we should network, and we might be invited to networking events, but because we're so focused on our current job, and strengthening our relationships with our current network, we deprioritise its importance. I mean, we have enough friends, we are surrounded by great people at work, and ultimately, they are the people that are going to make me most successful in my current role which is ultimately what matters. Add to that, our time is precious, and we often work late, so god forbid we take another night away from my family and run the risk of spending an evening with people who just want my business card and spend the conversation with me looking over my shoulder in the event that someone 'more important' walks in the room.
Completely get it.
That is, until the dial shifts.
While focusing on our current network, and managing our energy so that we can be exceptional in our current role is really important, it's shortsighted. What this approach doesn't do is consider your vision - about where you want to go in your career. And to be honest, if you're happy in your job, with the people you work with, and how you are recognised, the question 'where do I want to go with my career' is unlikely to be front of mind.
However, not only is it shortsighted, it's narrow minded. It doesn't consider that in today's world, we truly operate in a matrix environment where problem solving in one organisation, or one industry, can be picked up and adapted equally as successfully in another. So even though you may be surrounded by truly brilliant people in your current role, it's naive to think that you can't learn better ways of doing things from others not in your current inner circle.
Playing the long game, while winning the short one
In the 'busy-ness' of life I understand that is really hard to look up and think strategically when you're so in the detail. This is one of the biggest challenges I work with my clients to solve as they are so focused on continuing to nail their current role. Same goes with your network. The most powerful way to know who/what/when to network is to think about the network you would need for your future career.
Let's make it tangible: build your powerbase
We want to build what we call your powerbase. The network of people that will help you be strong, stay strong, and continue to be strong in the long run. Here are the 5 steps follow to help you build your powerbase:
1. Take a moment to consider your best possible career in five years.
2. Who will be the people who you know, and know you if you achieve your vision? Don't limit yourself. Think about the leaders in your field and in your communities.
3. Work backwards to write the story about how you came to know these people. Which membership groups or associations did you join? What projects did you deliver? Where did you take on leadership roles? Who made key introductions for you? How did you develop new skills and abilities?
4. What do you have to do now to show up differently in order to attract the types of people you need to attract, and make the story come true?
5. What are key steps you can take right now to start building your ideal network and moving powerfully into the future?
If you have completed the 5 steps above, the answer will be clear. You cannot get to your dream job if you don't get out there and develop the relationships with the right people.
This book title says it all.
It has been said that if you want to marry a ten, you have to be a ten. The same is true for our network of professional relationships. If you want to be associated with top-tier professionals, you have to be one yourself.
Possibly, and that's okay. This "from the future" networking can be scary for many, because it might mean that you might have to reinvent yourself and show up differently than you have been. But what if this was all a test-run for something else? What if your answer to question #1 was the game you're supposed to be playing, the role you're supposed to be doing and this is all just practice?
So....this exercise may feel awkward but when it comes to our mindset about networking, then choosing what type of networking to do and what events to choose to go to, I hope you're feeling far more confident and far greater clarity about those decisions.
Do I ditch my current network?
Absolutely not. Your powerbase should include current and future relationships. Continue to invest and nuture your relationships as they may be the very ones to open the doors to those you've listed in question #2. They are the ones that help you kick your current goals and help boost you now. But be strategic about it - not every relationship is created equal. As a natural people-pleaser, this has been something that has been a challenging one for me to get clear about for myself.
Your powerbase needs to be relevant
On Tuesday evening, we also had an interesting conversation about certain 'influencers'. One of the big takeaways from that discussion was being an 'influencer' doesn't mean you need to be everything for everyone. Same goes with your network. You don't need to go to every event, and have a relationship with every senior exec out there. But make sure you put yourself out there to develop the relationships that you need to amplify your impact now....and in the future.
Who do you need in your corner today?
Who do you need in your corner tomorrow?
How are you going to make that happen?