Networking in a hybrid world
Networking can be challenging for people, even in normal times. But now that we are working remotely and in person events are largely out of question, it has become an even bigger mission.
My clients are asking me: ‘How do I network in this hybrid world?’ Shall I just wait until we are going back to normal?’ The answer is ‘no’. The hybrid world, a blend of working from home and relying much more on technology to network is here to stay. We will have to adapt the social behaviours that enable us to stay in touch and create new relationships with stakeholders, peers and potential clients.
I have been working with a client in Asia helping a leadership team in the financial services industry to use their executive brand to leverage networking efforts for career advancement. The sponsor of the program shared his leadership journey with the group: ‘I have built strong, global connections over the years, that’s very important in your career. Build connections and networks before you need them, build them now. People want to know who you are. Therefore, you need to know who you are.’ is his advice. Knowing who you are and what people say about you, is your executive brand. It’s the foundation of networking. Then you have to figure how to leverage it.
While it seems much harder to make connections in this new hybrid world where many people (at least partly) work from home and use technology to communicate, there is a silver lining. People actually crave social connection. An article from ‘The Enterprisers Project’ talks about how ‘This pandemic has forces us to appreciate the value of social capital and our ability to interact with one another’.
When you think of ‘Networking’, don’t just consider this as ‘going to a networking event’. In fact, what should be front and centre for leaders is:
Every interaction, every meeting and every presentation is a networking opportunity.
Here are my 10 tips to network well and manage your career in a hybrid world:
- Be visible
When clients tell me that they been overlooked for opportunities in their organisation, I often reply: ‘If you have been overlooked, you are not visible enough’. The people that influence our career have to know who we are, what projects we are involved in, what we deliver for the people and the business. Market yourself, speak up in meetings, ask sponsors and mentors to recommend you, use internal speaking opportunities to get involved. If you have access to an internal social media tool, make sure you show up, contribute and publish content
- Review your Executive Brand
Revisit your executive brand model and brand message. Has anything changed that you want to market? Is your bio and LinkedIn profile in line with your executive brand? Click here to learn more about how to build your leadership brand.
- Leverage technology
Blending technology with leadership is one of the most important post-Covid leadership skills. Get familiar with using different platforms like Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams etc. More importantly, have a strong presence online: always have your video on (you want to be visible, people have to see you), engage with questions and comments in the chat box and be brave and unmute yourself to contribute to the conversation.
- What you can do for other people
One thing that hasn’t changed when networking in a hybrid world is that networking is not selling. It’s about connecting with people, connecting people with people and help seek opportunities or solve problems. Make sure you start your conversation with ‘What can I do for you? Who can I connect you with?’ People will return the favour.
- Widen your network
Ask yourself: ‘Who am I NOT talking to yet?’ If you work for an organisation, create a stakeholder map and jolt down the people that can influence your career, but you are not speaking with them right now. Then make a plan on how and when you get in touch with them. Develop SMART goals that you are accountable for. If you run your own business, do the same for potential clients, influencers etc. LinkedIn Outreach is a good way to start.
- Build your networks before you need them
Especially if you have plans to grow in your career and climb the corporate ladder, you need to build your network now and ask for referrals and testimonials when you are going for the job. Same for stakeholders within your organisation. If you want backing from someone for a e.g. a project, you are far better off getting help when you already have a relationship with the person
- Online events and online conferences
The new hybrid world has thrown a myriad of online events and webinars at us and online conferences are increasingly replacing traditional conventions. Search and filter what type of events are both interesting and helpful for you. The online mode has opened up the world for you. Check out what’s on offer in other countries! Set yourself a weekly/monthly target
- Join networking groups and collectives
For deeper connections and networks consider becoming a member of networking groups, e.g. Women in Business Groups, Chamber of Commerce, Industry specific collectives or non-for profits. This way you can get involved on a deeper level. But remember, these collectives are usually your mates, not your markets
- Give back
Start mentoring younger generations. You can join mentorship programs run by associations or there might even be a mentorship program in your organisation. Don’t expect anything but giving back usually come around! Someone I mentored in the past is now my paying client!
- Social Media
Part of being visible is showing up on social media consistently. Building trust and forging deep connections require to show up as an expert and influencer. It’s not a matter of if we use social media to strengthen our executive presence, it’s how well we do it. Decide where your networks hang out (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube…) and start sharing content. Like, comment, share and publish articles. Or, if you are brave enough, record and publish videos sharing your thoughts and content. Consistency is key to start being visible to your networks.
Don’t get overwhelmed by all of these options. This is a comprehensive list. But start somewhere and build a strategy for your networking that works for you and helps you being visible and lifting your executive presence in a hybrid world. And remember, it is a numbers game but also a quality game:
Widen your network, tighten your circle!
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