Being a leader is very demanding. Not only must you deal with the day-to-day responsibilities, but you must anticipate the future. Part of that includes networking to strengthen your position. Often neglected, it is an important aspect of leadership.
Most people have a preconceived notion of networking. It involves a crowded room with people making awkward small talk. To them, networking is just used by those entering the workforce or seeking to make a change. Unfortunately, this means it’s neglected by those who are mid-career and senior-level professionals thinking they are sufficient and no longer need to enlarge their network.
External networking is with parties outside your company. There is a treasure trove of opportunity that people are missing out on. You can identify career opportunities and know about it before anyone even knows about it. Very few people stay with a company their entire career, so it’s good to have the mentality that you’re open-minded to new job options.
Networking can help you own your current job. Often, the hiring process is very slow. HR needs to collect resumes, do the proper vetting, and then contact them. Often it can take months. This can be painful if a key player leads or there is a rapid development of a project. If you’re constantly networking, you can recommend people to hire and accelerate the hiring process greatly.
It also helps you keep a pulse on the industry. Exchanging ideas with thought leaders can greatly increase your knowledge.
Internal networking greatly builds your information and know-how. It connects you to people in the company with different skills and perspectives. It might make it easier to get your project approved.
So how can you start?
If it’s internal, you can start immediately. This can be as small as sitting at meetings or going out to lunch with coworkers.
If it’s external, try finding formal groups. These might include professional associations or meetup.com. They often have regular luncheons and dinner with a speaker, but with an opportunity to mingle beforehand. If you feel confident, consider having a talk on a topic. This will establish you as an authority and a leader on a topic.
Many people make the mistake of neglecting networking. It’s not something done to get your first job or switch careers. It’s a lifelong quest. Although some might find it initially challenging, the benefits will last a lifetime.