Our firm, B2B CFO®, places great emphasis on building a quality network of business relationships. Frankly, most of the referrals our partners receive come from a network of trusted associates. So I spend a fair amount of my non-billable time attending meetings and events that will expose me to people who may become part of that network.
Networking isn’t just for those who build customer relationships. Succeeding in your job may well depend upon building relationships with key people in your organization. Likewise, building strong relationships with other employees, customers and suppliers is also key. People feel a natural tendency to assist those that they know and respect. When promotions and layoffs are on the minds of managers, they are more inclined to promote those who have demonstrated skills they need and with whom they have some connection. The reverse is also true in a layoff situation. Those who have demonstrated they have the skills the organization needs to continue will be preserved in a downturn. Frankly, they may be promoted when others are being released.
So how do you build these important relationships? First of all, spend time researching and listening. You will naturally hear snippets of casual conversation that may provide a more well rounded picture of the leader. What do they like to discuss in casual conversation? Take a few minutes to research their online profile. Many people have added their complete resume and to social media sites like LinkedIn. Read the profile and look for areas of common interest. Perhaps you share an alma mater or an interest in a sports team or hobby. Does the person serve on outside boards or organizations that might provide a connection?
Look for opportunities to engage in casual conversation at work and in social settings. Be careful to be sincere. If this is to be a sustained relationship, it can’t be based upon an insincere premise. Don’t get involved in a charity just because it is a favorite of the boss, but you might mention that you heard of their interest in the charity and would like to know more about that organization’s work.
This time of year, it is common to have social events in firms. Take advantage of these opportunities to mingle with those whom you might not otherwise regularly interact. Also be careful not to overindulge during these occasions. It is easy to hover around the food or drink rather than to focus on getting to know others.
Networking is hard work that requires research and taking social risks. But the benefits can be a happier and more successful career.