To close out Relationship Month at Coco, we invited Marcia Ballinger and Lars Leafblad of Ballinger|Leafblad, to share their latest best practices for growing and strengthening your professional network. Marcia has been a leader in the Twin Cities executive search community for nearly two decades and is the author of The 20-Minute Networking Meeting. Lars has established an outstanding reputation for connecting people to opportunities and is the founder of Pollen, a nonprofit organization that “invests in human connection to fuel momentum for social change.”
Networking for NOW
By Marcia Ballinger and Lars Leafblad, Ballinger|Leafblad
As executive recruiters, we network all the time. One thing we’ve learned about networking that isn’t a myth: Networking is vital throughout our life. Even though we work in executive search, we’re well aware that most people, statistically speaking, are going to get their next job through their network, not through people like us, and certainly not through online job boards. Most board positions come through your network. Most consulting gigs. Most career mentorship. And the list goes on.
There are still some common myths about networking, particularly in these changing times, that we want to clear up:
Now is a bad time to network.
No, it’s not. We’ve all converted to new ways of doing business; virtual workplaces are now common, but that does not change the value of networking. In-person meetings can be held with social distance respected. Virtual meetings can replace face-to-face. Phone calls, for those who still do them, work wonders. How about large events? Yes! Attend online events too. Comment in the chat box. Connect with other attendees and speakers after the session.
Take advantage of the fact that others might not be active in their networking. They’ll lose ground. But not you. Keep up your active networking.
Online presence is networking enough.
Not really. We think that a solid online presence is imperative. Your social media presence says much about your personal/professional brand, your industry connections and your skills/abilities/wisdom. Yes, you need a fully built-out LinkedIn profile. Yes, being active on social media promotes your brand and your work. But it’s not quite enough.
Think of your online presence as the flip side to your in-person, one-on-one networking. It supports and enhances but does not replace.
It’s hard to network when things are uncertain.
We get that. But we challenge you. When will things be more certain? In fact, we think that your network can add clarity. Now is the time to ask yourself if your professional contacts are reflective of where you want to be in 1 year? In 3 years? Your job, your civic engagement, your board and volunteer service, your “side hustle?” How can you connect with others to broaden and deepen your network?
And what might you want to learn from the folks in your network? Who can help you figure out a current problem? Who can offer suggestions for how to move forward? Remember that everyone has wisdom and loves to share it.
This is your moment! Who is going to network in 2022! YOU ARE!