Brand, not bland
On Wednesday the 23rd of November, I moderated a vibrant panel discussion for CREW UK on the theme of 'Building your network in the workplace and the marketplace". Our generous hosts were Amazon, a CREW UK platinum sponsor.
Could there ever be a better time to discuss networking? Standing out and making yourself heard in an ever more connected world, isn't always obvious. And with the ways of working debate rumbling on, there was plenty to discuss about the different types of networks and the skills required to nurture them.
Risk vs Reward
The panel debated risk versus reward, when expressing opinions online. Clearly approaches differ, with some more cautious about taking a stance. Generational differences are a factor too; but everyone agreed that building and maintaining strong networks is essential for success and resilience. There was also disagreement over whether to blend the personal and professional (#thisisntfacebook); however in a world saturated by content, it is more often the personal which breaks through.
The Power of LinkedIn
Other platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok have much to offer; but active use of LinkedIn is essential: connecting with a wide range of other people; commenting, and posting your own content. An 80% creative content / 20% sharing split was suggested. We agreed that this is challenging (not least from a time perspective). Everyone also acknowledged the importance of more traditional networks, built through workplace interactions and at company and industry events. There are real benefits to meeting and cementing relationships in person, including it being easier to 'read the room' and adjust your tone and style to suit the individual.
Insights from the experts
Some really thought provoking points were made, including:
- Be bold - most people lie low and don't actively network. Whilst this might seem low risk, there is a hidden cost.
- But be mindful of your audience, electronic footprint and corporate guidelines - so this begs the question, what is the right balance?
- Don't try to 'leapfrog' people - just trying to build superficial connections to the most senior people in organisations won't help you. It's important to develop meaningful relationships with the people who matter at all levels.
- Don't engage at the last minute - a profile and reputation with depth takes time to build
- Invest in others - make supportive comments, sharing their content and offer your time
- Your standard of work is your reputation - this is what gives you credibility and underpins everything else you do
All of the panelists had great examples of how networking had helped them make big steps in their careers, by expanding their horizons and opening up exciting opportunities. And, at the close, there were thoughtful questions from a committed audience, proving that CREW UK is itself a truly great network!
Thanks especially to Amina Mansoor, Malies Hoogeboom & Matthew Webster for their unique insight and advice, and of course Fiona Cohen, Michelle Cooper, Kelley Byars and Gurvinder Khurana for organising the event.