If you’ve chosen to pursue an interim career, being able to network effectively is a critical skill you’ll need to master.
What is networking?
There are as many different definitions of networking as there are ways of doing it. Some describe it as developing long-term relationships for mutual opportunities. Others describe it as building your social network by exchanging information and ideas and connecting with people with common interests. Whichever definition you prefer, it’s important to remember it’s about about instigating new professional relationships and, just as importantly, nurturing and maintaining long-term ones.
Why is networking so important for interims?
Networking is important for all professionals, but it plays a particularly valuable role for interims:
- As you’ll be regularly changing jobs (the average interim assignment lasts for 10.3 months), having an active, engaged network of useful contacts will help you identify and secure future roles.
- According to the Institute of Interim Management, about 45% of interim assignments are found through intermediaries such as interim service providers. The rest are won through an interim’s own network.
- If you are working through an interim management provider, networking still plays an important role. A consultant is more likely to put you forward for potential assignments if they have a relationship with you than if you’re just one of many CVs on a database. According to the Institute of Interim Management, 61% of hires made through interim providers are with interims already known by the provider.
- It helps you to maintain industry knowledge by connecting with like-minded professionals- important in fast-moving industries or when time between assignments is long and /or frequent. It also provides you with a community of people that you can turn to for advice, inspiration and knowledge when needed.
- When you’re in a company for a short time, others in the business may not make the same effort to get to know you and build relationships as they would if you were a permanent employee. Networking can provide an alternative support system that can help keep you feeling connected and reduce the sense of isolation reported by some interims.
- Increasingly interim managers are expected to bring strong networks with them to assignments to help accelerate the delivery of results. Being recognised as someone with a strong network can be a great personal brand builder.
Seven tips for networking effectively as an interim
- Set clear goals. For example, it could be aiming to talk to at least three new contacts at an event. Or to share at least two relevant articles per week with two people in your network. Or to connect with five new industry contacts per month on LinkedIn.
- Prepare your elevator pitch. As with any job search, be ready to describe who you are and your work in a concise, compelling way. Make sure your pitch clearly highlights what it is that you do better than others. What makes you stand out? It needs to be very specific and granular and not a broad generalist script that anyone could say. Get comfortable saying it so you project confidence. Make it memorable with a “hook” that others can easily recall.
- Go alone. You’ll be perceived as more approachable by many and are more likely to make the effort to make new connections than if you’re tempted to talk to people you already know or that you attend with.
- Don’t play it safe. Many people waste time and money by networking in the wrong places with the wrong people or by sticking with the same familiar networks and events. Get out of your comfort zone and try new places, groups and forums.
- Listen and share. The best networking is mutually beneficial which is why great networkers are genuinely interested and actively listening to what people are saying so they can share relevant and useful connections or information when appropriate and relevant. When you meet someone new, consider how you can add value to them; do you have a connection they would benefit from an introduction to? Do you know of any other events or resources that would be of interest to them?
- Follow up. Once you’ve connected with someone, drop them a quick message saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and if you said you would send them something or introduce them to someone, make sure you do so.
- Do it consistently. It can be tempting to only network when you’re actively looking for a new opportunity. However, networks take time to build, need active nurturing and are based on trust. As the saying goes, “Networking is NOT who you know. It is WHO KNOWS YOU and will actively promote you.” You’re more likely to be remembered and promoted when you’re regularly consistently at the front of people’s minds and not seen to only be available when you want something from others. “Givers gain”. Don’t wait until you need something before you get in touch. Build up a network of contacts who you can help, then maybe in the future you may be able to call upon them to help you.
- It’s normal to be a bit nervous when you first start networking. Many others in the room will be too.
- Networking and selling are not the same thing. Don’t slip into “sell mode”
- The best networkers were not born that way. They got there though working at it, being consistent, persistent and taking a risk in putting themselves out there.