The Importance of Networking
By Lynn Simon-Thomas
Manager, Diversity Engagement
For some people, making professional connections can be a rather challenging and intimidating task. Then, when you throw in extraordinary times like those in which we’re currently living, the fear factor goes from, “What if I blow this because I say something silly?” to “What if I blow this because I look a mess on camera?” I know, I get it. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re networking, whether virtually or in person, is that the other person is just that: a person. Just like you, they are a human being who has dreams and goals, family and friends, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and, of course, quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them unique and interesting. Who knows? You may have something in common, but you’ll never know if you don’t accept the invite, phone call or email to connect.
Once you’ve made a new connection, it’s important to stay connected, even when you are unable to do it face-to-face. It’s no secret we’ve all had to get used to having more Zoom conversations than we care to count and learning how to “show up” in a virtual environment is an art in and of itself. But just about anything is possible when you focus and commit adequate time and effort.
If you stop to think about it, everyone (yes, even you) has a network. Starting with family and friends, you probably have people you can count on to help guide you with sound advice, as well as those who may periodically seek your advice. Professional networks are no different. They’re just as, if not more, important than personal ones, as they can impact the trajectory of your career path. And just like any living thing, they need to be fed and nurtured to remain healthy. As a Diversity Recruiting Manager, I regularly share articles or just send a note to my connections to say, “Hello.”
In 2021 we started a program called Just Coffee at Travelers to help facilitate network building. The goal was to connect several passive candidates with leaders at Travelers for an informal, yet professional, conversation via Zoom. To ensure both parties remained at ease, we reminded them that the conversation was not an interview, but really an opportunity to make a new connection and build their respective networks. Just Coffee has been well-received by both candidates and Travelers’ leaders, which has shown me that many people are still open to the idea of spending 30 minutes with another human, simply for the sake of getting to know someone new. That’s networking at its finest.
Networking is an art that must be practiced regularly. Below I’ve included a few tips to help you improve your networking skills.
Lynn’s Top 4 Networking Tips:
- Don’t reach out to your network only when you need something. It’s important to stay in contact with your network often, even if you are just saying, “Hello” or sharing an article.
- When someone reaches out to you, do your best to respond in a timely manner. I say “do your best” because I know we’re all busy and sometimes cannot afford to log on to LinkedIn regularly.
- Send a brief follow-up note if you haven’t received a response from someone in a few weeks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned that my message was not received because the person was on vacation.
- Always be authentic with your outreach. Remember to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the meeting, whether with a new connection or an old friend.
Lynn Simon-Thomas is Manager, Diversity Engagement within Talent Acquisition. Lynn has over 15 years of experience in recruiting and diversity engagement. She serves as the diversity and inclusion subject matter expert focused on the execution of targeted diverse talent sourcing strategies.