The Art of Meaningful Networking

by Joe Reardon

“I’m happy in my current role, so I don’t need to network.” I recently had a meeting with a senior-level finance professional, and this was his opinion on the topic of networking.

This is a very common opinion, and ultimately a reflection of many career professionals misperceptionof the true and genuine purpose of networking. This person in particular, a 20-year veteran of the industry, has been exceptionally successful in his career. His select accomplishments include: MBA from a nationally recognized institution, a CPA with a Big 4 public accounting background, a series of progressively more responsible positions with a very stable work history, and now a sitting CFO.

This individual may not have a “need to network,” however he definitely has an uncharted opportunity to network and enrich the careers of others, and himself while in the process. As a former CFO myself, I have to admit to having the same attitude at a point earlier in my career. Now, after more than 12 years in the executive search industry, my attitude has dramatically changed.

The most successful professionals I’ve encountered while in executive search have demonstrated an art of networking. We all know them. These are the people we call when we’re looking for referrals, looking for a new service provider for our business, or happen to find ourselves in transition.

The common denominator motivating these individuals demonstrates the true purpose of networking. Their attitude is not to get something, but to give something. The focus of effective networking is an enrichment opportunity – an opportunity to share the priceless knowledge we’ve accumulated during our careers and to help others. And here’s the most important part…true networking can be done without the expecting to get anything in return.

There are several obvious benefits to networking early in our careers, and the list could be endless depending on a person’s motivation. Several of the more common benefits include the following:

  • Developing a source of advisors in a variety of subject areas
  • Gaining personal brand recognition within a field of expertise
  • Gaining knowledge and contacts in new areas
  • Discovering incremental business opportunities
  • Recruiting the employees for your company
  • Assisting someone in transition by sharing your contacts
  • Developing a more complete understanding of your existing network contacts

Networking becomes more of an art and a fundamental component of our continued career development when the primary motivation is found in the service of others.

This change in attitude can occur at any point in a career and is not necessarily influenced merely by years of experience. Developing a meaningful business relationship satisfies a basic human need, and when motivated by the question, “How can I help?” it provides the cornerstone of a genuine beginning.

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