You cannot overstate the value of having a strong network and its impact on your professional success. How, though, are we to grow and strengthen our networks in this new normal? Can networking be as effective in the virtual world as it is in the real one? The good news: yes, it can be! Here is how.
We have all heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient), and even CQ (Cultural Quotient), but have you heard of NQ, your Networking Quotient? This article from Fast Company offers an eye-opening quiz that will help you take an honest look at the current state of your network. Take a couple of minutes and calculate your NQ. Did you get a high score? Great, keep it up! Is your score surprisingly low? Do not despair—think of this as an opportunity to grow and strengthen your network!
Simply knowing a lot of people does not make your network strong. You want to be strategic about the types of people you add to your network.
Who is strategic for you?
First, understand your networking goals. Are you looking to advance within your firm or organization? Identify internal contacts who are essential to your professional growth (e.g., individual partners, practice group chairs, committee chairs, colleagues, etc.). Are you looking to grow your book of business? Identify prospective clients and ideal referral sources (e.g., accountants, financial advisors, etc.). You get the point.
Next, review your current network and see if these contacts are part of it or not. If not, look to add them to your network by connecting with them or asking your other contacts for introductions to these individuals. The bottom line is that once you know who is important to you, you will be able to approach your networking process with a lot more clarity and focus.
A note of caution: it may be tempting to add as many people as possible to your network. You may have seen some LinkedIn profiles that boast “5,000+ connections.” Having so many connections does little to advance your networking goals. Instead, choose quality over quantity.
Meeting a contact at a networking event or through an introduction is the first step. What creates a real impact is what you do to deepen and strengthen your relationship. You can do it virtually just as well as in person!
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to phrase things to get an interaction going. I hope this template email can help. Feel free to customize it to suit your needs.
Subject Line: Connecting Further
I hope you are doing well and staying healthy. [Insert personalized note: for example, “I hope your big trial in May went well!”]
I enjoyed [meeting you at ____ OR learning a bit about what you do], and because we have not yet had a chance to connect in more depth, I would like to schedule a call or Zoom video chat so we can learn more about each other. I am interested to hear more about your practice/business and your experience with [industry/specialty]. I would also like to get a better sense of the types of individuals with whom you would like to connect [OR opportunities you are seeking] so I can better understand who I can keep you “top of mind” for with my network.
How does [insert a couple of date/time options] work? Let me know what would work well for you.
Looking forward to it!
Remember: networking is a process, not a destination. It is not a single-use item. The most significant networking advantages unfold over time. Make it a part of who you are and what you do as part of your professional career. In the end, everything we get in this life comes from or through other people. The quality of your relationships affects everything.
Happy (virtual) networking!