When teaching a career class earlier this year to Master students of ESCP Business School, I highlighted networking as one of the 4 main pillars of professional success. I also talked about my personal interpretation of success, which I associate with the creation of impact.
I believe that success is the direct result of our network and what we create with the people who make it up. In other words:
Success = [the individuals we meet and connect with] x [what we create together]
I am fascinated by the power of networking, which goes way beyond getting great jobs and promotions: it is a fantastic level to influence and impact – our organizations, our world. Networking is also one area where my perspective has most evolved after spending the past 15 years collaborating with and empowering thousands of leaders from 20+ countries.
I am thrilled to share my learnings, articulated around my own 3 golden rules.
1 | Self-awareness & Authenticity
Being genuine paves the way for fruitful collaborations, which translate into a greater impact.
Life offers us countless, daily opportunities to meet new people who could be instrumental in our professional trajectory: the speaker at a webinar you attended, participants to a conference or training you attended, but also your neighbors at a café terrace, or on a plane… Being an authentic extrovert, I have so many of those stories.
Knowing ourselves – our values, our purpose, our beliefs – and being genuine (showing our true self to the world) allows us to identify those individuals that we share important things with, and to connect at a deeper level that lays the foundation for friendship and trust – which are key ingredients to the most successful collaborations. Indeed, magic happens when we do what we believe in, with people we love and who share our purpose.
2 | Generosity & Loyalty
When I first started researching about networking, I came across numerous articles drawing a parallel between networking and hunting. According to this mindset, there is a hunter and a huntee. When approaching networking with such a mindset, it becomes a stressful and unpleasant endeavor, unless you are in for the endorphin rushes. And while is true that some people are highly sought after and need to be approached with an efficient approach to factor in the fact that their time is in short supply, overall, networking is not about endorphins. It is about serotonin (belonging) and oxytocin (the chemical generated by friendship, and deep trust).
Networking is not about hunting: it is about farming. The same way crops need sunlight, proper temperature, moisture, air, and nutrients to grow, relationships need to be protected and nurtured. The same way preys die, organizations and projects may terminate but people remain who they are beyond their current occupation. I met some of my best current partners 13 years ago, in a very different professional context.
And for some reason, networking seems to be ruled by the karma law: the more you give, the more you receive. You should not focus on counting points but instead, invest your precious time and effort in helping the individuals from your network, and new projects and collaborations will follow suit.
3 | Curiosity & Diversity
The most inspiring leaders I know actively seek to learn constantly from everyone and everywhere, and built a diverse network. To me and to them, a truly diverse network is inter-generational, inter-cultural and cross-sectorial. A diverse network is also gender-balanced.
Interacting constantly with individuals from backgrounds that are truly different from yours forces you make the conscious effort to understand different perspectives. It broadens your field of experiences and challenges your way of thinking. It allows you to see new analogies, which allow you to see new possibilities. Seeing those parallels is at the core of both creative and strategic thinking, which are some of the strengths of great leaders.
To conclude, networking is an impersonal word that uncovers a very personal process. It is about connecting and nurturing authentic relationships – based on intimacy, trust, curiosity and generosity.