My colleague John Rehm – fresh from a tour of duty in Asia with IDEO leading innovation projects – flagged a post at HBR.com by Campbell Soup Company CEO and President Doug Conant titled Five Steps to Building Your Network.
If you’ve read Conant’s book with Nette Norgaard, Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, you know that his candor and personal openness is unusual (unfortunately) for most senior executives.
Conant identifies 5 steps that he thinks are essential:
- Identify your network cluster.
- Ask for ideas and advice.
- Follow up immediately.
- Follow up with regular e-mails.
- Keep your network alive.
It’s excellent advice, and as John suggested, the type of subject and point of view I write about frequently, including:
- The 3Rs of How-to-Network
- Save the Whales – and Your Career Network
- 4 Antidotes for the 7 Deadly Sins of Networking
- Know Yourself & Networking (a how-to-guide)
So when is the best time to build your professional network?
Like a number of things in life (being in shape, having money in the bank, etc.) setting up your network is best done before you need it for things like job hunting. Networking is a relationship, not simply a series of transactions. And the folks who are best at it are people who are sharing insights and advice with people before they need to – not when you need to.
Networking effectively is cited as one of the top 5 things innovators and entrepreneurs do well – and not just jobs, but ideas, talent, resources, backers, etc.
So when is the best time to build your professional network? Now.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.