5 Tips for Networking with Executives at Your Company
When people talk about networking, they typically refer to something done outside your place of employment. External networking is important, but we shouldn’t short shrift networking within your company, which can prove pivotal to success at your current job and beyond.
Company executives are some of the most rewarding people to have in your professional network, but they can feel the most out of reach. They aren’t! With these five tips you can begin making these valuable connections.
When you start networking, avoid treating executives differently. They’re professionals who are good at their job and have experience in the industry, not celebrities. Don’t sabotage yourself by bragging, showing off, or name dropping, either.
Be genuine. A pleasant hello, a handshake, and some friendly discussion go a long way. Then simply treat them the same way you’d want to be treated as a professional.
Develop a reputation as a hard worker and team player as well. If the executive checks up on you, you want a positive reputation to precede you and speak toward your value at the company.
An executive relationship can blossom into a mentorship or sponsorship, so foster connections with executives you want to learn from. Pay attention to people up the corporate ladder who you respect and whose work you admire.
Ideally, this person will work in the department you wish to grow into. But having mentors and relationships across the company has its advantages. It strengthens your knowledge of the company’s internal workings and the resources available to you.
Don’t limit yourself to networking one executive. What if that person leaves the company or the connection never actually connects? Reach out to the executives who meet the above criteria and see what happens.
Waiting for the perfect opportunity is one of the worst networking mistakes. Be proactive and create that opportunity. Ask your chosen executive for a one-on-one meeting to discuss either a mentorship or how you can grow in your career or role.
Remember executives are busy people. Even if they would love to set aside an hour to chat, chances are they can only offer you 10–15 minutes (if that). Be flexible and use that time effectively to leave a memorable and positive first impression.
What if the executive can’t meet in person? True, face-to-face interactions make stronger, more favorable connections in the other person’s mind. But that may not be feasible, so it’s okay to make the initial contact online. As long as you are pleasant, professional, and proactive, it will lead to an in-person meeting eventually.
At the meeting, your main role will be as an active listener. You are, after all, hoping to benefit from the executive’s expertise. But you still need to research a pitch.
Your pitch should focus on future actions you can take after the conversation. Your role and the company’s needs will determine what that is. Maybe you’ll ask the executive for some coaching or if you can assist on a specific project. Both offer opportunities to gain experience.
The executive may tweak your pitch or have other ideas. That’s okay. Simply having an actionable pitch shows you to be a serious-minded professional, and that’s a good look.
Be thankful and thorough
Always send a follow up thanking the executive for their time and advice. It’s good manners and goes a long way to show your appreciation.
In the message, be sure to mention a specific idea or piece of advice you found useful or thoughtful. Not only is this complimentary, but it shows you were engaged.
Be a network conduit
Networking within your company can be beneficial to your career. When new projects arise or positions open up, your network of executives will naturally think of you.
But internal networking also benefits your company and coworkers, too. Networking extends and strengthens interoffice connections for better, more effective collaboration. When others need introductions, you can pay it forward by being the conduit. Through your network, you can become an indispensable member of your company.