As an experienced consultant you will be no stranger to networking and will no doubt have honed strategies for making it a success. However, as with any soft skill, networking with authenticity and charm requires regular exercise to maintain form.
Working in a firm or taking an MBA provides you with structures and processes for selecting networking opportunities that make it part of the job or course. As an independent consultant it becomes your responsibility to make those choices and develop a personal network that will be valuable to the advancement of your career.
You’re also trying to garner respect for yourself as an individual rather than the company or institution you represent. You’ve got more to gain and a clear personal agenda – so how do you navigate the options and build a core, valuable network?
- Combine face to face with online networking – it is great to have a strong online network but more times than not colleagues will recommend you if they have met you in person. Keeping in touch online (using LinkedIn Groups or other social communities) is a great way of establishing a stronger relationship, but then ensure that you also add in occasional meet ups in order to keep that connection relevant.
- Attend events but be selective – attending events is a great way to meet and connect but as an independent you have to be selective about your use of time. Smaller, more in depth events that allow for greater discussion within your area of expertise may be more rewarding than a conference where you are a small fish in a big pond.
- Quality over quantity – having a large network of contacts can feel good but if you can’t remember who they are or how you met them then they are not that useful. Taking the time to cultivate your network so that you have relevant people with valid connections will make all the difference.
- Go into it for the long term – people see through an approach focused on securing a particular short term opportunity. Develop a longer term networking strategy so that if you don’t get this role your reputation in the sector means you might get the next. Using MBA & Company can link you up with relevant businesses and projects around the world via the breadth and reach of our platform. One way of strengthening your position to secure more projects is to have a strong existing network in your area of expertise that has been developed over time.
- Pay it forward – as a highly experienced consultant you are one of the most skilled professionals out there. Therefore, you’ve got a lot to offer more junior consultants. Take inspiration from start-up entrepreneurs and ingratiate yourself in the culture of paying it forward. Exchange ideas and help others who are starting out – you never know when that might come back to benefit you.
- Speak to people as people not projects – it should go without saying but making your connections personal will cement them and from that the opportunities will come. Simple things like remembering details about people will help to make a memorable impression on someone that could influence your likelihood of securing a future project.
- Keep in touch with colleagues from previous employers - Always maintain contact with your previous co-workers if possible - having worked with you before, they are aware of the skills and value that you can add to teams. They could serve as great references or serve as leads for future job searches.