The Power of Networking: A Masterclass on Building your CRS Relationships
The Aspire Hub’s latest webinar welcomed back ICRS Board Members Dr Sam Healy and Karin Mueller for an interactive workshop on developing in-person and virtual networking skills.
Sam and Karin drew on their own personal experiences and shared some excellent advice on how to develop your networking skills.
Sam’s Perspective – ‘CRS professionals are active change makers; connecting with them is inspiring and energising!’
Many Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability practitioners find themselves as the sole person in their organisation or part of a very small team working on a big remit spanning many niche subject areas. It’s therefore invaluably helpful to connect with other CR professionals outside your organisation who can help you with ideas, problem solving and advice. It is equally as important to have a strong network across your organisation so that colleagues can help you to deliver your goals and champion the work you’re delivering.
Like others, at first Sam found networking scary, but quickly realised that it is a skill that you can hone and develop! Now, Sam actively chooses to grow her network because it is of such value and reaches out to people in her network once a week to catch up. The network she has built has helped her secure her last two job roles, but it’s also a source of joy, friendship, and comradeship.
Karin’s Top Tips
1. Make a Plan
- Be clear around your goals – what are you trying to achieve in your career, and what does this mean for your network?
- Assess your network. What is already there? Your network is probably more extensive than you think – you’ll have picked up interesting people and connections throughout your life. What is missing?
- How can you close the gap for what is missing? (Direct contact, events, social media).
- Networking isn’t about using people; it’s about building mutually beneficial relationships.
2. Making Direct Contact
- Who do you already know?
- Who can introduce you to new contacts? LinkedIn is helpful for looking into who can connect you to a particular person or organisation.
- Who else can you approach directly? Think about what you want from them, and what’s in it for them before approaching.
- Be brave and reach out! This is somewhat easier in a virtual world; people are more open to arranging a quick 15 minute chat at the moment.
- Which events (face to face/virtual?) give interesting networking opportunities?
- Study the speakers and guest list if available. Consider reaching out to people ahead of the event.
- Resist the temptation to skip the networking part of an event – don’t pretend to check your emails or make a phone call during the networking time.
- Be awkward together! Most people want to make new connections, and most people find it hard.
- LinkedIn is a recognised platform for professional networking but do consider others.
- Quality over quantity: make meaningful connections.
- Connect to engage, not to sell yourself or anything else.
- Personalise your contact requests, send a message when you’re connecting saying why you would like to connect.
- Engage – networking starts after making an initial contact. Be part of a conversation with new contacts, engage with their posts, and don’t be afraid to ask to catch up.
- Reframe how you think about networking: think ‘how can I be helpful to people’ rather than ‘how can people help me’. This takes the pressure off and sets you up for building those mutually beneficial relationships.
- Be kind and be inclusive when you’re networking. Bring people into the mix!
- Follow up – networking starts after the initial contact, take the time to build those relationships.
- Be generous and don’t expect anything in return.
- Don’t just network when you think you need it, work on it consistently and it will then be there when you need it.
- Have fun, keep practising and make frolleagues (friend-colleagues)!
- Podcast: Reactive & Proactive Networking
- Video (Tedx): The Power of Meaningful Networking
- Toolkit: The Relationship Maker Guide (network into building relationships)
About the Aspire Hub
The Aspire Hub is a space for new and aspiring CRS professionals to connect, share learnings and resources, and begin building networks. If you are a new or aspiring CRS professional, you can join the Aspire Hub’s LinkedIn group here. The Hub is fast-growing and currently has over 250 members. For any questions about the Aspire Hub or this event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.