We've all made this fatal networking mistake
One expert is out to change the way that young managers network
Now a founder of her own professional network, by her own admission, Vanessa Vallely CCMI didn’t initially fit into the world of finance. She recalls: “I started my career at 16 in the City. I left school with a less than impressive set of qualifications. I got on the bus at 16 and walked the streets of the city applying for jobs. It was invariably a ‘no’ from most employers, mainly because of my educational background, but also because I believe was a little different. I came from Hackney, had a broad East End accent and was probably too much of a straight talker at 16. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson about tact and diplomacy.”
Over the course of 18 years, Vallely worked her way up through nine different financial organisations, including stints as a global head of function and chief operating officer (COO). Four years ago she founded We Are The City, a network that supports professional development for women. And while her motto is: ‘you get out what you put in’, this does not apply to networking.
THE NETWORKING MISTAKE WE’VE ALL MADE
“Meeting people is about quality and not quantity,” insists Vallely. “Do not spray your business cards everywhere.” One assumes the same goes for mindless LinkedIn requests. “Networking is about meeting new people, however if equal importance is how you build a relationship.”
At the heart of Vallely’s discerning approach is the importance of keeping track of your network. In order to build a worthwhile connection with a business contact you must be reliable – and that’s easier if you are establishing a relationship with fewer people. “If you pledge to follow up and do something or send something to someone, always do it within 24 hours,” she says. So how do you pick who to connect with?
A NETWORKING EXPERT’S TOP TIP
“When you walk into a room, be aware of your unconscious bias and do not gravitate towards a person that looks like you – that is a safe option,” explains Vallely. Find possible contacts at internal work events or “investigate a few external networks and go to their events.”How to network: find out about your local CMI events here
HOW TO GROW YOUR NETWORK THE RIGHT WAY
While you may be physically establishing contact with fewer people when you limit the number of business cards or conversations you have at an event, there is a way to grow your network organically. Vallely suggest that managers become a ‘connectpreneur’ and introduce their connects to other contacts they know, which may work reciprocally in the future. This is more effective because it is more likely to lead to warm relationships – and that means everyone can grow their networks.
HOW CMI CAN HELP YOU BUILD YOUR NETWORK
The Chartered Management Institute brings together ideas and best practice, and its events include those exclusively tailored for business leaders with shared aims and experiences. In addition to landmark presentations on issues such as diversity and productivity there are local book clubs, forums and opportunities to get involved with initiatives such as CMI Management Book of the Year. All the information you need is below.
Get Involved: How to network with other CMI members
Vanessa Vallely CMI is managing director of We Are The City.