Executive Networking by David Gertler

Many years ago, I was approached by an executive coach who took me to lunch to convince me of the value she could provide. I had just landed a great job as a senior executive in a software company and she thought there were several ways she could assist me in my transition. While I ultimately didn’t move forward with her, one part of the conversation was striking, and I recall it vividly nearly 20 years later.

At one point, she asked me how I landed the job and I told her about the extensive networking I had conducted. As an introverted math geek who didn’t find networking easy, natural or familiar, I was forced to quickly master the secrets of networking to land my new position. At the height of my job search, I was meeting 15-20 new people each week, spending roughly 60 minutes with each person talking about both their interests and needs and my own search for a new opportunity. Those 15-20 hours were in addition to the many hours of follow-up with existing connections. Networking to find a new position had become a full-time effort for me and we discussed many of the details about my approach, successes, and lessons from my job search.

Then the conversation turned. She asked me how many hours each week I was networking since landing my new position. I told her I was putting 100% of my effort into the new role and had cut my networking completely. This is when I was schooled…
“Senior executives network 20% of their time,” she said. “If you’re not networking while working, you’re making a big mistake.” I was shocked - how can anyone work full-time and spend one day each week networking?

She told me that networking is a lifetime activity. Not something you do just to find a job. Sure, when you’re looking for a new opportunity you naturally increase your networking activities; but you should always be networking at least a some of the time. Make time to help others, catch-up with past associates and keep your valuable network active. Your network can be a great asset; but, like many things in life, it takes some level of effort to maintain, nurture, grow and leverage it for mutual benefit.

After this conversation, I decided to make networking part of my normal routine. While my level of networking varies, hardly a week goes by without some degree of connecting with people in my trusted network to catch-up, see how I can help them, make introductions or meet new people. Realizing that a trusted network of business professionals who have expertise and connections and are willing to help offer advice (and vice-versa) was a game changer for me. I now spend a lot of time helping others learn this too.