Networking can be challenging at the best of times, especially when it comes to networking with senior executives. It’s quite natural to feel a bit apprehensive about approaching senior executives at your company and trying to forge relationships with them. However, success in the business world is often dependent on having the right connections. Knowing the right people will expand your opportunities and boost your career.
Fortunately, networking with senior executives is not as difficult or impossible as you may think. Following these 15 tips on how to network with senior executives will help you overcome your reservations and develop good relationships with them.
1. Start a Conversation About Their Interests
The first step you need to take if you want to build relationships with senior executives is to remember that they are people just like you and me. Even though they are successful in business and experts in their fields, senior executives have families, interests, emotions, and problems just like any other person.
Although you don’t want to be over-familiar, the old adage that you shouldn’t get personal in a business setting is simply not true. Talking about more personal topics can go a long way in forging a real connection with a senior executive since doing so will allow you to find common ground.
2. Be Respectful
Forging a relationship with a senior executive requires a balanced approach. While you don’t want to come across as overly submissive or humble, you should always act in a respectful way. Be mindful of their busy schedules, for instance.
Be sure to pitch for meetings on time and once you’re there, ensure that you use the time with them wisely. Also, always employ the proper tone and guard against becoming over-familiar. Even though it’s OK to talk about subjects outside of work, you don’t want to treat the executive like a buddy.
3. Ask for Advice or Mentoring
An effective tip when it comes to how to network with senior executives is to ask them for their mentorship. You’ll be surprised at how often successful people are willing to help those who reach out to them for advice and guidance. Consider how you frame your questions to a would-be mentor.
Questions such as “How do I become a CEO like you?” may sound superficial and self-serving, and may prompt a senior executive to reject your plea for help.
Rather, ask them for advice about an area of your business or the next step in your career. Doing so will allow you to directly benefit from the expertise of the senior executive and will also demonstrate your commitment and ambition to them.
4. Don’t Try to Sell Yourself
A senior executive is bound to be put off if you openly try to sell yourself to them or immediately inform them that you’re right for a certain position. Doing so provides no value, since anybody can walk up to a CEO and tell them they’re right for a job. Instead, rather focus on introducing yourself to a senior executive and building a relationship with them first.
Also, rather than making demands and talking about yourself, make the conversation about them. In addition, instead of selling yourself, rather show how you can add value to a company. Once you’ve developed a relationship with an executive, you can be more open about how you plan to develop your career.
5. Be Yourself
Although it can be daunting to approach a person you look up to, you should try to be yourself. CEOs are constantly approached by junior staff members who want to improve their careers. If you’re not genuine, they will immediately notice this and the chances of having a fruitful conversation that may lead to a relationship will be virtually null. Only by being yourself will you be able to show the unique aspects that make you different from others. If you’re feeling very nervous, the best way to deflect attention from your anxiety is to ask thoughtful questions and to listen attentively to what an executive has to say.
6. Identify Senior Executives To Network With
If you’re working for a big firm that has many senior staff members, you should be selective about who it is you want to build a relationship with. Aimlessly running through the corridors of the company and cornering any senior executive you meet will not yield positive results. Go through the list of senior executives at your firm and pick one or two who could be most beneficial to your career. It makes sense to opt for executives who are involved in your area of the business, or who you feel can provide the best mentorship for you.
7. Be Proactive
As is the case with most things in life, building a relationship with a senior executive will require action from your side. If you know of an upcoming conference or event that both you and the senior executive will be attending, aim to approach them then, even if it is just to introduce yourself.
Since senior executives have jampacked schedules, you can also try to arrange a meeting. When you email your request, be sure to mention that you’re only asking for a short meeting and that you’re willing to fall in with their schedule. If an executive cancels a meeting, don’t give up and don’t take it personally. They have many important responsibilities to tend to. Simply follow up with an email in which you ask to reschedule the meeting.
8. Listen, Don’t Talk
An important rule when it comes to how to network with senior executives is to talk less and listen more. Although you may have the impulse to tell an executive all about yourself and your career aspirations when you meet, desist from doing so.
If an executive has been kind enough to take time out of their busy day to meet with you, use the time wisely by rather listening to what they have to say. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come to the meeting prepared. Decide beforehand on a few specific questions you want to ask. Once you’ve asked your questions, spend the remainder of the time listening attentively to their advice and guidance.
9. Follow up
Once you’ve had a meeting with a senior executive, it’s advisable to follow up with an email in which you thank them for their time. Doing so will demonstrate your gratitude and commitment.
To keep the momentum going, you can ask whether it would be OK if you stayed in touch by reaching out to them in a few weeks’ or months’ time for feedback on how you’ve implemented their advice. Doing so will allow the relationship to naturally continue and progress. You’ll be able to gauge from the executive’s response whether they’re willing to keep providing you with guidance and support.
10. Be Confident
Although it’s super important to be respectful when getting to know a senior executive, you must guard against having no personality or opinion at all. If you’re going to simply grovel at an executive’s feet and agree with everything they have to say, you’re bound to leave no impression at all, or worse, a negative one.
Like most people, senior executives are bound to be attracted to employees who are confident and believe in themselves. If you’re thinking about how to network with senior executives, aim to act decisively and demonstrate the value you can add.
11. Do Your Research
Before you approach a senior executive at a work event or meet with them, take time to do some research. Having some background knowledge of the senior executive, such as their education, work experience, and achievements, will help you formulate more effective questions. It will also provide you with some material you can use to fuel the conversation and will make it easier to find common ground.
12. Keep Working on the Relationship
Like any other relationship in life, developing a solid relationship with a senior executive will require continuous input from your side. After you’ve taken the initial steps of introducing yourself and meeting with an executive, you will need to keep working on the relationship. You can build a positive relationship over time by always being reliable, honest, and trustworthy. Also, never abuse your relationship with an executive by asking for favors or too much of their time.
13. Work on Yourself
Often, a relationship with a superior can be hampered by your own insecurities and negative thoughts. If you’re constantly thinking that you’re not good enough for a senior executive to pay attention to you or fail to approach them for fear of messing up, you will not be able to successfully network with them. If you don’t have good self-esteem or confidence, you need to work on yourself before you’ll be able to foster relationships with a senior executive.
14. Offer Your Services
If you’re wondering how to network with senior executives, remember that you can also be of service to them. Instead of always asking for advice and help from a senior executive, you can make a good impression by offering to help where you can.
Even if your level of expertise and position may not allow you to implement ground-breaking business strategies, you may still be able to help and support an executive. Whether you’re offering to pick up their kid from school or recommending a useful application, your willingness to be of service will leave a good impression.
15. Brush Up on Your Knowledge and Skills
You are bound to grab the attention of a senior executive if you’re up to speed regarding the latest developments in your field. They are also more likely to take you seriously if you excel in your work and are a top performer in your team and department.
Apart from working hard and being a reliable team member, you can improve your knowledge by subscribing to industry publications and having a professional development plan in place.