Insights: the art of networking

November 4, 2013
Stephanie Harrington

Associate faculty and alumnus Phil Cady.

School of Business and School of Leadership Studies Associate faculty Phil Cady knows how to network. It’s ingrained into his day and the way he approaches work. Networking doesn’t have to be scary.

Nowadays it means more than handing out business cards to strangers or having awkward conversations at conferences. Cady, who is also a Royal Roads alumnus, takes a smart approach to building relationships, one that starts with those to whom he feels the strongest connection – Royal Roads leadership alumni. Here are some of Cady’s post-graduation tips for mastering the art of winning friends and influencing people.

Join LinkedIn

The way I’ve managed to network, whether through students or past colleagues, has been specifically through LinkedIn. Many leadership grads like to connect with each other on LinkedIn. Get into a network and find a reason to get together. We’ve been getting together for social events because as we’re feeding ourselves we’re also feeding our souls and our relationships. These informal social gatherings across class years have led to great outcomes, in some cases employment or even socially if you haven’t seen someone for a long time. Finding out who’s connected, why they’re connected, and how to reach people is one of the main benefits of joining LinkedIn. When you come to Royal Roads, people ascribe to and buy into a mutually supportive environment where there is comfort, support and safety, where there is sharing of information and resources such as papers and articles. That’s why I initially joined LinkedIn; in some sense it is an extension of our learning community.

Understand the give-take ratio

People shouldn’t go to events expecting to get connected for work – that’s about taking from the network. They go to our gatherings because they really like the people. They enjoy sitting down to a meal with other alumni from their program. They’re not going in for a big “ask” – they’re connecting to build a sense of community. If people take a solely utilitarian focus and hand out business cards, they run the risk of putting others off. Find out what’s important to other people and offer to help them. It’s about voluntary contribution to the larger community you’re in. You have to give to your network; you can’t just take from it.

Connect others

Brokering connections person-to-person increases your social capital and connecting people increases the likelihood that someone will do it for you too. Build a mutually supportive professional network. When somebody asks me the question, "Can you do this?" It’s empowering to be able to say, "No, I can’t, but I know somebody who can." Everybody wins. Facilitating connections is a key part of my professional life. When the market contracts, those who are isolated and not extensively networked often suffer. Those who are connected to their networks and who come from a position of abundance not only survive, they thrive. Employers want candidates who can draw on diverse and strong connections. And they’re often looking on social media to judge your success and your network quotient.

Be social

Whatever city I’m visiting, I put a note out on the general Royal Roads Alumni LinkedIn group and say, "Who wants to get together?" For example I did that in Vancouver, and 140 or so people said they would come along and we ended up with more than 80 people meeting socially over dinner. You don’t always see who’s connected to whom. I realized people were working their own networks. If I’m at the airport in Toronto, I’ll update my status on Facebook that I’m at the airport and someone will say, "I’ll meet you for a coffee." You’re never alone.