Building a Diverse Network in a Hybrid World

Key Takeaways From the NextUp Twin Cities Event

Julie Curtis was the featured speaker at a NextUp event about networking earlier this year. As a member for over 15 years, she was honored to be asked and happy to give back to a community that has enriched her career.

NextUp (formerly Network of Executive Women) is a nonprofit community focused on advancing all women, growing business, and transforming workplaces.

Leading an executive search firm requires constant networking and building relationships, so Julie was the perfect candidate for the job! If you weren’t able to attend the event, you’re in luck. Read on for her key takeaways on building a diverse network in a hybrid world.

Why build a diverse network?

Diverse networks add value. We all know that networking is an important part of building a successful career, but it’s also important to broaden your community. If you want to grow personally and professionally, you need to go outside your comfort zone and hear different experiences and perspectives than your own.

Diverse networks:

  • Encourage diversity of thought
  • Helps us learn from others
  • Broaden viewpoints and perspectives

What does a diverse network look like?

There are so many aspects to diversity that go beyond things like gender, age, race, and ethnicity. Those are great ways to include diversity, but don’t stop there. Think about personal and professional characteristics such as:

  • Industry
  • Experience
  • Level
  • Life stage
  • Communication style
  • Aspiration

Building a diverse network in a hybrid world

1. Rethink what it means to network

A hybrid work environment offers more opportunities to connect and extend our networks beyond our comfort zones.

2. Get uncomfortable

Try new experiences, talk to someone about things you don’t have in common—get out of your comfort zone!

Tip: Ask friends each month for introductions to people in their networks.

3. Find meaningful connections

Think about the “why” behind networking. What do you want to get out of it, and what’s in it for the person on the other side? Reach out to:

  • Peers that hold your role in other companies to gain their perspective.
  • People that have achieved the level you want to achieve (both internally and externally).

4. Seek out “Collabortarians”

Create your own group of people that have different backgrounds, experiences, ideas, and opinions. Use the group for healthy debate and brainstorming.

How to build your network

1. Ask for introductions from others.

Look at your connections on LinkedIn and see who they are connected to that could help build your diverse network.

Ask for an introduction. The answer is almost always “yes.”

Once you have the introduction, ask for a 20-minute GTKY (get to know you) over an in-person or virtual coffee. Know why you want to meet that person and be clear about your intentions. Are you interested in their background, career path, or point of view? Are you considering a job or career change?

Tip: Follow and connect with other people you could learn from.

2. Think about building your network both internally and externally

The biggest mistake people make is only focusing on their internal network within their company, friends, and family. You never know when you will want to, need to, or be forced to look for another role outside of your current organization. Be prepared for that day.

If and when that moment comes is not the time to start building your network—relationships take time to foster.

3. Participate

Join organizations or clubs that you’re passionate about and attend meetups or conferences that speak to you.

It’s important to be active in the groups we belong to. The more you can attend and contribute to online or in-person events, the stronger your network will be. At events, talk to new people and build on relationships that are not as comfortable. Consider going alone, but if you do go as a group don’t sit with your team. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. You never know where it will lead.

Tip: Look through the participants list prior to the event to determine who you want to meet. If you don’t get the opportunity during the event, connect with them afterwards.

4. Reach out and follow up

A network is not made up of one-time introductions or connections. You have to spend time getting to know people and building real relationship with them. When you read an article or listen to a podcast or TED Talk you think they might find interesting, send them a link. It lets them know you’re thinking about them and how you can contribute to their life and career.

Networking is a two-way street—you should give as much to the other person as they’re giving to you.

Relationships are earned; that’s what drives and energizes our entire team at Curtis Food Recruiters. We feel fortunate that people put their trust and confidence in us each and every day, and we are so thankful for the relationships we have built over the past 16 years.

Our diverse network is made up of proven performers in CPG, food, and grocery retail, and over 50% of our placements represent racial and gender diversity. Reach out to us to find your next role or your company’s next leader.