"Lockdown: 12 opportunities for networking", by Eric Le Gendre (EDHEC 1980)

Published on 03/04/2020
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Eric Le Gendre (EDHEC Master 1980) has become a pillar of the EDHEC Alumni community: he has been a mentor and a speaker, he has written books about networking (such as Jamais sans mon réseau, Ed.Fortuna, 2018). We wanted to share with you all the networking tips during the lockdown that he has recently posted on LinkedIn.

 

"Look ahead – beyond all this and far ahead. This incredible period of crisis we are living through, as unexpected as it is violent, as paralysing for some as it is inspirational for others, has encouraged me to share some reflections about the attitudes to adopt. So we can look ahead, far ahead.

So we can look beyond many of the fundamental attitudes to adopt such as discipline and resilience in respecting the restrictions, adaptability and the capacity to be effective, and finally the implementation of safeguards, ways to ensure partial continuity and renew our business activities when the time comes … to mention only those that seem the most vital.

I thought it would be interesting to put forward 12 ideas, 12 approaches ... 12 opportunities for networking that it would be useful to pursue during this lockdown period. These should guide you forward, more easily ... and less painfully towards the end of this crisis, if you have not already adopted them.

I have grouped them together into 3 main areas or “sectors”:

- SELF-IMPROVEMENT: work on your personal development and that of your team, learn to connect better

- EXCHANGE and GIVE: nurture and develop your network, share ideas, documents and contacts, and offer proximity

- ANTICIPATE: draw on your network to better prepare for the end of the crisis

Each of these 3 areas is built on 4 ideas. The aim, as you have probably gathered, is to transform this lockdown into a set of opportunities. So here we go!

 

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SELF-IMPROVEMENT

Every crisis is an opportunity. This is nothing new. What is new is that this one is combined with the lockdown of more than 1 billion people, bringing most industries and services to a halt.

And so for each and every one of us it should be an opportunity to improve our networking.

First of all, for those of you out of step with the technological march forward, or perhaps a bit unsure of yourself with a particular application or hesitant about a certain practice, these two or three months are an unexpected opportunity to teach yourself new skills, get up to speed and reintegrate the communication spaces of the 21st century. Whether it’s Zoom or Skype, LinkedIn or Facebook, WhatsApp or FaceTime, all you need is reach out. Go for it! And don’t forget that work methods and procedures are going to change more in 6 months than in the last 20 years. So don’t be left behind.

Next, this time out should encourage you to reflect (finally?) on your networking and your networking strategy. Naturally you already network, because you’re here on LinkedIn. But how do you network? What are your goals? What is the real end purpose of your networking, for which areas, towards which horizons? Ask yourself the right questions, think about them, and hone your networking strategy.

This is also the time to rework your LinkedIn profile, optimise it, seek out ways to promote your skills or even receive (and of course give!) some recommendations. Dare to seize this opportunity! See this period as the chance to do some spring cleaning in your approach to networking ... and your LinkedIn profile.

Lastly, for all those who play a supervisory role, make the most of this period to teach your staff about networking or, whatever their ability, how to network more effectively: lord knows they will need these skills in the coming weeks. Are your sales reps in lockdown and idle? Teach them or sign them up for networking training! This is another way to put yourself and your business in an even better position than before, perhaps even allowing you to develop a competitive advantage. And what about your steering committee? Do all members know how to network effectively? Any of them lagging behind?

 

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EXCHANGE AND GIVE

We will all have to maintain our existing relationships but also create new ones. In terms of professional links only, a daily presence on LinkedIn is essential. Not to be seen but to follow others, stay informed and keep up to speed. The perspective that a professional network online can offer in these times of crisis is vital against the backdrop of the media (TV and radio), which tend to be sensational and look to boost their audiences, not to mention social media (e.g. Facebook or Quora), where it seems everybody is just letting off steam.

This regular presence on LinkedIn is also an opportunity to hook up with old contacts, meet new people and join new groups.

 

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You should also set yourself the small objective of renewing the art of dialogue and exchange, each day, with 5 of your contacts. Beyond the personal pleasure and human and social impact this generates, it presents the opportunity to give: give advice or share an idea, give a contact name, document or a solution to a problem …

Creating conversation groups (personally I make great use of WhatsApp groups) allows you to preserve community links, sustain dialogue, exchanges, proposals, etc. not to mention human warmth between those in lockdown and far from one another. This is very important for solidarity and robust staff teams, especially if you are a manager.

And to conclude this section, set yourself a little challenge: every day reach out to a few people. You have the time, so seize this opportunity. Whether it’s on LinkedIn or Viadeo, in a real network brought to a standstill in which you only know 6 members, or in a group of old classmates, grab your phone or fire up your computer and use this chance to consolidate new contacts and enjoy great encounters.

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ANTICIPATE

But the most important thing for each and every one of us is to prepare for the aftermath. To anticipate and prepare for the return to business. To hit the starting blocks in good shape, ready for a new rodeo that will undoubtedly be tough. Networking can also help you achieve this. Here’s how.

First of all, maintaining your presence in your network, which might involve some communication on your online professional networks, will enable you to maintain your visibility at little or no cost. This is essential.

At the same time, I recommend preparing your communication and networking plan for when the crisis is over. That way it will be ready and you can devote your energy to the most important task: managing your return to business.

Despite the hardship for all of us of being in lockdown, it is clear that in a few weeks you won’t have much time for long business lunches. So take the time now to replace them with targeted, intelligent and effective networking.

Lastly, and this will also save you time, start preparing a list of 50 useful contacts, people you will probably need when the crisis is over (clients, partners, insurers, recruiters, etc.) and activate it by sending a short message of support, a thoughtful SMS or a welcome phone call. Any channel of communication is good to maintain a link with these 50 people who will be essential to the smooth running of your business.

 

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To finish, I would like to share the following thought with you: I believe that the longer the lockdown lasts around the world, the greater the global changes we will see in our ecosystem. We are already seeing virtual masses and webinars bringing together thousands of people, crowdsourced initiatives involving hundreds of contributors, online yoga classes... an incredible rise in donations and free products and services. The world is going through a process of upheaval. It will not be the same when this is all over, there will be no going back.

So let’s reinvent ourselves and share our experiences through networking. And let’s look ahead!

 

Like Eric Le Gendre, share  your advice and expertise on our official EDHEC Alumni group on LinkedIn!

Information about Eric Le Gendre on his website: www.ericlg.com.

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