Networking helps CIOs learn skills, discover business opportunities and build relationships that can develop into new customers, investors and staff.
CIO UK spoke to a selection of IT business leaders to find out their top networking tips.
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April 13, 2018
3. Look at your own organisation
Filling your calendar with events is easy enough, but you may find greater benefits from networking within your organisation.
"While I have applied direct influence, I have also championed opportunities for staff across my department to participate in workstreams, task and finish groups and networking events," said East Sussex and Surrey County Councils CIO
Feedback from a staff survey convinced Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency director of digital services and technology
James Munson to arrange networking events in his organisation, which led to improved engagement scores year-on-year.
"I have personally given quarterly presentations to all staff in all main offices covering four locations," he said.
"I have invited staff to quarterly meetings with me in small groups to listen to their concerns and take action... We also hold an annual away day to bring everyone together for some work, some play and a lot of networking."
7. Network beyond the same familiar faces
When City University CIO
Claire Priestley realised that the current networking events didn't offer the diversity of attendees and ideas that she wanted, she decided to create her own.
Her CIO+1 initiative organises events and asks attendees to bring a "plus-one" from a group that is underrepresented in the sector, who can then add their own input to the community.
"When I first took on this job I decided that I needed to build my network of peers so that I had a sounding board of people challenging my thinking," said Priestley.
"I went to at least two networking events a month and by the fifth or sixth my heart was beating at every point I walked in, because I was just walking into a sea of white middle-aged men.
"That's no disrespect to that environment, there are some perfectly superb people in that demographic, but what I wanted to do was to walk into a room that was reflective of the streets I'd just walked out of, so I came up with the idea of CIO+1."
8. Show your skills
Networking harnesses social skills for professional objectives, a combination that can at times feel incongruous.
To demonstrate your abilities without sounding like you're reading your CV, draw on examples of projects or activities that helped you develop a skill or a situation in which you had to put your abilities to practice. Creating a portfolio will help you recall examples of achievements that you can call on when required.
Sharing knowledge is another good way to demonstrate your strengths and build relationships through generosity.
"I and my leadership team regularly attend networking events, sharing best practice among other IT organisations, providing thought leadership to IT media and contributing to major forums and discussion groups," said AstraZeneca CIO
9. Enjoy yourself
Networking need not to be stressful work. If you approach it with positivity and a style that fits your personality, it can be enjoyable as well as professionally beneficial.
Consider starting with small events that feel comfortable. If you still find these intimidating, admitting your discomfort can help create a connection with other attendees. With practice, you'll develop a networking style that is natural.
Telefonica UK CIO
Brendan O’Rourke says networking has improved his confidence and job satisfaction.
"I really love helping other people, networking and mentoring is a fantastic way that allows me to do that easily," he said.
"Being able to create that environment for people to learn new skills for the future is not only a great satisfaction for me but also a great opportunity for all like-minded CIOs."