At a recent gathering of CMOs, I was struck by the ferocious level of discourse. This was not your typically shallow "Hey, what's new?" chitchat. Instead, these marketing professionals were raising substantive issues, probing for new paths forward and sharing solutions to mutual challenges.
In the middle of one such animated conversation, I spotted Emmanuel Laroche, global marketing leader at Symrise, one of the largest fragrance and flavor companies in the world. Emmanuel and I had met six years earlier through The CMO Club, when I wrote about his innovative online community. This time though, seeing him in action, I wanted to ask him about networking and the role it played in his professional development. His answers were both refreshing and enlightening.
Have a nose for networking
Is it possible that networking is only useful to some CMOs, or only those with established leadership positions? Certainly not, says Laroche, and the earlier you can begin building one, the better. "I believe this is one critical aspect in business and in life in general which is often overlooked, especially in the early stages of most careers." Having spent his own early years developing his education and professional skills, he now encourages younger cohorts and recent graduates to get connected, ASAP. "Funny enough, I offer regularly the 'Little Black Book of Connection' to every millennial I meet in business to emphasize the importance of building your network early on," he says.
Make it methodical
If the prospect of maintaining contact with each person your network, especially as it expands, is mentally daunting, take the Laroche approach and set goals for your communication. "I am trying as much as I can to reach out to five different people in my network every three weeks," he says. Manageable, indeed, especially when you consider that this amounts to approximately 86 unique conversations per year. Imagine the possibilities.
Spritz first, sniff second
The purpose of building and maintaining a network is of course not just to add pages to your digital Rolodex. While feeling popular might suffice for some, professional networks are truly an extension of our work, meaning that we must put in effort to reap the rewards. As Laroche says, and note the order here: "True networking is about 'give' and 'take.' You need to give first if you want to receive. Correct?" he says. "It is fun and it feels nice to give." But Laroche isn't counting; he prefers a more fluid process. "I do not keep mental scorecard at all," he says.
The aroma of adventure
When I ask Emmanuel to share his biggest challenge for the year ahead, he tells me that it's to venture more into the big, beautiful unknown. In his words, he hopes to "slow down time and to be able to meet new inspiring people and to discover places I haven't been to. Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." His advice to the rest of us? "Once a year, go somewhere you never been before." Metaphorically or literally, having a nose for novelty will surely find you in networking nirvana.