Four Reasons Why Executives Must Network with Non-Executives

by: Joanne Meehl

So often I hear company leaders in transition, at networking groups or similar, talk about how they need to meet other C-level leaders or executives for networking purposes, to the exclusion of other "levels".

Example: A candidate I was working with, a manufacturing VP of Operations, said he would not network with anyone lower than a Director, "because the most senior people will have the best connections." I cautioned him that while they'll certainly have great connections, he needed to expand his view.

If you're doing the same thing, it hurts your own search. Here's why:

  1. There are way more of them than in your peer group. There are many more Vice Presidents, Directors, Project Managers, Program Managers, Senior this or that, Manager of Whatever per company than CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and other C-level. Each of these persons is a universe of connections. Now is not the time to be "exclusive".

  2. Building on #1 above: Many of those at the level or two (or more) "below" you are aspiring for your title. They are smart, and they are networking with everyone they can. They often know the names of key contacts, and cultures of companies, that YOU are interested in.

  3. These are also usually younger than you. They know more about some things you don't and have insights that are different than yours simply because of their age. Be open to listening to them. The person who is the final "yes" for hiring you may be 10-15 years your junior.

  4. Last: you can help THEM. True networking is helping others as we are seeking help for ourselves. What goes around comes around, as is said, and in job search it's so true.

The VP of Operations? I convinced him to network with everyone from admin, accounting, sales, on up through C-level, you name it. (Secretaries are particularly adept at knowing what's really going on in a company and who the real power players are!) Someone in his expanded network pointed out to him the company where he ultimately landed, and almost three years later he's still there, still loving his job.

And now he's using his network to find people to fill jobs on his team.


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