(This is part of a series of rainmaker stories. To read the earlier posts, see the category Rainmaker Story.)
Would-be networkers find developing relationships with senior executives challenging. The imbalance in age, wealth and power makes it so. This is the story of one who rose to the challenge.
Each year, our firm coaches many professionals to help them become rainmakers. It is human nature to predict at the start which will succeed and which won’t. Over the years I have found myself to be, charitably, only a middling predictor. But there was never any doubt about Jane.
Jane is a young recruiter at an executive search firm, who specializes in searches for a glamour industry. In this industry where emotions run high and your future may hinge on a sudden change in consumer tastes, she stands out for her integrity, professionalism and a plain speaking manner that she learned growing up in a small western city. She is bedrock reliable, and her clients are loyal.
Like all young professionals she was challenged by the need to develop relationships with senior executives.
She solved this problem when faced with a smaller and more immediate one. One of these loyal clients asked her to buy a table at an association luncheon he was in charge of, and, of course, she did. Needing to fill six seats, she called a client, the CEO of a well-known firm, and invited her. To her surprise the client accepted and asked if she could bring a colleague. The colleague she brought was a dealmaker, who knew everyone in the industry.
With acceptances from two players in the industry, Jane felt more confident at inviting others. In the end she brought two highly visible CEOs, the dealmaker, a person out of work and looking for the next job as a president, the president of a smaller company and the head of human resources at yet another big firm.
This one event had many beneficial consequences. She got to know all of them better. Each one of her guests saw that the others respected her opinion, increasing their own opinion of her. She has become a true trusted advisor to two of them. And everyone at the event was curious about this young woman sitting at the table with so many heavy hitters. Many, who had never heard of her before, knew her by the end of the lunch. When the unemployed president found a job, she relied on Jane to do much of her recruiting. The deal maker has become a source of referrals.
So, what can learn from the story of Jane’s lunch?
First, senior executives find an invitation by a young professional to an association lunch acceptable and appropriate (plus, they might just come!)
Second, if they want to bring a guest, it is likely to be someone worth knowing.
Third, if an executive sees you with other senior people, it will improve his regard for you. If you are sitting with a group of senior executives, total strangers will want to find out who you are.
Fourth, someone who is looking for a job is especially appreciative of this kind of invitation that provides so many opportunities to meet people.
I am sure there are still other things to learn, but will leave it at that. I will conclude with one other piece of information: Jane got promoted the following fall.