The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Digitalization has changed networking and job-hunting. But while networking is the primary means of landing a job—experts believe at least 70 percent of jobs are found this way—that is not all that networking is good for. Megan Burke Roudebush, founder of networking advisory keepwith, believes networking is the core of meaningful relationship building.

She brought this insight on May 30 to a workshop entitled “The Company We Keep: Building and Maintaining Your Strongest Network,” hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (ACCJ) Women in Business Committee and the ACCJ Young Professionals Forum at the Deutsche Bank Group Japan Office.

Led by Roudebush, who has more than 14 years of financial services experience, the workshop delivered practical advice on networking best practices, pitfalls to avoid, and the importance of putting deliberate strategy behind networking efforts.

The ACCJ Journal sat down with Roudebush before the event for an exclusive interview.

What does networking mean to you?

Networking is at the core of what keepwith does. We teach networking, and what we like to say to clients is that we have a long definition and a short definition. The short definition is: networking is building relationships.

Whether for personal reasons or professional reasons, at the end of the day, you need to have strong relationships. In today’s busy world, we don’t always spend the time required to think about how we build those relationships. Working with people to build authentic and reciprocal relationships is what keepwith is all about.

Photo: fleurandhoney.com

Why is networking important?

Because, really, we are better together! If you are trying to accomplish anything, being able to accomplish it with others who support you—and who are in your corner—is just so much better. The other thing that we know is that, when you introduce people to one another, amazing things can happen. We find great joy in helping people to connect with others and to connect other people for all the right reasons.

What are common misconceptions about networking?

There are several. One is that networking is entirely trans-actional. You do something for me, I do something for you. Or, I am only asking you for this because I need something.

Another misconception about networking is that it is only done for professional reasons, that you only network when you need a job or when you need a new client. I can tell from personal experience that networking comes into play all the time in both personal and professional contexts.

Another misconception some people have is that they do not have time to network. We are too busy. We go to work, we have families. We put our heads down, do work, and do not have time to build relationships. Just think about that: “I do not have time to build relationships.”

And here is one more. We know from the research and work we have done as a company that the introvert/extrovert dis­tinction influences individuals’ networking styles and approaches. A lot of people think you have to be in a ballroom at a formal networking event with a drink in your hand and a suit on to network. We know this is absolutely not true. In fact, it is a complete myth. Those are just some misconceptions that people have about networking that we work to debunk.

What are some non-traditional methods?

I would really like for people to think about the concept of networking as wellness. One non-traditional way to network is when you are in an exercise class and people are taking the class with you. Or when you are volunteering, helping other people, and you are doing that with other people. Other non-traditional ways you can network include serving on a panel at a conference or writ­ing an article with someone. These are all ways you can connect with others that are not really traditional when it comes to networking.

Why is keepwith different?

From what we understand, we are unique in that, while there are professional associations and organizations out there where people go to network, there are not necessarily companies teaching how. And so, as we establish ourselves as a company that teaches networking, we have been told time and again that there is a void in the marketplace, and that we do not have direct competition. We know it will come, but for now we actually feel really excited with our uniqueness and the fact that we are a company focused on teaching networking.

Why should companies invest in networking?

Every organization needs its people to build strong relation­ships. That includes relationships external to the organization with clients and strategic partnerships. It also includes internal networking within the organization.

Clients hire us so that their people learn how to really build strong relationships. I cannot think of any CEO of any company who would say, “You know, I do not think I want my people to have strong relationships.”

One of the things that keepwith enjoys the most about our clients is that they span industries and sectors. We do not just focus on one particular industry. We have law firms, professional services companies, consulting companies, healthcare companies, and conferences as clients. We are really excited that our content is relevant across industries and sectors.

How is networking related to wellness?

At keepwith we continue to focus on the connections between networking (i.e., relationship building) and wellness. The same way that we all need to eat healthy foods, exercise, and get good sleep, we need to build and maintain your networking relationships. So, when someone says, “I do not want to go” to a formal networking event, that is quite similar to someone saying, “I do not want to go to the gym” or “I do not feel like eating healthy.”

Now, some people just do not like going to those kinds of events. Those people maybe should not go. Instead of going to that formal networking event, perhaps they should be speaking to the person on the spin bike right next to them. Or the person at pick-up or drop-off at their child’s school. If going to formal events really is not somebody’s thing, then thinking about outside-the-box ways to network might be more beneficial.

Overall, there is an existing body of research that show that building and maintaining strong relationships has a positive impact on overall wellness. That is one of the reasons that keepwith enjoys teaching people how to network.

How do you view social media?

When it comes to LinkedIn and other social media platforms, we recommend that people come up with a strategy that works for them, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Personally, and professionally, I tend to take a very conservative approach when it comes to LinkedIn. If I have not met someone in person or had a meaningful phone conversation, then I will not link to them. And that is because, at keepwith, we consider your network to be your most important asset—just letting anybody in is a bit counterintuitive.

That said, some people take a different approach and want to make sure that they connect with as many people as possible. Whatever your preference, we suggest that you have an approach that works for you, and that you be consistent.


Doi and Roudebush (center) with ACCJ Women in Business Committee Vice-Chairs Makiko Tachimori (left) and Tomoka Miho (right)

THE WORKSHOP

Royanne Doi, corporate governance specialist, opened the event by introducing Roudebush. “Since starting keepwith, Megan built her company all the while maintaining a very large day job as chief compliance officer in an investment firm,” Doi said. “Because keepwith is gaining so much traction, Megan has now transitioned away from her day job and is a full-time entrepreneur running keepwith.”

Four Keys

During the workshop, Roudebush discussed four key components that can drive any networking strategy:

  • The quality of your relationships matters more than the quantity of your connections
  • Learn a fun fact about everyone you meet
  • Build and execute a networking plan
  • Acknowledging the nuance and cultural sensitivity, talk to strangers. You never know who you will meet or what will happen

Roudebush also warned of pitfalls:

  • Not making time to network
  • Failing to follow-up after networking
  • Going on endless first coffee dates

Make Time

And that brings us to one of the biggest challenges:
finding the time. Given that time is a valuable—and limited—commodity, Roudebush recommends creating a strategic networking plan and scheduling time each week for deliberate networking activities.

Returning to networking pitfalls, Roudebush explained time management this way: “The biggest mistake you can make is being too busy to network. If your network is your most important asset, and you are too busy to spend time on your most important asset, that is a big mistake. That is why spending 30 minutes to an hour every week on deliberate relationship building activities is critical. One of my favorite stra­­tegies to recommend to people is: the first time they sit down at their desks for deliberate networking time, they can make a list of ways that they can be helpful to other people.”

Nathalie Muto is a staff writer at Custom Media, publisher of The ACCJ Journal.
At the end of the day, you need to have strong relationships.