August 19, 2020

Digital Connections – The Importance of Networking

THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING by Haley Donato, Vice President, Asset Management

Relationships Matter!

For those of you that work with me directly, you know I’m a no-nonsense person during work hours. Each day is full of endless to-do list items, as is the case for so many of us. It’s very easy to prioritize that list above all else. 

When it comes to networking opportunities, my natural instinct is to opt out, and instead keep my nose to the grindstone at the office. My initial reaction is a slight cringe when I see a networking lunch, happy hour, or other social outing pop on my calendar. After all, it chips away at the precious hours in a work week and it’s hard to measure an immediate benefit of that time spent. 

As I’ve moved along my professional path, however, I have seen the tremendous benefit of networking play out over time. Let me clarify when I say “networking” – I’m not talking about attending every industry conference, event and seminar. Though some are necessary and important, I’m really talking about carving out time to make (and grow) meaningful connections with peers.

There are a dozen or so people I have met along the way that have become my go-to contacts when I need to trade notes on a specific problem, want honest market intel, want to brainstorm nuanced industry topics, or want to solicit references on people/products. My most valuable contacts are ones who are completely honest with me and with whom I can be honest. With them, I can let down my guard, admit what I don’t know, and in turn really get the help I need. I’ve found out more about our competitors’ strategies, procedures, outlooks and initiatives than you’d ever learn from a panel or programmed event. And similarly, I’ve shared openly and hopefully provided help and insight from where I sit.  

I was just on a call this week with an industry friend I met at a software conference four years ago. He’s way smarter than me when it comes to technology and his firm is roughly five times the size of CRC. I’ve made a point of getting lunch or at least scheduling a call with him every few months since we met. Yesterday I was stumped on next steps for a technology project I’m working on. I called him and he spent an hour and a half educating me on how they are tackling the usage of data and what products and solutions they are considering. It was real-time, honest intel that sent me down a different path than I otherwise would have taken.

Another example is a woman I met six years ago at a conference in Chicago. We connected over something small at the conference, but I made a point of staying in touch with her after we returned home. I didn’t have many industry contacts at the time. She lived in NYC, and the next time I was there I reached out to get drinks. We’ve had various meetups like this in NYC and DC over the years when one of us was in town for work and we’ve gotten to know and trust each other. In the time I’ve known her, she has climbed the corporate ladder and is now in a leadership role at one of the largest retail REITs in the country. She continues to trade notes and idea share in her new role. She sees data from a very large portfolio with a coast-to-coast footprint. Some of her feedback and insights have led to new approaches and strategies on the CRC portfolio. 

These are just two small examples but that hopefully demonstrate the type of relationships effective networking can provide. I’ll say I am far from a star networker–in fact, I’m pretty mediocre at the meeting new people part. But I’ve become a lot better at cultivating relationships with those I do meet. 

There are people like Ari or David who naturally love to connect and stay connected to people. And of course, the King of Connections, JM. I’ll never be them. But I make the most of the encounters I do have and strive to build meaningful relationships that benefit me professionally and improve CRC’s outcomes. 

So take the time for the lunch meeting or dinner with somebody after a long day at a conference. It might not feel like work, but it is actually an investment that the leadership at CRC truly values. You never know who can help you and who you can help down the line.