From John: Professional Networking in This Increasingly Digital Age

business woman networking digitally using table
John Pembroke Photo
Late President/CEO

3 minutes

Forging good connections these days starts with keeping an open mind.

During the African American Credit Union Coalition’s recent virtual event, a panelist in the session, “Leadership in Times of Crisis,” aptly said: “If I didn’t understand the power of a network before this crisis, I understand it now.”

That panelist is a CUES member who became a brand-new CEO at the time of the pandemic closures. In the session, she described how picking up the phone to talk with trusted peers was “essential backup” during the early part of this crisis and great support for her in her new leadership role.

I think many of us can relate to the idea that having a network to call on during times of ordinary operations is an outstanding resource—and that having a network to call on during times of crisis can be even more important.

Many times, credit union leaders initially form and later add to their networks at in-person industry events. Some of the deepest relationships I’ve heard about come about when executives attend weeklong leadership development programs together. Of course these days, in-person training isn’t feasible. Fortunately, many online learning events include structured opportunities to interact with your colleagues.

Here are some additional ideas for successful digital networking during online events:

  • Start with an open mind. Digital networking is certainly different. Look for the good. Look for what the new format offers that you don’t at first expect.
  • Clarify your goal for your networking. Is there a special task or effort you’d like to get perspective on?
  • Before the event starts, create a preliminary plan for how you’ll network. Will you participate in the chats alongside the screen delivering what the speaker is saying? Can you get a list of participants with their contact information before the event starts? Is there someone in your existing network with whom you could call afterwards to talk over and reinforce your learning?
  • Be flexible. As the digital learning event progresses, what additional opportunities do you see to learn from attendees as well as speakers?  

Of course, a formal digital learning event isn’t the only “place” you can network these days. You can also connect with your peers by participating in the dialog in an online community.

I know it may seem old-fashioned, but you can also—like the panelist in the introduction—pick up the phone. It’s important to reach out not only when you have a question, but also periodically to see if you can be of assistance to another leader. If you want to do this 2020 style, set a time to Zoom with them. (Here are tips on how to set up your camera well for that.)

Right now, credit union executives must lead through a triple crisis: a pandemic, an economic downturn related to COVID-19 and social unrest in response to long unaddressed racial injustice. It’s certainly no time to go it alone. You need new ideas and trusted advice more than ever.

You can get all this by attending our virtual event, Knowledge and Networking November. Over the course of three afternoons during the month, we’ll bring you three highly rated speakers, including CUES’ highest-ever rated speaker, Harry Kraemer of Northwestern University and former chairman and CEO of Baxter International. They’ll present on such timely topics as leading during a crisis, strategic agility and the role of organizational values in setting direction during times of uncertainty. In addition to participating in the networking sessions that are part of the formal agenda, you can also use the tips above to customize your digital networking. Importantly, you can also boost your overall organizational knowledge and build your team by having a group of people from your credit union attend this event—all for one low price. During the event, I’d like to hear about your best tips for networking in this digital era. See you there.

Since joining CUES in March 2013, John Pembroke has played a leadership role in developing and launching a new direction in CUES’ strategy, branding and culture. Under his guidance, CUES has revamped its membership structure, launched new institutes and introduced Elite Access™ Virtual Classroom, an innovative blending learning offering. Additionally, CUES has expanded its market further into Canada and the Caribbean. Pembroke’s experience includes 25 years in financial services, marketing and e-commerce. He also has served as chief marketing officer at PSCU Financial Services, St. Petersburg, Florida. Pembroke holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Marketing and Policy Studies from the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago. 

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