You are only as good as your network.

Interview with Timm Richter, Chairman, XING AG

Mr Richter, why is it important to become part of the XING network?
There are many reasons for being part of XING. One would be classic networking: Talking to new and existing contacts, discussing branchspecific topics in groups and making important contacts at offline events. But XING delivers much more: for example – the new XING careers marketplace features a million jobs, providing practical information about all the appropriate vacancies in the German-speaking world. And – unlike traditional careers marketplaces – it is strictly focused on the requirements of modern knowledge workers, showcasing classic career opportunities, but also part-time roles and positions for people in search of new meaning in their lives. Or take our new “Klartext” product, for example: a journalistic format, where experts and well-known figures state their exclusive position, putting their controversial opinions on current topics relating to industry and careers up for debate.

What qualities do you need to be a good networker?
Networking is all about give and take - simply “collecting cont acts” doesn’t work. I always advise professionals to think about what they can offer a contact first. Only then can you expect to get anything back from your network.

How do you personally select your contacts: based on whether you like them or how useful they are?
There are lots of different people in my network: current and former colleagues and professional partners, but also friends and acquaintances, too. It’s the special mix that creates the dynamic. Building networks based on trust. Without a large number of intermediaries, you can quickly get in touch with someone whose knowledge and/or integrity you value and whose advice you can rely on. I still benefit today from the network that has gradually built up over all the stages of my career.

Let’s be honest, weren’t cliques and nepotism the forerunners of today’s digital networks?
When it comes down to it, networks have always existed. Formerly, these “special relations” were only reserved for certain groups. XING has now made these “special relations” transparent. It’s become easier to connect with people and maintain an overview. Unlike our parents’ generation, the trend is to switch employers more often, and many people also go freelance during course of their careers. A platform like XING is tremendously helpful in terms of keeping up with the contacts that we meet in our working lives. This is why we also advise students to start developing a network at the earliest possible juncture. Sooner or later, you’re going to call on those contacts.

Is there a correlation between the effort you put into networking and career success?
This naturally varies depending on the individual. But it is true that you increase your visibility when you make active use of the opportunities the network offers. The focus point of any business network is your personal profile – it acts as your business card. Your profile determines whether HR people just take a quick look at your CV or examine your career development with interest, for example. And business partners too will make full use of your profile to obtain an initial impression of you. Thinking in terms of the greater picture is also a good idea if you want to make active use of XING for your professional career.

What other social networks do you belong to apart from XING?
Ich nutze neben XING noch Facebook und Twitter.

Is there a proper etiquette when it comes to making contacts?
The general rule is: when making contacts, behave as if you were standing opposite each other in real life. Address potential contacts in a friendly manner and make brief and direct reference to why you are addressing that person. Show an interest in any feedback you receive and give your contact the opportunity to get in touch with you directly - either online or offline. On the other hand: you don’t have to accept everyone as a contact who makes a request. Think carefully about whether the person is a positive addition to your network or not. If you do decide against accepting the individual, make sure that you give a brief, friendly reply.

Is it OK to discuss personal matters on a business network, or are Facebook and syndicates better for that?
You have to decide for yourself where you want to set the boundaries. But you should never lose sight of the fact that: XING is where you operate as your professional self. You need to remember that when you decide on topics and communication styles.