“Networking” – it’s a term that gives many people that sick feeling, especially if you are more of an introvert. However, if you make a paradigm shift and think of it in terms of simply building relationships, it’s not so much more palatable. When you have a strong network, it ultimately makes getting things done more expedient…and quite frankly, more fun!
Here’s the thing – your network is the people you know. It’s the starting point. What makes your network valuable has a lot to do with the value YOU bring to the network. That means that you must constantly be thinking about how you can ADD value to the relationship. It’s about giving – NOT taking. When you focus on what you can do for the other person, it enables you to easily ask for help when you need it. Generally, people want to reciprocate. They look forward to helping out someone that has helped them out in the past.
Building and maintaining your network IS work – you’ve got to put yourself out there. Proactively meeting people, asking questions about THEM and THEIR WORK. As you learn more about them, you can quickly figure out how you can help them, (aka, add value). Beyond making that initial contact, it takes effort to MAINTAIN THE RELATIONSHIPS in your network. No maintenance = No network.
So how do you do it?
- Be a good conversationalist. This was identified recently in a Stanford study as the one trait all of the most successful people surveyed had in common. You can do this by quickly articulating who you are, what you do, and why it matters and being curious about other’s lives by asking those who, what and why questions of others.
- Keep your eyes & ears open and pay attention to what you hear and read so you can forward on relevant information to people in your network. Now that you know about what interests people in your network you can:
- Send a link to an article/tweet those individuals in your network would find beneficial.
- Make introductions to other people who have similar interests or who would find their extended network helpful. You’ve now not only help the other person build their network, you’ve enhanced your own network. It begins to grow exponentially!
- Reach out beyond who you meet in person by commenting on a blog post or send a “thank you” to new Twitter followers and begin to create a dialog with the other person. That’s the beauty of this virtual world we live in!
- Remember important dates like birthdays, career milestones/promotions, anniversaries, etc…and send a note letting them know you’re thinking of them.
- Take the initiative to invite the other person for coffee or lunch. Don’t use the time to just ask for something from them but to reconnect and catch up on the latest going’s on in their life.
Bottom line, networking is a contact sport! If you only show up at events or reach out when you need something – you’ve missed the boat.