There are a ton of great ways to go about building a strong network, and so many great reasons why you should. But throughout all of this, there are some fundamental aspects you need to keep in mind that will help you end up with a network that changes your career and even your life.
Networking is often seen as boring, unnecessary and even intimidating. A lot of people don’t understand it fully or just don’t want to.
We want to change the way people think about networking and demonstrate how vital it is in helping you create the career and life you dream of.
It starts with understanding the fundamentals of networking that underpin any networking strategies you go on to use.
1. Believe In The Power Of Networking
It’s not a great idea getting stuck into your networking if you don’t truly believe that it will transform your career. If you have that lingering doubt that any of it will be of any use then you just won’t do it properly.
There are certain ways to go about networking that require you to go all-in. A halfway approach will just not cut it. You might get some good results, but you’ll probably end up confirming your original thoughts that networking isn’t really worth it.
You’ll turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So take that option away right from the start and buy into the belief that building a strong network will completely transform your career in a positive way.
2. It’s Not (All) About You
You will get a huge amount out of networking, but that’s not the mindset you should take into it. That is a result you will achieve from conducting good networking.
From the outset, your goal should be to help others on your way to creating a network that will also help you. When you interact with people, always be looking for what you can add to their business, career or life. Always, always be ready to ask the question: “How can I help you?”
Of course, you should have an eye on what you could gain in the long term, but keep that filed away for later. Build a relationship first, be of service first, then when they are ready to help, when you have built trust and connection, you can ask for what you want.
However, never ask for more than you can give.
3. Be Strategic With Your Resources
If you’re offering help to anybody you come across, you can quickly overwhelm yourself. You only have a finite amount of time and energy to put into networking so you need to be strategic about where you invest your resources.
You’re going to be putting your needs second to those you want to connect with, but you can load the dice in your favour by choosing the right people to help in the first place.
This doesn’t have to be all your own work. As you grow your network you will find that your network helps you choose the right people. You will be introduced to people that your network believes can help you. To help with this, you can sometimes prompt your network by asking people who they think you should talk to.
4. Be Generous With Your Network
In the same way that your network will help you find more of the right people, you can help people in your network, or even outside of your network, find people that are relevant to their journey.
In doing so, you are living up to the second fundamental by helping people out first, but you will ultimately gain in the long run. You may even become a super-connector.
What’s a super-connector?
5. Recognise The Super-Connectors
Maintaining your network is just as important as building it in the first place. One of the key things you can do is recognise the people who are regularly introducing you to great contacts. These are your super-connectors.
Whether they know it or not, they are excellent at connecting people. But they don’t introduce people willy-nilly, they seemingly introduce the right people at the right time.
If you know who they are then you can prioritise your connection with them to help grow your network quantitatively and qualitatively. Remember, by making your network stronger, you are better placed to help others as well as yourself.
6. Stay In Touch
Your network will naturally ebb and flow as yours and your contact’s needs and interests change. But try and maintain contact with everyone, even if it is a very brief “Hi X, how are you getting on?” message now and then.
One great way to do this is if you come across an article, image, video, anything that might be of interest/use to someone, share it with them and add a note saying “Thought this might be of interest to you!”
In addition, if you have just met someone new, follow up with a message confirming how much you enjoyed meeting them and that you would like to keep in touch.
If you promise anything, make sure you follow through on it. Be the person that can be relied upon and trusted. In return, your contacts will be eager to do the same.
7. Seek Diversity
We all fall into the trap of sticking to what we know, but it leads to a rather narrow experience in life. Building your network is no different.
Try to seek contacts from areas other than where you are currently working. Don’t allow yourself to always be attracted to the same people with the same worldviews as you. Talking to people with the same opinions as us is a lot easier, but it means we never expose our selves to new challenges, new points of view and new ideas.
We’ve all had experience of those personality tests that talk about building a diverse team of people with different skills. Your network is just like this. You want your network to be a team that can tackle anything.
Your network can encompass all aspects of your life too. Found a great plumber? Add them to your network, help them out by introducing them to people that need them. Mortgage advisors, tree surgeons, hairdressers, osteopaths, the list goes on!
When you start to see the potential of your network, it becomes so much more than just a way to help find a job!
8. Build A Presence
You can build a network by yourself, adding in great people as you find them, but what if the people came directly to you in the first place?
By building a presence as someone that is ‘known’ for what you do, people will find you.
They might not all be people you want on your network, but you get to make that choice. They want to connect with you because you are relevant to them, so there is a high chance they are relevant to you too.
A presence can be as little as an active LinkedIn profile or as much as your own online community, published books and regular events. But it starts with a desire to be more visible to the people you want to connect with online.
9. Recognise That You Have Value and So Do Others
I might not know you, but I’m fairly sure you don’t know the true value you hold. One of the major turn-offs for people considering networking is that they don’t think there is any reason people will want to connect with them.
Let’s take a step back. What if you are completely useless? (I’m so motivational, aren’t I?). Does that mean you have no right to try and better yourself? Would you ignore someone trying to find their way in life? I hope you wouldn’t.
Everyone has value to give. That value is not always relevant, but you won’t find out until you make a connection with someone.
If you have something to say to someone, say it (just make sure it’s not rude!). If there is someone you really want to meet, chances are there is a reason for that, talk about that.
If your initial value to someone is to give them a compliment, that’s actually a really good start! But I’m sure you hold more value that will naturally come out as you talk to them.
Give yourself a chance to show your value and for others to show their value to you. You have nothing to lose.
Networking isn’t complicated. It’s just meeting and talking to other people, building relationships and sharing those relationships.
If you keep these fundamental aspects of networking in mind as you start, grow and strengthen your network, you can’t go wrong.