I think it’s safe to say we’ve all heard these phrases from someone older and wiser at some point in our lives. “It’s who you know, not what you know” or “Your network is your net worth!” While we can’t discount the pedigree of someone’s experience, having a strong network is only going to help further your advancement, professionally and personally. I’m talking about a network built with relationships, not just LinkedIn connections and “likes” on our social media posts! When done skillfully, networking can help with next steps into a coveted position or promotion and can even help you build your team as you seek to bring in top talent to reach your company’s goals.
The goal is to build relationships that are mutually beneficial and turn the connections that are made into something actionable. This requires a more strategic approach and goes beyond just having a nice conversation with someone at a networking event.
Tip #1: Give Before You Receive
In order to network strategically, you must be able to build your network before you need it! This requires you to be comfortable meeting people and cultivating relationships that provide no specific purpose at that time. A common mistake that is frequently made is jumping the gun when asking for a favor from the important people we have just met. Instead, the initial approach should be focusing on the relationship by thinking of what you can do for others. Consider someone in your network that you would do anything for because of the impact they’ve had in your life. The more you help others, the more they will be willing to help you down the road.
Tip #2: Be Genuine
This may be one of the most important things to keep in mind and practice. Most people can tell when you’re sucking up just to get something in return and this can usually be the focus when attending an event. Take a different approach by truly getting to know the contacts you have identified as being a valuable connection. Instead of interrogating people, allow your conversations to naturally lead you to uncover their motivation to understand if they will fit well into your circle. Sometimes this requires us to take the first step in being vulnerable by talking about our personal lives and can often provide common ground to further develop your relationships! Be real!
Tip #3: Put Forth An Effort
Make sure to follow through on anything you commit to do for those within your network. There is nothing worse than building a reputation of having good intentions. I’m often reminded of this concept when I come home without flowers for my wife or having thought to send a thank you card but never followed through. This can also be applied to situations when a mentor is offering advice or course correction in your career. Your desire and effort to act on the advice you receive is one of the most valuable things you can give to people you want to build a relationship with. The biggest compliment people can receive is knowing they’ve played a part in helping someone be successful!
When you approach networking as a natural part of meeting others and make new connections through giving, you can move away from viewing networking to get something out of someone, and you’ll become a valuable resource to those around you.