If we want to achieve more in life and business, we need to invest all the time.
We do it with our attention, as we pay it to the right areas and activities, thus taking more focused action in the right direction. We do it with our time – we dedicate it to what matters – and we double our results because of that. We also do it with our money. We try to spend wisely, save a bit, and find new ways to earn more.
But what about our relationships?
They are equally important to all other resources we focus on, and can skyrocket our progress if we give them a chance.
Sadly, most people overlook this aspect of business and personal growth. But it turns out that forming good relationships with the right people can lead to more than we can ever accomplish if we do things alone. And that’s why networking is one of the best investments of your attention, time and money.
The Importance of Having a Network
Building a strong network of contacts can take you anywhere. It takes patience, some personal qualities, getting out of your comfort zone and feeling some discomfort, improving your confidence, and more.
But once you get the hang of it, you can become a better communicator and use your free time and social life to take your business to the next level.
Why is a network so great? Here are some reasons:
For a start, you get to be guided by those who know what they are doing.
Could be mentors who are teaching you what to do. Or advisors sharing their opinion and letting you decide for yourself. Could be regularly attending events in your industry to get inspired, introduce yourself to new people, be around influencers, hear advice directly from the source, and to see your role models and maybe have a quick chat.
Second, there are the opportunities that start coming your way, from anywhere, once you start investing more time into building a solid network.
Even if you’re not looking for something in particular, but just putting yourself out there and enjoying the company of other professionals, like-minded people and high achievers, you’ll receive a lot in return. That will come in the form of ideas, collaboration, offers, recognition, referrals, career opportunities, friendships, and more.
Third, it leads to growth in many areas. By being exposed to the thinking of new individuals in your industry, you gain a new perspective.
That’s crucial for the next steps you take in your own ventures. You also don’t allow yourself to have doubts or get lazy, as you’re always aware of how hard others are working.
I’m sure you know pretty well how powerful information can be. Well, by networking consistently and strategically, you can gain knowledge the smart way.
Meaning, you can learn about industry trends without having to do your own research and waste time. You can find a new potential client or partner by casually giving a business card after a friendly chat, instead of investing in online ads and marketing research to get in front of your target audience.
It’s true that it’s more about who you know than what you know.
But it’s also key to know the right people, to be open to knowledge, to give something back, to then put the new information into action.
Your network is also your net worth because it’s directly related to your status and whether you’re recognized in your field.
Ultimately, all these benefits turn into growing your business.
Next comes the question, how do we strengthen this network?
The things that usually stop people from doing anything about this are connected to the how.
- How do you find the new connections most beneficial to your career goals?
- How do you begin a conversation with new people?
- How do you properly introduce yourself to strangers?
- How do you maintain a habit of connecting with those in your network?
- How do you get the confidence/motivation/skill/extroversion to do so?
Your professional network is where opportunities lie. And that won’t happen by just relying on your current circle and those you already know.
We wrongly assume that our friends can help us exceed, and be there where we need them. But the real magic happens when we get out of that zone of comfort, and either reach out to old friends, or put ourselves in a new environment and approach the people there.
Networking is about authenticity, information sharing and collaboration, where everyone involved achieves their goal. That’s why to grow your business network you’ll need to rely on referrals, testimonials, online reputation, your own social skills, and joining all industry events you can.
We know this, but rarely set the actual goal of expanding our professional network. We usually keep doing the same old stuff, and expect to be known more, to grow a business, to find partners and career opportunities, etc.
So instead of leaving this to chance, let’s decide to grow our business network.
Here’s a smart and easy approach to growing a network.
- List out 6-10 work colleagues with whom you used to have a strong relationship but have since fallen by the wayside—at a minimum, with whom you haven’t had an in depth conversation in two years.
- Randomly select one person from the list. Roll a dice or flip a coin if you have to, then email or call with an invitation to chat in person or via phone call.
- Don’t set an agenda. Don’t say you are looking for something specific. Just say you would like to reconnect. In the process of a free flowing conversation, however, you are likely to talk about work matters, problems, opportunities, etc. Make a note of these and follow up anywhere you can help or might need help.
Read also: How to Achieve Radical Authenticity in Your Business
How to Build a Professional Network in The Next 10 Days
1. See the bigger picture.
It’s easy to just say you have enough connections. Or just the opposite, to use the excuse that you can’t seem to be forming any new relationships with people, that might lead to something bigger, even if you’re trying hard. But are you looking at the big picture?
Forget about who’s around you right now. This is bigger than your current circle. Think about all the people from your past that you might have underestimated.
Look at it from a new angle. They now know new people and have their own professional networks, so your opportunity might be hiding somewhere in their new social life. What’s more, they learned and experienced a lot, and this is valuable.
There’s a ton of potential to grow your network if you start reaching out to old friends and acquaintances and seeing what can come out of this. After all, it’s true that opportunities come through people.
2. Research your options today.
Okay, what usually comes to mind first is searching former colleagues on LinkedIn, and looking up alumni networks. Also seek any activity going on online from previous organizations you’ve worked for, to see how the people there have been doing ever since.
If you can’t find any active networks from uni that seem promising, then David Burkus suggests you create one yourself.
Do that by writing down a list of former coworkers you’d like to reconnect with (such a worksheet is provided in the free ebook). Then continue with inviting them to catch up, be it face to face or through a call.
3. Think about the most influential people you’ve had the chance to meet.
While enhancing your professional network will surely happen if you go to events and introduce yourself to influencers in your niche, there’s also another direction your can look at – back at whom you’ve already had contact with, even if it was once.
There you’re prompted to think about 10-25 names who’ve been helpful to you somehow, be it with mentioning a job offer, giving guidance, or else.
Next to each, you should try to remember and write down who introduced you to that person. You can also add the people you’ve introduced the influencers too.
Now, the main purpose of this exercise is to help you notice recurring names.
You might see some people were actually more important to how your career has been going on since then, and it’s worth reconnecting. While it’s possible to realize you yourself aren’t a good connector because the third column is mostly blank spaces.
Last but not least, you can see opportunities for introducing 2 people you know to each other and making it beneficial to anyone involved. After all, networking is also about giving, not just receiving.
That’s just the beginning of the growth of your professional network. It all begins by taking this aspect of your business, or career as an employee, more seriously.
Then, analyzing where you might already be missing out on opportunities. And, of course, doing a little something every day to connect with people and build a strong network.