Building a strong network is a key element of creating a strong personal brand. Successful networkers make networking regularly a priority. They see the importance of building relationships and expanding their resources and influence. They add value to these relationships with reciprocal favors and information. Networking is a part of their weekly activities and they are intentional about doing it.
Your network can include colleagues inside and outside of your organization, experts in your field and industry, friends and family, and other members of your community. Great networkers go wide and deep in building their network. When you have a strong network you can identify and expand career opportunities, anticipate changes in your field and market, develop new ideas, and serve others.
The following are 4 tips for building a strong network:
1. Develop a positive mindset.
Displace any reservations or fears about networking by focusing on the benefits of building relationships. View networking as an opportunity to connect with others and learn about them. Maintain a win-win mindset and see it as a chance to grow in your career and job while helping others succeed.
2. Make a personal connection.
Get to know your neighbors, friends, work colleagues, and people in your community and industry. Build rapport with them by finding common interests. Be humble but share your goals, passions, interests, and challenges and ask others to do the same.
3. Create a list of your network contacts.
Create a list of people that you want to connect with and stay connected and put it in a designated database. Make sure you have all of their pertinent data, i.e. email address, job title, company, birthday, etc. Break the list into categories such as Allies, Advocates, Connectors, and Champions. Allies are friends, neighbors, clients, or colleagues with whom you interact with and would likely do a small favor for you if asked. Allies are individuals who know you well and can speak to your talents and skills. Connectors are people who know lots of people and can connect you with the right person that you would like to meet. Champions are high-level mentors who will speak positively on your behalf and make key introductions for you.
4. Plan the work and work the plan.
Target contacts that are important to your goal of building a network that is wide and deep in each of your network categories. Before reaching out to a contact to connect, ask yourself three questions: 1) Do I know what I am going to talk to this person about and how I can engage with them? 2) What are this person’s interests and which of them are shared? 3) What information do I have about what’s happening in their organization or trends in their industry that could be of interest to them? Then ask for time to have a cup of coffee, lunch, or meet at an event. Lastly, schedule time on your calendar to network weekly and set goals for how many contacts you want to meet with every month.
Follow these tips and within 6 months you will be a “Networker Extraordinaire”!