It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
I was given the wise advice this morning that now was the time to be investing in building my network. This was from someone who has ‘been there and done that’ in business and on boards. He was adamant that one of your primary early-to-mid career goals should be focused on your network. As, he stressed, over the years those people become your greatest asset as you progress your professional and board careers.
Great advice, particularly for one’s board aspirations. Personal networks (theirs and others’) are the way that most – if not all – boards find new board members.
So it’s worth investing in growing your network, and investing in it *now* (note to self).
But we’re pretty average at it
I have found many people, particularly younger people, terrible at networking. I don’t know if this is just a thing in my city, but people at networking events mostly just talk to people they already know. Now that’s nice and comfortable, don’t get me wrong. I do it far more than I should too (hello comfort zone!).
In my defence, talking to people I already know is good to maintain the relationship; it just doesn’t bode well for expanding my network.
You never know where or when a fantastic opportunity will come from. This is why it pays to open yourself up to meeting new people and accepting favorable opportunities into your life.
So what can we all do to improve our networking game?
• First, approach it as building relationships that go beyond the transactional ‘here’s what I can do for you; here’s what you can do for me’. Chances are you will know the people you meet for a long time. Go in to the interaction with the intention of longevity and that you may be able to help them some time in the future (or right away if possible) without the need for immediate repayment.
• Don’t see networking as a thing that you only do at purely networking occasions (such as at conferences, events, and networking events). It happening all the time. Any time you meet new people through your gym, sport club, hobby group, volunteering, through your partner’s / friend’s network, or through public speaking / presenting. And even when you’re running in to people you’ve met before.
• Make yourself available and open to meeting new people. Don’t cut yourself off and only talk to people you know.
• Have a stay-in-touch process to keep in front of your network in a meaningful way. This great idea of a quarterly email is something that I would like to start doing with a select group of my broader network. I imagine that this could be quite handy when it comes time to find a potential board position too.
Looking for more inspiration? Here are some non-networking networking ideas for you to try:
• Five non-network-y Ways to Network with the Best of Them (Fast Company)
• Networking for Introverts (Accelity Marketing)
• The 10 Most Nontraditional Places To Network (Elite Daily)
The thing is, none of this is revolutionary or something that you’ve never heard before. The secret is in the execution – actually doing the things we know we should be doing.
So what is one thing you will do this week to build your network?