An effective, supportive network can serve as your own personal advisory council and see you through life’s twists and turns.
While it can be tempting to reserve networking for job hunting, cultivating your network on an ongoing basis is a powerful strategy for meeting your business and career goals. The best networks are built by seeking opportunities to connect and enrich people. It can’t be just about what you can get from people but what you can do to help them.
Look at your network regularly to explore how you can enhance your relationships and expand your connections. For example:
- What are people’s different strengths and experiences that you can learn from?
- What can you share – information, experiences, contacts – that would be most helpful to them?
- Are there kinds of people with particular experiences or strengths that you would particularly like to find?
- Who could you offer to mentor or ask to mentor you?
- What are people’s interests, affiliations, volunteer connections?
- How are different people you know connected? People are often connected to each other in ways you might not have expected.
Social networks like LinkedIn and now Google+ are invaluable tools for learning more about your current and potential contacts and sharing updates and information. However, nothing beats a relaxing coffee chat or engaging phone call.
Making the Time
We are all very busy but scheduling time for strengthening your current relationships and starting new ones is well worth your time. You can’t only turn to your network when you need something and expect an enthusiastic response. Cultivating real relationships takes time, care, and listening to what is important to the other person and sharing value related to that need.
A Note about Welcoming Outreach
When you are very busy – especially if you are in the kind of position in which you are frequently contacted by job seekers and other networkers – it can be tempting to brush people off. But try to fit in a reasonable number of contacts by controlling how often you do it and for what length of time. I really believe that what you give comes back to you in kind; generosity of spirit begets generosity. And you never know when the person you brush off could end up in a position that would be pivotal to your organization or career.