We all know that our success in life is intrinsically linked to who we know. Your network is your net worth. If you want to get ahead, find a new job, get a promotion, launch a new business, or grow your client base, you need to know people who can open doors, connect you with strategic partners, and make introductions.
If you struggle in knowing the most efficient way to leverage and build your network, here are five tips to becoming a more effective networker.
Look to Your Inner Circle - Start with Who You Know
If you are looking to connect with a broader network of contacts, start with who you already know. Look on LinkedIn to see which of your contacts is connected to someone on your target list. Ask your colleagues, mentors, and friends in your alumni network to introduce you to people in sectors that interest you - either through email introductions, at conferences, or at events.
The best place to begin is by leveraging where you have strong connections. People you know will be more willing to help you if they know you well and can vouch for you. The weaker the contact, the lower their willingness to support your success. Remember, when someone makes an introduction for you, they are also putting their reputation on the line. You are an emissary of your contact's brand, and you must protect their reputation while you make new connections.
Know Your Ask - Make It Easy to Be Helped
When you tap your network for introductions and advice, come to the table with how they can help you. Walking in just saying you need general assistance is less effective. If you can articulate specifics about who you would like to meet, which industries are helpful, what kinds of people are useful to know, and why you are asking for their help and how it fits into your broader goals, then you cut down on the guesswork for your contacts.
It begins with knowing what you want. For people to help you, do not leave it to them to read your mind, know what you seek, or connect the dots in your nebulous plan. People are busy and may not understand what you need. Being clearer with your "ask" will result in more useful introductions and an efficient use of your contact's time.
Also, if someone is going to make an email introduction for you, be helpful. Write up a concise and simple email of either what that person can say, or one that they can pass along. By controlling the message, you get closer to what you want and limit how long it takes someone to assist you. If they don't have to spend a lot of time thinking through what to say and only need to forward an email, your response time will increase.
Keep Your Contacts in the Loop
After someone has made an introduction and effectively vouched for you, keep them informed. Do not leave your contacts guessing how a conversation went. While they do not need to know the daily blow by blow, you should thank them for the introduction. Drop them a line from time to time as things progress. Do not leave them wondering what happened after they helped you. Updating them will make them feel good about having helped you, and it will keep your link to your initial contact active.
Always Network - It's Your Ongoing "Side Hustle"
Many people only think about networking when they need something - a new job, an introduction, or to grow their business. More effective networkers are working on expanding their database of contacts all the time. Developing and maintaining a diverse network of contacts across different industries and sectors could feel like is a second job. However, in order to get ahead, you should think of networking as your routine "side hustle."
You do not have to operate on all cylinders every single day, but you should be strategic about expanding your network. Take steps each month to meet new people and reconnect with old contacts. Go to conferences, attend symposia, show up at alumni events, ask colleagues to lunch, and send a simple note from time to time.
No One Likes A User - There Must Be Give & Take
If you only reach out to people when you need something, they will tire of this pattern and of you very quickly. People will dread hearing from you and blow you off if they know they are only hearing from you since you want to use them for something. They will brand you as a "user" and consider you selfish.
Reciprocate and offer to be useful to others. If you come across an article that might be helpful to someone in your network, then send it to them. If you think two people should meet, then facilitate an introduction. Remain open to making connections for others, and ask how you can be helpful and support their success too.
One way to stay connected and express interest in your contacts is by speaking with them beyond email. Reach out to someone you have known for a long time or a new contact, and ask them to meet for coffee, lunch, or drinks. When you see them, stay engaged with how their career is progressing, updates with their kids, and any new interests. Once you know more about them, you have information on how you can be helpful. The bottom line is that this should be a two-way street. If not, your ability to make "asks" will dry up very quickly.
The reality is that networking is work. It takes time and effort to consistently nurture old contacts as you cultivate new ones for expanded opportunities. Just remember that your success is linked to who you know, how you leverage those relationships, what you can put on the table to help others, and how good you are at maintaining relationships.
The Azara Group
(TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace - providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.
The Azara Group
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