You know that networking’s great for your career, and you’ve been busy plugging away at building your professional circle of contacts for a while. Tick, tick! But then comes the tricky task of actually building relationships with those people. Life’s busy and for most of us it would be close to impossible to physically catchup with everyone on a regular basis. So how are you supposed to nurture your network and get to know them when there never seems to be enough hours in the day?
When it comes to building and maintaining a strong professional network it’s important to approach the task at hand as if it were a project. Project’s need managing, and with careful planning and review you can become a really effective Project Manager of your own network, which will pay dividends in the long run. Here’s how…
1. Work Out Who Your BFF’s Are
First of all, you need to work out who your BFF”s are. Alright, so networking isn’t about collecting friends, it’s not Facebook and you’re not 15 anymore. But chances are you’ve got a long list of connections on LinkedIn – some of which you know very well, and some you’ve possibly never met before. If you want to make sure your network remember you, the first thing you must do is work out who your priorities are.
So sit down, pen in hand, and mind map who your key contacts are. Who do you want to invest more time and energy into? Who do you need to give more to this month or year? Strategically, who do you need to get to know?
Aim to build a balanced network where you are connected with people who keep you on your toes, help you learn and grow, enhance your knowledge, and challenge your thinking. Get to know people in different industries with different backgrounds, and across a range of ages. Yes, we like people who are like us, but networking is way more than that, so think carefully about what your personal and professional goals are, and who you would like to get to know so that you can step outside of your comfort zone and continue to develop your career.
2. What Can You Do For Them?
Now you know who you want to spend more time with it’s important to work out what YOU can do for THEM – which the exact opposite of how many people approach networking! Building up a great network involves building trust so you need to show your contacts that you’re in it for the long haul rather than only contacting them when you want something, like a new job!
When you turn networking into a relationship building activity that’s a win-win for both parties, that’s when you’ll reap the rewards and you’ll also set yourself apart from the majority who are only it in for themselves!
The good thing is that the giving doesn’t have to be time consuming or costly. Here are some very quick and easy ways to stay front of mind: –
3. Now Make Sure It All Happens
Points 1 and 2 are great in theory, but without a good dose of action they’re just nice-to-have thoughts. The problem with networking is that it’s just too damn easy to get busy and sidetracked – but trust me, you’ll kick yourself if you need to leverage your network and realise you’ve let the most important people in your circle of trust fall by the wayside.
Take a moment now to schedule 15 minutes in your diary every single week to reconnect with your network. When you’ve got a plan, you know who you want to stay connected with, and you know what you can do for them, 15 minutes of conscious planning is all your need to keep your network nicely tuned.
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