Building A Strong Network Isn't As Hard As You Think
Building a solid network isn't as hard as some make it seem.
"Your network is your net worth." It sounds cliche, but it is true. If your current network consists of people who are at or below your skill level or even at the same spot as you, how do you expect to grow and build? I'm going to run through some tips on not only how to build a stronger network of people and will show you how easy it is.
Be a human being.
The first step should be the easiest to get, but often for some, it isn't. If you want to build long lasting relationships and a fruitful career in your field, start off by being a genuine human being who actually is interested in the other party that they want to network with. Look at it like dating, if you are solely going after that person for something, it is very easy to sniff out and won't end up being a long-lasting relationship.
One of the ways to show that you are a human being during networking is showing appreciation. It's one thing to go up to someone and strike a conversation, but that relationship can be taken to a completely new level if they feel that they are liked. Engage by learning what they know that you don't yet. That way at the end, both parties feel like they added value.
Beyond just showing appreciation, another key is to make sure you are actively listening to the conversation. When you're a good listener you can demonstrate that you heard exactly what the other person was communicating, and also you can ask follow-up questions that reference what they were saying during the conversation.
I'd also say making yourself relatable is very important. During an initial conversation with a person that you are trying to connect with, it goes a long way to making yourself relatable to them. Often when there are power dynamics in a conversation, the other party feels uncomfortable, so by making yourself relatable to them, it helps them at ease when asking for advice or help.
Leave the door open.
Note that during most initial meetings or conversations, you are very likely to talk with that person again, so you always want to leave the door open for future networking. One way to do this is by leaving the conversation with a sense of optimism for both parties. You want to not just have an initial conversation and leave it be, ideally, you'd set up a follow-up date on what you two discussed upon or you'd keep in contact with regular follow ups about the discussion you had. Relationships take a long time to build, so you should start now.
Even if during the conversation you notice that your services or needs don't align, it is still always best to be open and honest in the beginning. For example saying something like, "It was really great connecting with you today, sorry I couldn't be much help to what you were asking for, but if you ever have any other questions or needs, feel free to send me a note."
Envision your dream network.
What do you want your dream network to look like? If you already know your dream contacts, then you should start writing down and practicing what you would like to talk about them with. That way whenever the day comes that you get the chance to meet them or you meet someone in your network who can introduce you them, you already have an advantage of talking points.
Also, once you laid out your dream network, it is easier to pinpoint how to exactly get in touch with them. It might be difficult to get in touch with them off the bat, but you might find someone else who can connect you. By honing in on your dream network, you are better suited to stay focused on building your relationships to get there.
Follow up and do the work.
It sounds basic, and I laid it out in a previous article, but you have to follow up and also do the work that you said that you were going to do. People get sidetracked and busy and forget to get you what they said you would, so it's important to make sure that you are always on top of it. Especially if this is a connection that you just made, you don't want to leave a bad taste by not doing what you said you were going to.
Want to avoid an easy way to burn a bridge? Don't connect two people via email without asking first. If a contact of yours wants to meet someone in your network, always remember to ask that connection first if it is okay that you introduce them, otherwise it could very well make that person want to remove themselves from your network.
When you get permission to introduce the two parties, make the introduction as personable as you can. You don't want to just copy and paste what they have in their bio section of their website, you want to specifically layout what the benefits are for the both parties that you are connecting, and relay the fact that you are there to facilitate the new connection.
Don't be needy.
It's hard to stay in touch with everyone in your network at all times, but don't just reach out to someone in it only when you need something. That can easily be recognized, and it won't be good for the long-term relationship. Instead, I would set reminders or make a list of people in your network on who you want to follow up with during that month. Even better, if you want to tap into your network without having to just send out follow up emails, then you should look into some content marketing ideas that you can add value to your relationship with your network such as blog writing, email marketing, vlogs, etc.
Recognize it's a process.
Just like anything else in life, your dream network isn't going to happen overnight. Make sure that you are spending time each day and week to cultivating and growing your network and don't be hesitant to ask for introductions into certain circles so that you can expand your base. Avoid burning any bridges along the way and you'll be on your way.