How to Build a Broad, Open Network

NETWORKING IS A DELIBERATE PROCESS

Networking is a deliberate process of exchanging information, resources, support, and access in such a way as to create mutually beneficial relationship. Creating mutually beneficial relationships takes time AND effort.  You might say to yourself – “where can I find the time to network?” 

  • How about one lunch get together a week? 
  • How about a quick email/text to say hello and let someone know what you are up to or reaching out for advice on a project? 
  • Being a member of a professional association is a must in today’s ever-changing world – make it a goal to attend one event a month
  • Reach out to connect with someone on LinkedIn – be sure to provide the reason(s) why you want to connect – and make it a personal invitation.
  • Offer to work on a charity event you’ve been meaning to support.  Then get to know the other members and show your character and competence.

Beyond the physical effort, networking takes deliberate mental effort.  You have to adopt a conscious mindset that building relationships is all about teaching and giving.  You have to convey authenticity and a genuine interest in who the other person you’re connecting with is as a person.  In today’s world a lot of people look to make an impact based on the size of the audience they reach. But, master networkers focus on making a difference for and with each person they reach.  Ask open ended questions and learn as much as you can about the other person AND “listen for the give.” 

ENVISION YOUR IDEAL NETWORK

You have FOUR distinct networks and a FIFTH network when you need it!

  1. Your work network: the other people in your organization or your business.  This is not exclusive to employees.  Every day you may be working closely with vendors or consultants.
  2. Your organization network: all of the other folks who work in your organization, including those you do not interact with every day. Their knowledge and expertise are important when solving problems or working on a cross functional team.
  3. Your professional network: anyone in your professional field
  4. Your family/friends network: they can sometimes be a hidden resource to finding a job, solving a problem, or connecting you to the right person.
  5. The fifth network: your key network: access this network by asking yourself, “what is my most important goal to accomplish over the next 3-6 months?” and “What 6-8 contacts in my network can help me achieve this goal?”

When you approach all of these conversations as opportunities to teach others who you are AND to learn as much as you can about them – you will find more success and satisfaction.  Not every conversation or every person you meet will become a part of your network, but the more people you meet, the greater the odds you will be on your way to building a broad open network. Your network will ultimately include an array of individuals in different professionals, with different knowledge and approaches to life and how to solve problems, and people willing to provide support or advice, to challenge your thinking, and (in many cases) become your friends. And you will provide these same gifts and benefits back to them in similar ways.

NETWORKS ARE DYNAMIC

Change in your network over time is normal. You will find people come and go over time. Some of the relationships you build will become dormant…you move, they move…you change jobs, they change jobs.  In many cases a dormant relationship can easily be revived by simply making a phone call to say “hello, it’s been a while, how have you been?” Read on for more tips on how to revive dormant relationships.

WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES OF A BROAD, OPEN NETWORK?

  • Contacts who can give you advice about challenges you’re facing on the job or problems you’re solving. You can give the same advice in return.
  • Advocates who will send opportunities your way, and who will connect you with people they know to expand your network.
  • A big head start when it comes to advancing your career: whether you want to look for a new job, a new career, or you’re unemployed and need to find your next opportunity, your network can provide the place to start.
  • Staying current on research and trends in your professional field.

Albert Einstein said, “The world we have created is a product of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

Change your thinking and approach to networking.  Remember, networking skills are learned over time not overnight.

What have you learned from this series of blogs about networking? Put your skills to the test with these steps to improve your networking skills.

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome! And, if you would like to set up a free, no obligation call to discuss networking in even more detail, please reach out to me at vern@contactscount.com.

Vern Schellenger (P’02), Principal Consultant, Contacts Count

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