"Some of us excel at the art of networking and some do it reluctantly while the vast majority of us do it without any thinking or planning. We network to meet people, to develop contacts and to exchange information. We also have a go at sharpening our communication skills and developing relationship-building habits however, we tend to underestimate the importance of building and looking after our networks."
Having a strong business network is critical to professional success and building it is much more of a deliberate effort than we think it is. Successful business relationships don't just happen by exchanging business cards. They take a long time to build. You need to continually ping your contacts, offer value, and hang out with the ‘good people’ and play the long term game.
Think about a network as a web of relationships and connections between people and you as the spider. The weaving of a web takes up a lot of the spider’s time and resources since spiders need to renew their web regularly. You can start by creating a list of 40 to 50 people you know. It can be anyone, from university friends, to family members, associations you belong to, past and current colleagues, teachers you admire and add next to each of them their contact details. Next, draft your online/offline profile and get somebody in the industry to review it. Post it on the online communities of your choice, knowing the value of each and how they are used. Use Google to search your name and revise the social and business profile if you don’t like what you see.
You are now ready to identify the types of people you want to meet and ask people in your network for introductions, leads or information. You can also identify specific people you want to meet and locate them on LinkedIn. If you have any shared connections, ask him/her for an introduction. An introduction from a trusted friend is much better than a cold call or e-mail. It adds rapport and credibility because you share a common relationship. The rule that apply is that when you do something for someone else that helps them in some way, they naturally want to reciprocate.
By helping people in your network, your network gets stronger, and therefore you get stronger. Make relevant and mutually beneficial introductions. Share your advice, expertise, or feedback. Promote your contacts by sharing it with people you know. Above all, be proactive about creating opportunities. Attend conferences, events, and classes relevant to your industry. Say yes to invitations to parties, events and meetings. Use your network to find mentorship opportunities.
So, refine your profile, post it online and start your network by contacting people that you already know. Then you can begin to build relationships with the new contacts who will refer you to the people they know thus creating a growing referral system and be part of an inner circle of people you want to be associated with.
Article by: Gaby Marcon Clarke
Are your networks good enough?