Telecommunication network above city, wireless mobile internet technology for smart grid or 5G LTE … [+]
The word “networking” tends to elicit negative connotations and a broad range of excuses from many (e.g., but it’s “time-consuming,” “awkward” or “disingenuous”). However, you may be surprised to learn that the professionals with the best networks rarely go too far out of their way to build strong connections.
If time, know-how or strategy have been your go-to excuses, here’s how to build a stellar network relatively effortlessly:
Talk to people you already know. A professional contact that I see occasionally recently asked me what my career goals are for the upcoming year. I shared one of my primary goals and she instantly gave me a contact to reach out to – bam! Just like that. I reciprocated and asked her a goal she had, and the brainstorming began. Sharing our goals with our current contacts – those people who already know and support us – is one of the simplest tricks around, yet very few take advantage of it (click here for more on that). We often talk to family, friends and colleagues about the news, sports or the latest Netflix binge, but MISS the opportunity to get help with our careers. Your current network is likely pretty well-connected themselves through their circles, social media or previous contacts, so don’t underestimate them just because they’re in a different field or because you think they won’t understand. Have a conversation about what you’re looking for and you may be surprised at how quickly they can hook you up.
Branch out at social events. Between work meetings, community events, hobbies, and association activities, you likely have several opportunities each week to expand or deepen your network. But, we usually gravitate toward individuals we already know. It’s more comfortable and takes less energy. But, what if once each week you made an effort to introduce yourself to someone new at a meeting? Think about how your network would grow by having just one conversation at an activity you had to attend anyhow? It’s normal to favor the familiar, especially when we’re overwhelmed, fatigued or shy. However, the well-connected know that straying outside of your comfort zone now and again is the best way to create good luck in the future.
Reconnect with dormant contacts. If you’ve been on this earth for a significant amount of time, chances are you have a past. Not in a bad way, but rather a past in the sense of friends, neighbors, colleagues or classmates you’ve lost touch with. Same as you, these individuals have gone on to build interesting careers, gain expertise in new areas, and of course, expand their connections. Just one outreach to a blast from the past may open an entire new circle of information, opportunities and contacts to you, and social media has made this so easy. In fact, you’re likely getting system-generated friend recommendations or outreaches constantly. Instead of ignoring them, what if you took a chance and reached out? How might your world change? Maybe a lot or maybe not at all, but if you don’t take any action, the latter is inevitable.
Do the rounds at work. Like many, I work in a silo’ed organization. Despite attempts to build collaboration between departments when I first started, I let that lapse when it seemed no one was interested and my plate became full. Perhaps you have too, but therein lies an opportunity for all of us, especially if you work at a large company. While you may feel like you don’t have the time, the beauty of this strategy is that it can actually save you time in the long-run. If you build a strong relationship with the finance department, watch how quickly you’re able to get your quarterly reports. Have a process you’d like to automate to streamline your project? Chances are the IT department has a solution. It’s not about taking advantage of others, but rather building mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues who share the same challenges. Plus, it makes going to work more fun when you have more connections.
Take advantage of technology. Social media has made it unbelievably simple to stay in touch, reconnect and deepen relationships. But chances are, you’re not using it to its fullest potential. If you have a profile on LinkedIn, that’s a good start, but if that’s where it ends, you’re only scratching the surface of the power that lies in the internet. Savvy networkers know that five to 10 minutes each day scanning updates, liking content, and sharing industry updates can go a long way in staying top of mind with their network. It can take two seconds to congratulate a connection on a promotion, new job or anniversary, and you don’t need to have a good memory to do it because the technology will alert you automatically. Everyone is busy and it’s easy to balk at technology as a way to build relationships. And true, there may be no substitute for face-to-face interactions, but don’t use that excuse to ignore your network online.
Recognize your excuses. Speaking of excuses, the truth is, humans can rationalize decisions ridiculously well, even ones that were made by pure emotion. Otherwise, we’d never eat another cookie unless we were legitimately starving to death (I just did, and I’m not). As an introvert, I understand fatigue and discomfort in networking, but I also understand that my success and that of others depends on relationships and the support that comes from them. So while it’s fine to sit it out some nights, close your office door occasionally or eat lunch alone at your desk, don’t forget to make an effort to stretch outside of your comfort zone once in a while and take advantage of those opportunities right in front of you. When you start to look, you’ll notice they’re everwhere.
Reposted from: Forbes.com