Your network is your net worth.
It is a source of knowledge, career opportunities, business partnerships, future hires and so much more. Networking, in short, is powerful derived and amplified by your social connections.
In my experience, my connections have enriched my life, personally and professionally. However, traditional networking guides and tips make networking pretty transactional, but networking is more effective when you’re meeting and getting to know people before you need help with something or want to sell your products and services.
Networking should be a regular part of your life. Find a way to grow and maintain your network and break it down into easy-to-follow steps. For example, Sallie Krawcheck, the former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America and current leader of 85 Broads, has a really simple but brilliant strategy. She follows two very simple rules for networking:
- She aims to meet at least one new person per month or to significantly deepen an existing relationship, and;
- She does one nice thing for someone she is already connected to every week.
When networking outside of your immediate circle, you shouldn’t focus on just peers within your industry, either; a wide-ranging network is a happy network. Krawcheck added a third rule for networking to her repertoire: connect with professionals who are different than you.
Network With Purpose
When you read about impressive entrepreneurs or you learn about interesting research coming out of a university 3,000 miles away, research that person and shoot them a quick email.
You can say something like, “I read about you in The New York Times and the work you’re doing fascinates me. I’d love to talk to you for 15 minutes. Maybe a phone call or a Skype session? Hope to hear from you soon!” or “Your work developing new algorithms for Google sounds really fascinating. SEO affects so many industries that what you’re doing is sure to have a lot of implications. I’d love to learn more about it. Could you fit in a quick call?”
Short is sweet. It becomes information overload if the email exceeds a paragraph or two.
There are also natural ways to meet people outside of your ‘bubble’. For instance, if you pursue non-work related interests and volunteer, say, at an animal shelter or take a not-for-credit dance class, you’ll meet professionals outside of your industry. You’ll already have interests in common, making connecting that much easier. Being part of a board for something that doesn’t directly correlate to your industry is another fantastic approach.
And no matter how you meet someone, try to give before you take. As a high-powered executive, you might feel weary of giving away your valuable time. But as Adam Grant, professor at Wharton and author of “Give and Take“ has found, the people who give more than they take go farther and experience more success.
Meanwhile, Erica Dhawan, a leadership expert and CEO of Cotential, mentioned a mantra in a Forbes article that has helped her build deep connections with people and connect with the likes of Bill Gates and Sheryl Sandberg: “Give, give, get.” Make it your motto too.
With these tips, you should be able to grow your network in a way that will make people excited to help you when you ask for it.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Rakia Reynolds is the founder of Skai Blue Media, a multimedia public relations agency with an all-star roster of lifestyle, technology and fashion clients. Noted as an influencer in the creative business industry, Reynolds is sought after by companies to provide her expertise in creative development, branding and strategic communications. Connect with @RakiaReynolds on Twitter.
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