The network. We hear all about having to have one. We are invited to events revolving around it. We are asked about it. But does anyone really know what it is or how to create one?
A simple explanation for why the network is glossed over is because so many assume it’s something you should already know about. If you go into business, it’s an expected feature of you as an employee. That being said, the network isn’t that hard to understand. In short, it is your personal web of contacts. Including friends, family and business partners, your network is who you know. This is why it is so important. It stands to reason that the more people you know and keep in contact with, the more opportunities will come your way.
Unfortunately, there’s not too much training in regards to building a successful network. It’s assumed you pick up these social skills in school, but school doesn’t train you how best to forge new alliances, especially if you were never forced to interact with those outside of your social circle. Luckily, it is never too late to teach yourself how to truly develop a network most people dream of having.
Related: How to Network Effectively at Events
1. A solid story
Before you can connect with anyone, you need to be connected with yourself. This means being in touch with who you are and what you want. What is your ultimate goal? Too often we believe incorrectly that the successful networkers know everyone. In truth, the successful networkers know the right ones. Because there are only so many hours in a day, it is imperative you take the time to really breakdown your goals, your dreams and your current situation. Where do you want to be in six months? Where do you want to be in six years? All of the answers to these questions make up your story, cementing the tale you tell on your foray through the networking world, providing you with a compass that points you toward beneficial network additions.
2. Know who
Again, the best networkers connect to the right people not everyone they meet. They certainly keep the possibilities open but otherwise go out networking with a specific agenda. Now that you know yourself, you’ll know who in the field will be your greatest asset. This allows you to make the most of the limited time afforded at big social gatherings. No doubt your target will be making rounds, and you don’t want to waste their time so much as lay the groundwork for forging a future alliance.
There are many ways to go about this, all of them involving research. You need to know who the leaders of the different industries are. You’ll want to know what their specific jobs are so you can find those that fit what you’re hoping to expand into. If there’s an event, try and obtain a guest list so you have the chance to research ahead of time who you want to flag down and meet. Networking is very much about working smarter, not harder.
3. Go deeper
Finally, don’t neglect your current network. Meeting new people is always great but doesn’t always yield results. It’s your closest compatriots that really offer up more than recent additions. These are the individuals that have a vested interest in your success. They want to see you achieve your dreams and will do everything in their power to help you along. If they are in different jobs, a bartering system can be established to grow benefits for both parties.
How to do this varies from relationship to relationship. If it’s an old friend, paying them a visit or giving them a call are great ways to reconnect and confirm both parties are still in an alliance. If it’s a new acquaintance, inviting them out to do something or otherwise spending time with them one-on-one is essential for forging a stronger bond.
Never be afraid of the network. This constantly shifting and evolving collection of individuals is a necessary component to your success. However, a good network is only as strong as your plans are. If you don’t know where to focus your efforts, you’ll pull together an amalgamation of people that can’t quite give you the push you need to see success. Instead, focus your foundation, focus your network growth and focus on strengthening your existing network.