As concerns around a potential recession rise, you can benefit from having connections that will help you to stay positive, think through complex problems, and develop strategies to help your company navigate challenging times. An old African proverb says if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go in a group. The complexities of modern business require you to build and maintain strong networks to succeed. Allocating time to nurture your business relationships ensure that you have the community of support you need to achieve your goals.
What gets in the way of networking?
You might not be networking because you feel it is political or too self-serving. We all know people that are self-promoting, insincere, and manipulative. Just because some people have bad behaviors or motives when it comes to networking does mean you should disregard the benefits. People love connecting with people who can help them; there is nothing wrong with meeting new people and discovering ways to collaborate with them. By defining your purpose in networking, you can gain more comfort with the process. Building a solid network allows you to create more value through win-win collaboration.
You may also feel like you do not have time for networking activities because you feel overwhelmed by your current workload. When you look at your calendars and may see little white space, it isn't easy to imagine adding networking activities to your already busy agenda. You likely deprioritize networking because you see it as a low value of the activities, especially in comparison to the other things on your schedule.
If you are an introvert, the idea of going to a loud and crowded event at the end of your workday might be the last thing you want to do. You may tell yourself that you are not good at networking. That there is little benefit to meeting new people. Or that the fear and anxiety that you experience thinking about or going to events is not worth the return.
If any of these reasons for not networking resonate with you, pause and ask yourself four questions.
What benefit will come to me by networking more?
How much time do I need to allocate to see the benefit of networking?
Is there a way for me to reduce my fear and stress around networking?
Is there something I am currently doing that I could stop doing to make time for networking?
In answering these questions, you can identify the value you will gain from allocating more time towards networking and what changes you will need to make to your current routines to support building your network. With this insight, you will find the motivation to think creatively about how to make time in your busy schedule to reconnect with old acquaintances and seek new relationships.
Seek ways to add value.
The best networkers are curious people. When you meet new people, ask questions, and demonstrate an interest in their lives. This will help you to start the foundation for a good relationship. In addition, by learning about the strengths, interests, and needs of others, you can identify how ongoing communication and partnership can be of value to both parties. By offering to help people solve problems, you make relationship investments that can create reciprocity for the future. In the book, The Go-Giver, Bob Burg and John David Mann share how important helping others can be for expanding your network and creating new opportunities for growth. Every time you interact with someone new, you have the potential to be exposed to diverse insights, perspectives, and experiences.
Establish a system for staying connected.
Establishing a system for staying connected with acquaintances can be a great way to build and keep a strong network. When you meet someone new, you should connect with them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms within a week of making an acquaintance. Next, you should identify the frequency at which you want to follow up with the person. It is essential to consider the type of relationship you want to have with the new acquaintance. Do they see them as potential mentors or sponsors who can provide advice and guidance? Do you see them as a strategic partner you can collaborate with on projects? Will the person be a potential mentee? Defining relationship goals will help you to determine the frequency of follow-up.
Create a method for following up.
The next step is to determine the method of follow-up. For some contacts, sending a text, direct message, or email once a quarter can be an effective way of staying in touch. For others, scheduling monthly calls or face-to-face interactions may be ideal for maintaining and building the relationship. The key here is to be purposeful in staying connected with people. The broader your network, the more access you will have to information and resource. Relationships are like gardens; they die when you do not tend to them, so be intentional about connecting with those individuals that add value to you.
In summary, networking is essential because it gives you access to information and resources that otherwise would not be available to you. The keys to effective networking are being curious, allocating time to nurture the relationship, and putting the needs of others first. Developing a system for following up with acquaintances can help you maintain and build healthy relationships. You are only as strong as the network of people you are connected to. Investing in your network will help you to reach your full potential.
Thank you for reading this blog
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Coach and Business Consultant with Your Path Coaching and Consulting. He is a former retail executive with over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. He is a Co-Active coach who focuses on helping professionals and small business owners overcome insecurities, knowledge gaps, and lack of direction. He does this by assisting clients to tap into their values, recognize their strengths, and develop actionable strategies for growth.
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Roberts, L. M., & Mayo, A. J. (2020, September 7). Remote Networking as a Person of Color. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/09/remote-networking-as-a-person-of-color
Cross, R. C., Oakes, K and Connor, C. (2021, June 8). Cultivating an Inclusive Culture Through Personal Networks. MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/cultivating-an-inclusive-culture-through-personal-networks/
White, S. K., & White, S. K. (2022, February 28). What Is Servant Leadership? A Philosophy for People-First Leadership. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/executive/resources/articles/pages/servant-leadership-.aspx