Building your business network requires more than simply adding more contacts
Life is about relationships. As a child, you learn the ways of the world through the relationship with parents, siblings, and classmates. Our friends, spouses and children continue to teach us as we move into adulthood.
Career development occurs, in part, through relationships with your boss, peers, customers, and more. So, how do you develop these business relationships? Do you have a social strategy for achieving your career goals?
Building extraordinary relationships requires an understanding of the art form of networking. It’s about generating new contacts, while maintaining existing ones. This network should include peers, mentors, vendors, and customers.
5 Steps to Growing Your Professional Network
- Build a network of business contacts. LinkedIn is a great way to do this without a large time investment or travel. Attend business events, whether in person or virtually.
- Develop a thick skin. Everyone won’t have the same goals, nor will everyone be willing to help you. Hearing “no” is not the end; simply learn from each interaction and move on to the next one.
- Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you will meet that certain person with the ability to help further your career. Be nice, polite, and treat everyone with respect.
- Relationships are two way streets. Don’t shy away from giving your time to someone else. Share ideas, share advice, and don’t be afraid to step into a situation without being asked to help others benefit from your experiences. To expect assistance from others, you must be willing to give it.
- All relationships are about good communication. Meet folks with similar interests for lunch or coffee or drinks. Create an email distribution list to ask questions and request feedback. Set up a regular conference call to share updates. LinkedIn and other social media apps have many features you can use to stay in touch.
Building your business network is more than just increasing the number of contacts. Research and seek out colleagues with specific skills or access to other people who can assist you. You want to generate a diverse group of relationships that can help you solve a difficult problem. Maybe you need someone that is highly technical; a peer that can offer a different perspective; an associate that can teach you about new trends; a friend to support your efforts; or someone who can provide critical feedback or relieve stress. If you always seek advice from the same person who shares your views, you will never be challenged. Every network will be unique for each person.
The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” means no single person can be all, know all, or do all. Raising a child requires teachers, doctors, pastors, and friends. In the same vein, you’ll need help if you want to achieve your goals of expanding your social network. A tip here, a contact there, a new customer, a new vendor, an introduction to the right person, a new skill, a valuable piece of advice.
We all need people around us who can help us be successful. These relationships can be the difference between mediocrity and extraordinary. Don’t be shy about meeting new people. A quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Ask for help. Offer to help others. Create the habits now that will produce incredible relationships for your future.