Why do we network?
We network to advance our knowledge, increase our visibility in our chosen field and establish relationships that will ultimately help us advance our careers.
Recent studies within the US and Europe reveal that between 70% and 80% of people obtained their current job via help from their existing network. A staggering figure and one that demands you think about the long-term benefits of building your network, even if you are blissfully happy in your job. One day you will need your network.
So what are the top five rules for building great networks?
1. Always increase your network
It can often take many years for relationships to bear fruit. The people you meet today could lead you to, or recommend you for, a career opportunity at any time in the future. As a general rule, the more people who are recommended to you by other members of your network the more effective and powerful it becomes.
2. Be personable, courteous and listen
By our very nature we respond better to friendly, courteous people. Be genuinely interested in understanding and finding out more about what makes that individual tick. The more you understand that person’s drivers the more likely they will be to ask you about yours. If in doubt, look for things or people you have in common.
3. Try to build mutually beneficial relationships
If you only ever ask and take from any relationship it is doomed to fail. Ensure that you offer specific knowledge, skills or advice that will be of assistance to the individual you want to bring into your network. Remember if you have done someone a favour, they are much more likely to do you a favour.
4. Keep in contact with your network
Relationships develop over time and the frequency of interaction with each contact evolves similarly. Someone you ‘LinkedIn with’ or met at a networking event 5 years ago and have not spoken to since is not likely to think of you when they hear about that amazing opportunity. That said, you can’t be in regular contact with everyone all the time. So it is about finding a balance. Build up a plan based on the knowledge of what the people in your network want to be contacted about, and manage your interaction with them accordingly.
5. Know the strengths of people in your network
What you want out of each network contact will vary over time, from a ‘sleeper’ role to an ‘active career enhancer’ one, with ‘confidante’, ‘mentor’ and ‘candidate provider’ or ‘knowledge provider’ in between. Regularly ensure that the people in your network fulfill one of these for you and that you do the same for them.