Are you in a situation where you could use a helping hand from your friends? Colleagues? Acquaintances?
No matter what your job is, over the length of your career, your network and it’s health and strength is going to be your single greatest advantage in succeeding in your career.
Sure, a lot of you starting now have some smarts, a good job, and are willing to work hard. All that sets you in the right direction, but over the long-term, over a multi-decade career that simply will not be enough to be truly successful.
My 7 Key Success Factors for Business Networking
There are two areas I want to review about networking: what makes it successful and how to actually do it! So, let’s review my seven key principles for how to do it successfully and then a five step plan of attack to execute those principles.
- It’s an all-the-time thing.
You need to do it all the time. If you only do it when you need it, you’re not going to be successful. If you need to network, it’s already too late if you don’t already have a healthy one. Be very, very consistent.
- Give value first. Take second.
Give value first to others before you ask for something. It could be anything. But whatever value you provide—your time, energy, education, favors—give it first.
- Give more than you take.
Put more into the networking bank. Keep making deposits before you make withdrawals.
- Do it live.
This is not an email thing. This is human interaction. This is building deeper relationships. This is spending time with people.
- Do what you say you’re going to do—build trust.
Always follow through. Whether you’re providing information, making a referral, etc. You want to be known for having a good “word,” being trustworthy, and being dependable.
- Move it forward and expand their network.
If the interaction between you and me dies with you, you haven’t helped me build my network. So, you want to make sure you’re thinking how can I help expand this person’s network? Who might be good for him or her to know? You want to pay it forward, you want to move it forward, and you want to expand their network. The point is for both of you to grow your networks.
- Build a systematic plan that allows you to execute.
You need to build a plan that makes you consistent, organized, and working toward building a healthy network that meets your goal and the goals of others.
My 5-Step Plan to Build a Healthy Professional Network
This plan has served me well for multiple decades. It’s also helped me build and keep and extremely healthy network. This process works
A. Set your networking goals.
The first place to start is to set your goals. Don’t just start dialing up people and emailing them. That isn’t going to get you where you need to be. You have to have a goal. And what do I mean by goals?
There are many, but let’s talk about four:
- Educations and advancement of your knowledge
- Job hunting
- Grow customers, partnerships, etc.
B. Build your relationship map by doing your research.
Who do you know who can move you toward your goals? Who do they know? Who do you want to know? Who might know them?
Build a relationship map. Literally build one. It could be a list of people, could be a diagram, or whatever it is that you want to do.
C. Identify 60 to 100 people you can connect with who can help you meet your goals.
Build a nice list of individuals. Spend an hour or so each month identifying the right people for you to connect with and contact. Do your homework. Be aggressive.
D. Prepare standard messages you can modify.
Draft 3-4 templates you can use to contact people and they tailor each one (in the next step) based on your relationship with them.
E. “E” is for execute.
Execute a consistent reach out program. For me, I contact five people at the beginning of each month.
I go through my list of people and my relationship map. I identify 5-6 people I’d like to contact. I either call them or email them to see if they want to get together (phone, coffee, lunch, dinner, etc.).
Give them a week to get back to you. If some don’t, start contacting others and so on and so forth.
Five people might not sound like a lot, but keep in mind you want to actually get together or speak with them. This is about spending time!
Adjust your plan according.
The point isn’t to do it exactly as I’ve laid it out. The point is to tailor this or some plan to accommodate your needs.
Feel free to adjust accordingly based on your goals. Most importantly, have fun and be generous!
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