Networking, networking, networking.
It’s not what you know, but who you know.
These are some common clichés most of us have heard during our lifetime, but how many of us really know how to make the most out of our professional network? Whether it’s for a job or business opportunity, knowing how to leverage your network will give you advantages in spades.
Have a goal
Most people in your network want to help you. It makes them feel good about their own connections and expertise when you seek them out for advice. But when you do make a request of someone, be specific with what you are asking for so you can respect their time and resources. No one wants to listen to someone ramble for an hour. Be specific and have a goal in mind so others will know exactly how they can help.
Building relationships is a two-way street, so it’s unreasonable to expect something without bringing something of value as well. Chances are, people in your network are also actively seeking guidance and connections. Listen to what their needs are and support them any way you can. Comment on their LinkedIn posts. Promote their blog post or e-book. Attend one of their events. Support them in the same way you wish to be treated.
If you are attending a networking event and hand out business cards to 10 people, expect only one of them to reach out to you. But why wait for someone else to make the first move? Connect with them on LinkedIn or send an email within a few days after meeting them. Follow them on social media and cross-promote a product or service they are offering to your own followers. Offer to meet for coffee (your treat) or schedule time for an informational interview. Take swift action with your new connections and start creating some momentum.
Keep contacts warm
If there’s someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, it can feel awkward to re-establish that connection. Set aside time on your schedule to periodically reconnect with your old contacts—it can be as simple as a brief email. If an opportunity arises in the future and you need their assistance, you won’t hesitate to reach out and ask them for help.