It’s All About the Network
Everyone you meet can help you! And here is an even more amazing thing, they actually want to help you. By nature, people are helpful, friendly and interested in you. Sometimes we all just get so busy directing the play that is our lives that we forget. But think, when was the last time someone asked you for assistance that you did not try to help even a little. I believe it is in our nature to be helpful.
So, you know all these wonderful people, eager to help you succeed. They lean on you and you lean on them from time to time. The list of helpers you know is limited. Agreed? There are lots of other people that you do not know, personally, but you know they can help you if you could just meet them. They are probably very helpful, too. And they have such great connection. Now, consider all the people out there that you’ve never heard of and how helpful they could be. This sound a lot like the blog I posted a few weeks ago about the things you know, the things you don’t know and the things you don’t know you don’t know, doesn’t it? If you missed it, here is the link: https://real-cio.com/the-cost-of-the-things-you-dont-know-you-dont-know/. Go read it. I’ll wait…
So, how do you start getting connected to all these great people? Simple, ASK! Aside from a natural desire for being helpful, people have a natural desire to be recognized as successful. One of the key traits for success is the size of your network. (Don’t go there!) People want you to know how many other successful people they know. They would love nothing more than to introduce you to their network to show how close they are to their contacts, how successful they are, and how helpful they can be. Honestly. However, please remember that it is not just the quantity of contacts but the quality. I believe in growing a large, diverse network but they can’t all be high school friends and neighbors. Make a list of the types of contact that can benefit your career. Then build your network to drive career success. Here are some recommended steps:
- Stop using Facebook. Facebook does not help your career. If you want to keep in touch with old friends, fine. Just, please, remember that friends that are connected to you on Facebook are not the same as ”Facebook friends”.
- Sign up for a Business Networking Social Media site like LinkedIn. Search for colleagues, past and present. Search for people that graduated with you. Add contacts. Once you start to add contact, LinkedIn will present others you may know to your network. Add them. This will build your base network.
- Sit down and make a list of the types of contact you desire to have in your network. Include Business Leaders, Mentors, People already doing what you want to be doing. Go after them. Look through your contacts’ contacts. Reach out to your contacts and ask them to introduce you to someone that you admire or respect or would be helpful to your career. You contacts will oblige. I will. Most will.
- Send a request to connect to this prospect. And please don’t just hit the connect button. Send a custom message. They don’t know you. Say, “Our mutual colleague <John Miller> introduced us. I viewed you profile and I would be honored to be a member of your network.” It is honest and respectful.
- Once you are connected, reach out and provide a more formal, complete introduction. Tell them about yourself. Start with your “WHY”. If you believe it is the best interest of the relationship, offer to meet some morning for coffee for 30 minutes to look for ways to collaborate. Yes, this takes time. You have your whole career to do this. You’re not making microwave popcorn.
- Document your relationships. This really takes time. Make a spreadsheet, database or document to list your contacts and important information:
- Name, title and contact information
- Career highlights, awards, and areas of expertise
- Things they can do to help you
- Things you can do to help them.
- A log of correspondence (LinkedIn and your email system will help)
- Stay in contact. Touch every contact as often as you think appropriate (Seriously, stop going there). Email or message close contacts monthly with a quick “Just touching base. I hope all is well.” Quarterly or annually messaging some contact may be more appropriate. Just stay in contact.
- If you hear of an opportunity, send it to them. If you read an article that would be appropriate or helpful to them, forward it. If they post something you find relevant or interesting, hit the like button, post a comment, or share the post. If you receive a notification that they have a work anniversary, birthday, promotion, or a new job, reach out and say “Congratulations”.’ Be helpful first. Be helpful often. But above all, be helpful honestly and sincerely. Expect nothing in return.
- If you need something, ask. You’ve earned the right by staying in contact. If you are collaborating and giving, then you can ask. People will help you. Even if you never connected before, you can ask for help once. Everyone gets a freebie. If the only messages they ever get from you are to ask for favors, then you are being needy and annoying.
- My hero, Spiderman, says “With great power, comes great responsibility.” So, as you build your network, you have the obligation to help others build theirs. Introduce your contact to each other if you believe it would benefit both. Offer to introduce new contacts to old contact to help them get started. Mentor them on the value of networking. Help them be successful. Give back. Pay IT Forward.
A personal thank you to all the great colleagues and mentors I have in my network. I hope that I can be as kind and helpful to you as you are to me. For those whom I have not contacted in a while, forgive me. I hope to do better.
Now, seriously, re-read #8 above. Hit the Like or Share button. It’s 1 click. ?