9 Suggestions for Building a Network
There is evidence that as people age their networks tend to shrink. In the modern world, the network is worth far more than the resume. So just as we must work harder to build the muscle tissue that will deplete with age, so we need to constantly nourish our networks. How to do it?
First step is, if you have not already read it, get a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Yes, the language is a bit stale, but the content is terrific, and it’s what dozens of modern business books are based on.
The best way to think about being connected is to think about how you can contribute, how you can adapt to the position of the other person so that you can more deeply reach them. Or as one highly successful professional once said to me, “To be better at my work, I realized I needed to become a better human being.”
Here are some of the things we have used over the years and find highly effective. The main theme you will notice is keeping a mindset of what we can contribute, rather than what we can get out of an interaction.
- Convey genuine appreciation. Find something about the other person or their work that you genuinely like and appreciate. Express it to them with energy, warmth and sincerity. There will always be something that you can appreciate about the other person if you are tuned in to looking for it. You are telling them you see them, they count, that they are important to you.
- Be fully present to what the other person is saying, and show that by asking questions on exactly what they are speaking about. This will indicate that you are paying attention to their agenda, not yours, you value them, and you enjoy what they are saying. The questions should be about helping them to feel more comfortable explaining and giving detail on what they are saying, again showing you are fully engaged and genuinely interested.
- Let the other person know you are not perfect, that you make mistakes. Everyone does, and wouldn’t you rather be the person who shows they are not perfect and has the ability to learn than someone who says they have it all mastered? No one likes a know-it-all.
- Before you meet someone, show you care about the person you are speaking with enough to research them and find out the milestones in their lives. Never take a call or go into a meeting blind. Be the most informed person in the room or on the call about the other people.
- In any situation think of yourself as the host. Even if you are the invitee, take the lead in making sure the other person is comfortable. This will give you a framework of attentive thoughtfulness to work within.
- Give before asking for a get. Be generous, contribute, make a connection to another valuable person for them, offer ideas, offer intel. Remember it is about what you can contribute. Generosity tends to be reciprocated, but even if it is not, you will have set the stage for further communication with the person.
- If the meeting does not seem like it is getting you what you wanted, there may be many more. Life is long and filled with ongoing connections. Always leave the meeting with the idea that it is the first in a long relationship.
- Stay in touch with your existing friends and network. Continue to nourish existing relationships and get to know the people already around you better.
- Energy, optimism and enthusiasm will get you a long way. People are naturally attracted to others who make them feel good. Skills count, but skills can be learned. Setting an environment of energetic positivity is priceless.
Follow up with a note summarizing your sincere appreciation and a link to something you think the person would enjoy. If it fits the culture, use a pen and paper. Show your cognition of their time constraints by keeping it short and snappy. In order to become a good connector and build your network, practice these skills constantly everywhere you can. Then, when you are in that big, third-round interview you will be naturally versant. If one has been in a job for some time, it is quite possible that these people skills are uncomfortable. But remember that all jobs are fundamentally people jobs.
You may want to check out our piece on The Truth in HR Hiring Practices.