When do you need a personal, social network the most?
Think about that for a moment. When is your network of business professionals the most valuable to you?
When you need a new job. Right?! That’s when most of us turn to our network of professional colleagues.
The Dumped CEO
Sitting across my desk was a newly dumped CEO who was on the wrong side of an acquisition.
“Tell me about the depth and strength of your professional network,” I asked.
His face sunk.
“You mean the people who I didn’t return their calls because I was too buy? Or those that I cancelled lunch with because I didn’t have the time?”
Sadly, I have heard these words many times. Always from busy executives who didn’t make networking a priority.
They chose not to invest in the one career insurance policy that would be there for them when they needed it the most: their network.
Build It And They’ll Be There
Think of investing in your network the same way you do your financial investments. Without frequent deposits, and time and attention, you won’t have a secure financial future. You can’t withdraw funds that don’t exist.
If you haven’t bothered to invest in your network when times are good for you, why would you expect it to give you a return when you hit hard times?
The Worst Time To Build A Network Is When You Really Need One
Networking during a desperate time is painful! And career damaging!
It’s hard to access and influence people that you haven’t bothered to help in the past.
No one likes a network user who only takes from their network and never gives. Plan for rainy days. None of us are immune to career transitions, personal challenges and hard times.
Start now before it’s too late.
Three Ways Guaranteed To Give You A Huge Future Return
Here are three ways to invest in your network. Try them and watch the huge return you’ll receive.
1. Be The First One To Add Value
Real networking is not about what you can take from someone. Instead it is about what you can add. Actively look for ways to add value to every relationship you have. Do the same for your communities. Ask yourself, “How could I be a resource?”
Often a small action like forwarding an email, introducing people at a conference or following up with a resource someone needs are small acts with big potential impact.
2. Pay It Forward
Make it a priority to accept phone calls or brief face to face meetings with people referred to you by those you trust. Reflect on the people who helped you get where you are today. They took the time, why shouldn’t you?
Anyone who has ever sponsored or mentored someone else can tell you, the teacher always wins too. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone achieve their goal.
3. Expose Yourself
Harness the power of The Strength of Weak Ties. Put more of a premium on curiosity. According to Andrea Kuszewski of Scientific American, when we interact with people we don’t know well, we actually increase our IQ. Opening ourselves to new information, perspectives and environments makes us smarter.
You have no idea where a new connection will lead you. Believe in the power of serendipity.
Remember, what you put out to the world, does eventually come back to you. In ways far greater and more creative than you could ever imagine.
What strategies have you put into practice to make networking a priority? How have you overcome the-I’m-too-busy-syndrome?
Steve Foran says
Bang on. Ask yourself the simple question… to whom am I grateful for where I am today? Then start expressing that gratitude back to them and outward to others.
Sarah Michel says
Thanks Steve! Great advice!!
Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to tell which network contacts will be useful in the future or which ones will abandon you. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a broad range of contacts to ensure your system can work when needed.
Thanks, Sarah, for featuring “Pay It Forward.” Even though the current corporate environment is not a culture of honoring those who do help you, some will, in the end, so the net needs to be cast broadly and deeply.
Great job on this blog!
Sarah Michel says
Thanks Tricia for adding your wise thoughts.