Do you make time to actively build and engage with your network? Do you even have one? Often, people hear the ‘N’ word and groan, even if just inwardly.
The hard reality is that spending time on building and maintaining a good network can bring huge benefits to your professional life, I have helped many people over the last seven years build their skills and confidence to realise their career goals. Whilst I have personally seen the benefits networking well has brought my clients, it was interesting to see in the Hays journal recently that ‘having an active network’ was rated by women as being the most important factor in term of personal success – it took 26% of the vote. Strong communication skills were a close second on 24%.
This may not fill some people with joy, as building a network does take time, you can’t build one as soon as you need one, it requires ‘drip feeding’ of commitment over time. It also puts you in a potentially vulnerable situation and for many it takes them right out of their comfort zone. Then there is the time factor, we all have so much going on, how can you make time? So in this article, if you currently don’t feel you have an active network I’d like to explain why it is beneficial to your career and give you some simple tips to get started.
How a network can positively impact you career:
- Keep you up-to-date with what is happening in your sector. Not keeping your knowledge current is a big risk, not only for when you want to move organisations, but also being able to talk to clients, prospective clients and colleagues knowledgeably.
- Get yourself known for your expertise, this benefits you personally and your organisation too.
- If relevant, it is a good way to see clients in a less formal setting, get to know them better and build greater rapport.
- To have ‘go to’ people in complementary areas that may be able to help you or one of your clients in the future.
- Meet prospective clients, even if that isn’t essential to your role now, it may be in the future, so having a strong network already will greatly facilitate your business development efforts.
- Provide options when you are looking for a new role, many people now move to new jobs that haven’t been found through recruiters or direct application processes but through people they know. It can make the ‘job hunt’ a lot simpler.
Assuming, you can now see some value in building you network, here are five simple tips to help you start from wherever you are at:
- If you aren’t an experienced networker in terms of attending events, find a few which are suitable for your career stage and situation/sector, commit to visiting 2-3 that have different formats and/or are at different times of day, so you can decide what suits you best. Then diarise the one or two you prefer. It is better to commit to fewer and actually go, rather than commit to several and end up going to none.
- When at events, ask others about themselves and really listen, offer to help wherever possible, such as sending on a helpful article or connecting them to someone else you know (be careful with this one!).
- Make sure you have a great LinkedIn profile that represents the person people meet and use it to connect to those you meet after an event.
- Think about how you talk about the work you do, make it interesting and provide ‘hooks’, so that it is easy for people to ask you questions and really understand what you do.
- Diarise reminders to check in with or arrange a coffee with people who you met and liked, even if there isn’t an obvious immediate benefit.
The most important thing is to make time for career planning/management, where networking needs to play a role.
I hope this helps you understand the value of your network and how to build it so that it becomes a valuable ‘tool’ for you in the future. Once these tips become a habit, it does get a lot easier. If you would like to discuss your networking plan and skills or anything else related to improving your career progression, contact me to arrange a complimentary, no obligation Career Booster call.