Building a network can be incredibly valuable to any career. It’s something I didn’t truly recognise until recently. Yep, sometimes it takes me a little while to catch on. As I think about how tough it can be to build my business, it’s great knowing that I have people to turn to for support. There are individuals I trust who are willing to give me their honest feedback and opinions. I absolutely love that they’re ready to share what I’m doing and encourage others to connect with me.
However, would it be easier if I had more of these people in my network?
Of course it would. Yet, I didn’t see this coming and focused on staying in contact with colleagues who became close friends. Many of my university friends created Facebook profiles, while I chose to stay in contact by meeting people and talking on the phone. I eventually gave in and built my profile, and a few years later deleted it due to lack of use. However, in 2014 when I went backpacking, Facebook came into its own. I was able to update my friends and family without having to find a convenient time when we were both available to speak.
This approach remains true with a professional network. Keeping colleagues (past and present) updated with your career and progress can lead to opportunities in the future. Maintaining strong relationships with individuals you connect with more closely will support those opportunities in finding you sooner. We are more inclined to engage with a candidate if they have been recommended to us than those who make cold contact. The reasons for this are that someone else values what this candidate has to offer, and the person who recommends them is putting their own reputation on the line.
Now, what is even more interesting is the common thought that we are connected to any person in the world by 6 degrees of separation. With progression of technology and how we connect online, this is being reduced. From what I understand it is now between 3 and 4 degrees of separation. So, you could be talking with your future employer, manager, or colleague in 3 or 4 introductions. However, this is only true if you maintain and engage with your network, as this makes it easier to ask for introductions.
How do you build a network?
- The first step is to start meeting people and establishing a connection with them. What do you have in common?
- Have a good conversation with each of these people. Speak about that common ground, listen to them, allow them to share. Demonstrate that you want to know more about THEM.
- Connect with them online. LinkedIn is seen as a good professional network, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use Facebook, Twitter or any other app. You just want to ensure that it’s mainstream so the people you meet are likely to already be on it.
- Keep them up to date with posts on your progress and what you’re interested in. Arrange to meet for “coffee” when you’re near their usual work location (remember you already have common ground to have a good discussion, no need for small talk if that’s not for you).
That’s it. Your network is ready to support you when you need it. So get building now!