A network is a matrix of complexity, whether it is about people, things, or operations, but ultimately, it boils down to interconnectivity and interaction. Without much effort, one could be already a part of a network. Working in a company, studying a specific course, or joining an interest club, these are ways of belonging in a network, albeit passively. Strengthening, expanding, and maintaining a network, however, requires an active and conscious endeavour. So how does one begin? Here are some insights:
The Man In The Mirror
Before starting to branch out, it is imperative to look in. Did you know that self-awareness is the foundation to all networks getting built. What do you stand for? What are your strengths and weaknesses that make you unique? What makes you extraordinary and worth it? Knowing the answers to these questions will solidify the impression one wants to embody. In a business setting, people establish connections with people they think will be valuable to them later on. Any person, with a purpose, are more compelled to meet and connect with someone who has a solid, if not, stellar reputation. Work on building this reputation and being visible by sharing experiences and accomplishments through conversations, blogging, and other social media platforms.
Power To The People
Who should be in one’s network? This network should be as diverse as possible. Add people from different age groups, backgrounds, ethnicities, and industries. With a variety of personalities within, potential opportunities extend vastly. According to the article “How To Build A Powerful Professional Network”, published by forbes.com, there are certain people who should be in a business network. Here are some of them:
The Mentor: This is someone who is at the level of accomplishment that one aspires for. This person’s success inspires and serves as a model to learn from. Mistakes included. This connection will provide a unique insight especially if he/she knows the ups and downs of one’s journey and evolution.
The Industry Insider: This a person or group of people in a specific field with access to expert-level information. Their reactions to ideas will be a good test of the suggested notion’s sensibility or likely success before it is publicised because these people know what is “hot” now and what the next big thing will be. Grab an after-work drink with an industry-insider and gossip on the latest market trends with cigars from your local cigar shop in Melbourne.
The Idealist and The Realist: These two go hand in hand to balance each other out. A business network needs someone who is a dreamer and who will encourage a “head in the clouds” attitude. This person will help shape an idea no matter how out-of-the-box it may seem. At the same time, the network also needs a person that will keep both feet on the ground. Someone, who is level-headed and pragmatic, will make sure that expectations stay sensible and goals are reasonable. Not that they are not supportive of the dream. Rather, they lay down all the cards to help with perception for a better plan of action.
The Wanna-Be: On the flip side of The Mentor, this person is someone who can be an apprentice or a student, someone who needs guidance and encouragement. One effective way to guarantee an understanding of something is to be able to explain the concept or teach it to someone else. Moreover, knowing that someone is looking to be inspired and watching to learn is one of the best motivation to push the limit and never give up.
These are just some examples of the people to fill in the gaps in the professional web. To reiterate, while quality is better than quantity, diversity is equally essential. Furthermore, as with any relationship, networks should be made up of people that one appreciates and admires. After all, who would do a tit-for-a-tat for someone they are not fond nor proud of?
No Place Like Here, No Time Like Now
Where and when should one network? Simple: anywhere and anytime. Formal networking events are still significantly helpful but in these modern times, limitless opportunities to build one’s network are conveniently accessible. The key is to think about networking as making friends where the common denominator of the relationship is work-related. With this mindset, one can form connections and talk about career and work-oriented goals while waiting to pick up the kids from school or play dates, during cultural events, after church service, or like any kind of casual meet-ups. Once that rapport is established, ensure the connection by exchanging business cards, if not contact details. Use social platforms sparingly though. For example, if the introduction was made at a business-like event, it would be best to connect via Twitter or Linkedln; and if the connection was made in a more casual or friendly circumstance, then Facebook and Instagram would feel more adequate.
Keep In Touch
Connecting with people to build and strengthen career links is half the process. Keep in mind that relationships take time and effort to build. This is when the real ”work” begins. Stay in touch regularly and consistently. Use every avenue of communication at your disposal such as blogging, email, social networking, and of course, nothing beats in-person. Most successful businessmen enjoy a smoke every now and then, why not invite them out for a whisky and Cuban cigars to bond one evening? At the end of the day, professional networks are most beneficial when long-lasting, mutually advantageous relationships are established.