January 19, 2016
How's your network looking? If you're thinking that you don't have a clue who's in your network or what it should even look like, don't fret, we've got you covered. Or perhaps you're wondering why you need to work towards building up your network in the first place... in that case we'll try and convince you of the power of a good network of connections.
To simplify it, your network is made up by the web of connections you have that can range from clients and customers, to other professionals in your sphere or those outside of your profession, to your friends on Facebook and your followers on Twitter. Thanks to globalization and our ever-shrinking world, many of these connections in your network are a quick email or tweet away.
Don't underestimate how helpful your network can potentially be for you, your business or even your future employment. Building up your network is something you need to consistently keep up, so when it comes time to make an ask of your network, whether it be a job reference or client referral, they're happy to give what you need.
If you reached out to your network for a client referral today or job reference, would they respond? If you answered no way, then it's definitely time for you to think about boosting your network. You may have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn and plenty of friends on Facebook, but how often do you reach out to them or keep in touch? The key in building up your network is twofold:
Let's start with the 'easy' part, staying in touch with the network you're already connected with. When was the last time you scrolled through your connections on LinkedIn and took an inventory of where they're working and what they're doing? The more of an effort you make to reach out to these contacts, the more you'll hear back from them. And while you may not be looking to spend your Friday evenings with these people in your network, they could certainly come into play down the road when you're looking for a new job. 78% of recruiters report that they find the best job candidates through referrals and people their employees already know.
We'll let that statistic speak for itself, and it's no wonder that when most people apply to a job cold, they don't hear back from recruiters! Suddenly it all makes sense...so what's the solution? Get active. Even if you're not currently on the job hunt, it's worth it to reach out and stay top of mind with those folks. It's as simple as congratulating them on a new job, and luckily LinkedIn makes it so darn easy with their notifications of these updates. Send them a quick message or a simple 'like' on their status.While you're online, start sharing relevant content! Go above and beyond reaching out and instead, give your contacts something to interact with. Whether it's an article you recently read and found interesting, or (even better) a blog post or article that you wrote, put it out there! Did a particular person come to mind when you read an article? Take the time to send it directly to them and develop the relationship and the interaction on more of a one-on-one basis.
Now, let's take it offline. Some of our employees here at Contactually have this awesome practice where they schedule coffee dates with a couple of our co-workers throughout the week. When was the last time you took the time to chat with one of your co-workers outside of the office?
You may learn you have some connections, interests, or background in common with them, opening a whole new realm of ways to build up your network. It's a great excuse to get to know your coworkers beyond the cubicle and it gives you a great chance to link them with other people you may think they'll find helpful to know. Introducing people to each other within your network is one of the best ways to build influence, especially if you build a positive connection.
Time to build up your network with new contacts. This one may force you to step out of your comfort zone, but it'll be worth it in the end. Start with some smaller steps and do some research into relevant groups on LinkedIn to what you're working on. For instance, I just joined this Content Strategy group.
But the key here is making sure to follow all the guidelines to participate in the group and commenting and sharing only if you have something to add. Once you start getting off-topic, you'll lose your credibility quickly, and may even lose access to the group. Add a couple connections from the group and connect with them outside of it, and make an effort to build a more meaningful relationship with them.
Ready to step offline? Do some research on a site like MeetUp for topics or activities you love and join a group. It's a simple as that. Well you still have to go to the actual event, which can sometimes be a nerve-wracking process for those of us who may be a bit shy, but think of all the new connections there just waiting to meet you!
Just doing one tiny thing each day to boost your network is enough to stay top-of-mind with the key people in your life and help in influencing others to reach out to you or help you connect with another person who could be beneficial. Frame your networking time with this question, 'What can I give to my network, so that they'll be willing to give back to me when I ask them for something?' The point is not just to give so you'll get in return, instead think of it as maintaining a relationship (or a bunch of relationships). You do it anyway with your family and friends, why not try it out with your network too?
We believe in the ratio of giving 3 valuable things to every 1 ask you make of your network. Can you successfully hold yourself to keeping that ratio? #ChallengeAccepted. Share your network boosting ideas with us on Twitter or Comment below!