Here’s the thing about networking and building your network, that most people seem to forget … it’s not the quantity of contacts you have, it’s the quality of those contacts and your relationship with them that makes the difference.
Let that sink in. Quality > Quantity.
You see for some – reaching a 500+ connection count on LinkedIn is super important and a badge of honour.
But ask yourself – what is the net worth of 500 connections that you barely know? That you couldn’t reach out to for career advice? That would forget to pass your name onto someone who was looking for an employee with the exact skillset you have?
My bet is that the network net worth of that connection count, is pretty low. So what should you be aiming for instead? A network that is worth its weight in gold. And how do you achieve this?
Here’s my 6 step guide:
1 // Have a look at your current network and look at who your strongest connections are.
Try to avoid measuring ‘strongest connections’ by how many other people they know or if they could potentially land you a job (this is a dangerous mindset, as it does not encourage genuine behaviour).
Instead, view your strongest connections as those who inspire you both personally and professionally. Ideally, these are people who you have also had a genuine interaction with, and with whom you have touched based occasionally with (if not more) since meeting them in real life or connecting with them online.
2 // What is your value proposition?
Try and look at yourself (in a professional sense) objectively, what do you have to offer a future or current connection? We often get so caught up in what others can do for us that we forget it’s a two-way street … and the net worth of our connections often circles back to our own network net worth.
Your value proposition helps you look for and build mutually beneficial relationships, because you understand how you can help others.
Once you view networking in this sense, you start to realise that the practice isn’t simply about how you can help yourself … it’s also about providing value for others.
3 // Genuinely engage and look to build upon initial connections.
This follows on from #2. It means that your engagement with your network should not be static; there should be movement from both parties.
From you this might look like: attending events that connections are hosting, commenting on social media posts, inviting connections to events you’re also attending OR hosting, dropping a personal message about a recent project you saw they were working on, asking for their opinion on a industry-related article.
Sound like a lot of effort? Yep. It should be.
It’s easy to think that simply asking someone out for a coffee now and again is ‘building a relationship’ with them. But more often than not – unless you have something specific you need to discuss – these invitations look weak and tend to be re-scheduled over and over again.
4 // Be strategic, but not sly.
This is about building the net worth of your network through strategic connections. To be honest with you – most people can tell if you genuinely follow and respect their career journey’s OR if you are simply trying to place yourself in their orbit to grab a quick opportunity. So my advice to you here is: don’t ruin your rep by scouting out every industry leader and trying to gain their attention for a one second wildcard interaction before you move on.
Choose one or two industry leaders or mentors or peers that you genuinely want to understand more about professionally, and reach out to them. Remember, you’re not aiming for a static relationship, in order to build your network net worth, you need to consistently cultivate these relationships. So don’t take on more than you can handle.
5 // Are you easily reachable/google-able?
Yep I made up that last word … but seriously are you? Again, people will want to know if you are worth adding to their network. In order to do so, you might need to sell yourself online before you have the chance to back yourself in real life.
We’ve talked about building your personal brand endlessly at generationYOU. You can find all of our articles here.
6 // Take a walk on the wild side.
It’s easy to stick with what you know i.e. people in your industry, in similar roles as you, from the same universities and degrees. That doesn’t necessarily build you a strong network … instead this is more than likely limiting your exposure to new people and connections and thus new ideas and career growth!