To grow yourself, your work and your career, it’s critical to build a strong professional network. Having a network of people that advocate for you and provide support is likely to increase your career success and job satisfaction. Yet, many people avoid networking because it can feel overwhelming or they don’t know where to start. It doesn’t have to be hard – building a network is all about the relationships you create.
Breadth and Depth Both Matter
When you think about building your network, it’s important to go broad but also to go deep. Aim to be connected to a variety of people, both inside and outside your organization, as well as outside your own function and at all levels in your organization. Interacting with people from different professions, backgrounds, and cultures promotes continuous learning and growth.
Meanwhile, the quality of your relationships is just as important. Focus on actively building relationships that matter. Building your network can sound so one-sided, when really networking is all about building genuine relationships that work two ways. To build a strong network, it’s important to give to others. You can’t build “fans” without being a fan of others too. Give more than you take, and you’ll build a meaningful network.
3 Key Networks
You might think you have just one professional network, but really there are 3 different, critical networks you should create and strike a balance between.
Operational Network – People who help you do your job and achieve the results you’re responsible for.
Strategic Network – People who help you see and understand the bigger picture.
Developmental Network – People who can help you learn. They’re likely people who have been where you are and are willing to coach, advise and grow you.
Courage is Key
While networking comes naturally to some, it can feel daunting or intimidating to others. It can cause dread or anxiety, yet it’s a very important part of building your career. It requires a shift in mindset – you have to focus on getting out of your own way. The quicker you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone, the quicker you’ll reap the benefits of having a strong network. And the more you network, the more confident you’ll become!
Networks Evolve Over Time
Networking is not a one and done thing. Far too often, networking occurs only early on in careers or when you’re new to an organization. Once you have a few strong relationships, you think you’re done and can check it off the list. This should never be the case. Organizations are always changing and evolving, so your networks should be too. Assessing your network regularly and consistently meeting new people is key. These 7 simple statements below will help you determine the quality of your network.
Add up your rankings. Is it close to 5 or is it close to 25? If you score is high, you’re maintaining strong professional networks. If it’s low, it might be time to push outside of your comfort zone! Reflecting on your score, what do you most need to do to grow and strengthen your network?
networking, relationships, fan base, development, leadership, experience, courage