“It’s the relationships that you have that allow you to augment what you know and allow you to take the ‘what you know’ and actually to translate it into practice, into something the organization can use. Learning and understanding the principle of the mastermind philosophy of networking can increase the value of your network and your net worth. Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for”
Top performers are great assets to their teams. They usually excel in terms of skills and responsibilities. They are highly ambitious and motivated, goal-focused, self-disciplined, driven by a strong personal desire to have a meaningful impact on their work. Top performers have the skills to get a job, stay in a job and work their way to the top. While they are doing their best, they do not always develop because sometimes their good job is not valued, recognized or appreciated or they are too focused on their job that they forget to socialize and interact with the rest of their colleagues. Doing the actual work itself is not enough, networking is imperative and crucial for development.
People tend to believe that networking, which is the act of connecting with people who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information, is an unpleasant, sometimes even manipulative task. Some people might also say that networking is nothing else than an elegant way of using people for your own interest. Although networking might not be the best strategy for everyone, however, research has shown that is one of the most self-evident and one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that individuals must address. By talking to people, you get information, ideas, advice, referrals and you learn about opportunities that otherwise would go unnoticed. Most employees are not very good at building networks and using them. They do not invest the time to network because they might consider it unsavory. However, if you want to succeed you need to make the time.
Networking alone without a purpose or strategy does not have the same impact. Strategic networking is the toughest but most essential if employees need to move up. Strategic networking focuses on relationships that will help you to envision the future and get the information and resources you need to exploit them. It requires both time and attention outside working hours. Contact with other employees and executives in the company is vital to developing new skills and identifying opportunities for advancement.
How can you improve your strategic networking skills?
1. Have a goal
Strategic networking to be successful needs to be purposeful and specific. You need to determine in advance what you want to achieve, how each person you approach will fit into your career strategy and how to keep in touch with them. Each contact you make needs to have a purpose. No, it is not enough to just meet people, but you need to create a network that will help you achieve personal and organizational goals. Think about where and how you are going to meet them. Will you attend a company’s event or will you search for them on LinkedIn or any other social platform? What will you do to progress the relationship from just a name, to a beneficial relationship? What will you do to regularly keep in touch with them? As soon as you establish these actions, create a list of your contacts and assign them a purpose or request. Be prepared to communicate your expertise clearly. Keep always in mind that networking is not always two-way. Sometimes you need to give without take. Thus, focus on building genuine relationships. If you want to engender goodwill towards you, you have to be sincere.
Looking for a job at a particular department or another company? Then, you need to let your network know. You will never get what you don’t ask for. Ask people about new openings. A network lives and thrives only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request or ask for advice. When you ask for advice, you will rarely be turned down. About 70% of jobs are not advertised or published anywhere. How do you think companies fill these vacancies? They rely on word of mouth and referrals.
3. Change your mindset
People do not network because they believe that they managed without networking up till now. Not everyone is confident communicating with strangers. The vast majority of employees find it difficult marketing themselves or they might find it hypocritical, even unethical to approach a person for asking something. Whatever the reason, when people do not believe that networking is one of the most important requirements of their jobs, they will not allocate enough time and effort to see it pay off. Networking does not necessarily mean I get in touch with people because I want a better position, but it might be a valuable way to acquire new knowledge by exchanging information about your field of interest.
Maintain regular and consistent contact with the people from your network. Try to meet with them in person. It is much more personal, and much more fun too. When you cannot meet in person then a phone call or email works well too. A sincere interest in others is key to stay in touch by offering information that your new connection will find useful. Remember, good communication is more about listening and asking questions that show interest, rather than talking too much. Focus so that you are an attentive listener.
5. Focus on people not their status
People falsely believe that networking is about meeting people with higher status. Yes, it’s important to know powerful people, but if they account too much of your network, your peers will perceive you as self-interested, and you may lose support or opportunities. In a strategic networking, connections come from up and down the corporate hierarchy, with different perspectives and values, who will help you to think about opportunities more broadly. A diverse network might hide much more opportunities than a homogeneous one. Do not forget that people with higher status, are usually too busy to think about opportunities that might be a great fit for you.
“Understand that networking is an ongoing process not a discrete event. Success comes from consistently making new contacts, following up and keeping in touch”