The right people in your network offers many benefits, but you have to take the first step to knock on doors and make those connections. Having lots of connections is great but you need to be intentional and deliberate in building your professional network.
Networking goes beyond introductions and pleasantries. It’s about establishing and investing in sustainable relationships and leveraging on them. Professional networking offers many benefits and helps people to stay connected with their colleagues and other professionals as well as a means to keep up-to-date on industry trends.
Building a network creates an avenue for career growth, capacity building, mentorship, coaching, and knowledge sharing among others. Building a professional network can be daunting especially for some young professionals or someone who is entirely new to a particular field or industry. Nonetheless, having the right approach to networking is a sure way to achieve results. So what’s the right approach to building a professional network?
Identify your interests
One of the best ways to build your professional network is to assess what your interests are. This will help you to identify people who share similar interests and align with your career objectives. This provides a more similar approach to gradually build your network. Don’t just network. You need to have a plan for networking to be effective.
A lot of people have built valuable networks and relationships through social media. Through social media, people have had the opportunity to work on key projects and met with various influential people they might have never imagined they could meet.
People have been able to build their brands, facilitate relevant discourse, become thought leaders, contribute to decision-making, fight for reforms, provide career and business support among others to peers, colleagues, communities and organizations. That’s the power of social media. Social media has given us access the opportunity to build a rapport with people in more simple ways.
Before social media, networking was mostly via in-person. Now, we can connect with several people some of whom we might never have the opportunity to meet in real life. Leveraging on online and offline interactions can help you make significant progress in building your network. Connect with people within and outside your industry. Learn from their experiences.
Many professionals use social media platforms especially LinkedIn to share lots of valuable insights on their growth, lessons, and failures among others. Use this as an opportunity to tap into their knowledge and other recommended tools and resources they provide. Learn how they built their business or became an industry leader. This will contribute to your professional growth. Sharing your expertise is also a great way to build your network. Sharing relevant content and information helps you to stand out. You need to have a genuine interest in people you connect with and follow up with them.
You need to apply a long-term approach towards building your network. Sometimes, we might be tempted to consider what we stand to gain in the short-term. Investing in relationships can help you unlock several opportunities but think of the long-term value. Think of the value a particular connection or network can ultimately add to your career or business in the long run.
Alibaba’s Chief People Officer, Judy Tong Wenhong joined Alibaba 20 years ago as a receptionist. Tong was allocated a 0.2% stake by Jack Ma when he was allocating shares. He asked her to stay on and promised a big leap when Alibaba goes public. In 2014, Alibaba made history as the biggest IPO ever, raising about $21.8 billion for the company and investors.
Tong’s decision to think of the long term value of their relationship was the start of continuous growth. Find people who are where you want to be or are on their way there. Don’t look out for opportunities because of what you stand to gain but rather look for ways you can provide value. The power of collaboration and partnership cannot be underestimated. Collaboration can help you to build a strong professional network. Some of the best relationships, partnerships and collaborations have been cultivated over the years because they decided to think long term.
Providing help or support is a great way to build meaningful relationships. Founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc., Nicole Munoz says “The best way to connect with other people in significant ways is to try to learn about what might trouble them and how you can potentially solve it right from the beginning.”
The ability to identify someone’s pain points can create an avenue for you to provide value. Be clear on how you can add value. You also need to be willing to offer help without expecting anything in return. Offering value can be in the form of sharing helpful tips, suggestions, ideas or solutions. By doing this, you will be able to build a good rapport and leverage on those relationships to access long term value.
Develop a good elevator pitch
Normally, an elevator pitch focuses on what you do or can do and how you can add value. Elevator pitches are important but people are more likely to connect with you based on the story behind what you do. Thus your why as opposed to what you do. Another approach is to ask questions about the other person and their interests. A good elevator pitch can position you for opportunities when they come up.
Attend networking events
Networking events provide one of the best ways to harness your network. There are a number of networking and knowledge sharing groups platforms targeted at especially young professionals to meet like-minded individuals to receive the relevant career and business support in terms of mentoring, coaching, training, skills sharing and gaining access to other opportunities such as grants, seed funding etc.
You also need to have a specific goal in networking. If you are going for an event, don’t go to an event wondering who you might meet. Social media provides us with an opportunity to connect with people even before we meet them in person. So before you attend the next event, you can use it as an opportunity to reach out to some attendees to familiarize with them before the event.
If we are deliberate in our networking efforts, we will be able to maximise our potential, add value and strengthen networks that create value and support growth. Your network will not grow overnight. You need to put in the work and with time through consistency you will be able to nurture the relationships you want.
>>>Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa is a Writer and Creative Lead of Scripted Impressions, a creative consulting agency that helps individuals and brands tell their stories. She works as Senior Editor at El-Evangel Publications. Her work involves content development, strategy and review of publications. She’s also part of the review team of My Story Magazine, an entrepreneurial resource magazine. Connect with Nana Akua via Instagram/Twitter: @missamofa, LinkedIn: Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa, Email: [email protected]