When I say network, what do you think of? Maybe a group of people who you’ve shaken hands with at networking events, or given your business card to? Or perhaps network for you is more about friends, family and colleagues, the people who support you generally. Or maybe it’s just one or two people who support you in specific areas of your life?
Or perhaps you think of networking events, and the stress of having to make small talk with strangers, hate the pressure of having to talk about yourself or fear getting stuck with the boring person? (Once someone said their biggest networking fear was that they were the boring person!)
Whilst many people would rather not network, the research shows that people who are well networked are promoted faster, have more access to opportunities and more likely to be sources of creativity and innovation.
I believe that to make a big impact in the world, you need to deliberately build a network that provides support, advice and accountability across all areas of your life. For example, work, relationships, health and wellbeing. If you’re going to feel confident to make change happen, you’ve got to have people who’ve got your back.
And while a lot of people talk about the importance of having a good network in place, the truth is that not that many people do.
If we don’t LOVE networking or find it uncomfortable it can be difficult to make time to network. It can be easy to talk ourselves out of going to networking events – even if they’re online. But if you don’t build your network, your community, your tribe of people who have your back it can leave you vulnerable. You have less access to opportunities and you make less progress and impact.
Your network doesn’t happen by accident. You have to consciously craft it. You have to put in the hours and make the effort to deliberately create your network so that it’s there when you need it. You have to put the work in in advance.
How do I build my network?
Here’s my tips.
Set yourself a target for example to attend one networking event or have a coffee with a new connection every month. It might be online or in real life. It’s an opportunity to meet others, connect, learn and solve problems.
First you’ve got to give. Think about how you can help or add value to others. What you can give first? You’ll be amazed at how many doors open that way and how much easier the shift in mindset can make networking. You don’t need to think about anything other than how you might be able to help that person. This helps you to ask open questions and focus on being interested rather than interesting.
Whilst I recommend that your starting point is helping others, don’t hold back on asking for help if you need it. When someone asks you how you are, instead of falling into the standard response of ‘fine’ or ‘busy’ be more honest. How are you really? Share what you’re stuck on and would like some support with and give the other person the opportunity to give.
Be open to receiving help when it’s offered. For example, if a colleague says I’m here if you ever just need a chat. Have the chat. Don’t wait until you’re burnt out and desperate before you accept their offer. By building your relationships and accepting help before you’re in a position where you’ll be in trouble without it, you build up a track record that makes it so much easier to get help when you do really need it.
Take a short cut and join the Lucidity Network
The Lucidity Network is my membership community that exists to help its members to have to confidence to think differently and make more impact at work. Each month members get bite-sized training, Q&A sessions, access to a private Facebook community and networking opportunities. There’s more information and you can sign up to join us here.