While many look for work, the most successful people are building networks.
When centered on curiosity and willingness to learn, establishing a diverse personal network adds value to your business and your life.
Whether it’s a coworker in another department or someone you meet in line at the grocery store, I urge you to take every opportunity to meet someone new or learn more about an unfamiliar industry.
Everyone’s journey is different, and there is something to learn from each person you come in contact with.
Knowledge of alternative experiences, journeys, feelings and mindsets empower you to better relate with a variety of audiences.
Start by challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. Go off your normal script to deepen connections and genuinely get to know someone. Attend events that offer new experiences and make it a habit to talk to strangers.
While it is important to find like-minded individuals to connect with, don’t shy away from those people with different ideas, viewpoints, or even challenging perspectives. In business, these are often the people who can make or break a deal, so it is valuable to communicate and learn from them.
It’s also important to avoid focusing solely on your own personal interests or agenda as you build your network.
Alternatively, stay focused on serving others and offering value through information or collaboration.
The most successful networkers genuinely enjoy learning about others and strive to serve their network. Make a habit of asking what you can do for others and not what they can do for you.
Being receptive and aware of how people are interacting at events is another way to nurture your network. Take note of those who are hanging solo, and make it a point to go and talk with them. Always introduce and connect others within your network. When someone presents an issue or task, reference your list of contacts for possible suitors.
Consider sharing resources when appropriate.
Being a connector and making mutually beneficial introductions creates value for others. Personal and business connections are more likely to help you in the future if you helped them in the past.
Building your network also involves some intention and planning. Consider adding a little structure to your lunch meetings by researching the person and planning questions or discussion topics in advance.
Actively listen and make note of the answers you receive. Prior to networking events, take a look at the attendee list and highlight those you would like to get to know. Make it a point to seek them out purposefully. You may even be able to lean on someone already in your network to make an introduction or help you make a connection.
Always follow through and follow up to get the most value out of your connections. Circle back around and revisit your contacts often. Too much of a time gap can weaken the opportunity to build a lasting connection. Stay true to your commitments and be respectful of others’ time.
It’s also important to manage your own time by scheduling networking events in advance on your weekly calendar. Amidst a long work-week, networking may not always on the top of our priority list. However, networking commitments should be considered equally as important as other formal business meetings on your agenda.
If your schedule does not allow you to attend many after-work affairs, then be more strategic and decide which events are most worthwhile. Ask others to meet you during the workday for coffee or lunch. Incorporating networking activities into your weekly schedule will help you resist the temptation to put it on the backburner.
No business process is complete without personal relationships. When a business relationship is personal – and this can be as simple as asking how someone’s family is doing or how their new position is going – you are likely to receive more consideration in business.
As a result, your personal network should not be centered on business motives. Blurring the lines between business and personal connections is OK. In fact, many of my business friends have morphed into close personal friends.
Aside from the core professional group of peers, prospects and influencers, I recommend identifying others who you find genuinely interesting. Then invite them to join you for coffee or lunch, or even over for dinner with your family.
Making new friends opens doors to an even broader external network – their friends, acquaintances and business associates.
Your network should always be expanding. New contacts become navigators that may help you reach others that you may not have had access to previously.
Growing and diversifying your personal network is the foundation to building a successful career. By going outside of yourself and broadening your perspective, you may actually gain the power to improve outcomes.
Rob Beale is Vice President at W. M. Jordan Company, leading the company’s efforts in the Carolinas region. W.M. Jordan Company provides construction management, design build, development, virtual construction, sustainability and contracting services to a diverse clientele.Rob opened the company’s Wilmington, NC office in 2012 with only five employees. Six years and two office expansions later, he has grown his staff to 34, with a regional revenue of $85 million in 2017. Rob started with W. M. Jordan Company in 1996 as the company’s first college intern. After earning a BS in Construction Management from Virginia Tech, his career at W.M. Jordan Company quickly accelerated, including nearly every aspect of construction service delivery. As a true believer in life-long learning, Rob continues to develop professionally and personally. He is currently completing an Executive Education Program for Leadership Development at Harvard University. Other past pursuits include the Disney Institute’s Leadership Excellence Program, FMI Construction Executive Institute’s Project Executive Course, and AGC of America’s Advanced Management Course. Rob is also on the Board of Directors for the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC), Carolinas chapter and serves as a member of both the Board of Directors and the Fun Committee for Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI).
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