One of the most significant contributing factors in making it to the top is the importance of connection. People are the key element to your professional happiness and continued success.
Your network can help you leverage your effectiveness, aide you in capitalizing on your career goals, bring you balance, and enhance your professional path up the corporate ladder.
According to Cross and Thomas, authors of Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network,”The executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks…made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy. ”
So how do you build a kick-ass network?
The Importance Of Variety
There’s a plethora of options when it comes for networking. LinkedIn, Meetup, Facebook, and Twitter are reliable and well-known sources. Take cues from peers that you recognize as being excellent networkers and ask them about their approach and methods.
It is just as important to have variety in who you include in your network. You need to draw from multiple resources that will awaken different strengths in you. Your connections should include:
- Someone with more experience and perspective that will act as a mentor.
- A colleague who can offer support, validation, and encourage your personal worth
- Someone who will challenge your ideas, insist you take on new perspectives, and promote positive change in you
- Someone to occasionally vent to and be real with; someone who you can talk to about compensation/salary, difficult bosses/peers/employees, work burn-out, and everything in between.
Size Isn’t Everything
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and having tons of connections doesn’t guarantee any advantage. It is more important to focus on quality over quantity. According to Managing Yourself, effective core networks typically range in size from 12 to 18 people. But what really matters is structure. It is important to nurture and maintain your relationships, and to be strategic in choosing who you surround yourself with. Pick people who will inspire you, encourage you, and teach you.
“Core connections must bridge smaller, more-diverse kinds of groups and cross hierarchical, organizational, functional, and geographic lines. Core relationships should result in more learning, less bias in decision making, and greater personal growth and balance. The people in your inner circle should also model positive behaviors, because if those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be, too.”
Invest Your Time
You get out what you put in. Do your research before networking events, like a conference or trade show, on specific companies and individuals you would like to seek out and initiate quality connections with. Forbes recognizes the benefits of investing time into your social networking, encouraging you to do all you can to learn pertinent information before meeting the people who interest you. Making sound choices in who you initiate a relationship with can generate significant professional and personal payoff.
“Surround yourself with smarter people’ says Francisco Cruz who has helped grow the Startup Grind community into a 100+ city start-up networking company. Cruz later stated ‘I feel like I will never be as awesome or as smart as those near me. And with that constantly hovering around your head it makes you strive to become better.”
Use Constant Vigilance
Always be on the lookout for new people to incorporate into your network. Evaluate your needs and shortcomings. What kind of assets and knowledge are you missing? What inclusions would make you a more-informed and well-rounded employee and individual? What goals do you want to accomplish and how can you help yourself to get there?
Part of constant vigilance is the ability to re-evaluate and purge. Remember quality over quantity. It is important to value and prioritize those connections that treat you with mutual respect and show their appreciation over connections that don’t carry their own weight or bring too much negativity into your life. Analyze your network for benefits and potential pit falls. Remember, your network should be comprised of people who:
- Support you
- Challenge you
- Energize you
- Inspire you
- Motivate you
Networking isn’t a boring obligation or something to check off of your to-do list. It can have incredible benefits with far-reaching positive outcomes, and can bring some of the most important and amazing people into your life. No-one has ever achieved success without the help of another, and someday you will hopefully be able to repay the kindness shown to you by helping someone else out along the way.