When I ask people about how well they are connecting with their network, it’s not uncommon for a person to look down and away or lock in with a frozen stare. “I know, I know. I should network. But, I just don’t have the time.” Yet, when we need “our people,” we can feel too disconnected to easily reach out.
To be honest, I am terrible at keeping in touch with more than a few personal friends; and, I’ve had to make myself be more disciplined because my friends are spread all over the country. For work, even though highly important to my financial success, I tend to focus on my current clients and the handful who reach out to me in need. Recently, I made a commitment to the people in my “net.”
Let’s start with how I am thinking about networking.
- It’s not going to large conferences and shaking hands and getting business cards. It is about a committed way of valuing the people who do and could value you. If you find you need to add some people, fine; but, start with your current network.
- It’s not about spending hours and days in unproductive conversation. It is about intentional time and venues that meet your purpose.
- It’s not about some scatter-shot approach to getting over the 500 mark on LinkedIn. It is about having and knowing people who can contribute to your career, performance, and satisfaction in work-life.
No one has enough time to build and nurture a network, yet we all need one when we need one. It is a dilemma for each of us to solve in our own way.
Four Steps to Guide Working Your Net of People
In the last six weeks, I have been focusing on my network and reaching out to people in a fairly disciplined way. Four steps that might help you are to:
- Organize your “who.” Print off your LinkedIn list, get your contacts list and create a visual representation of key people in your net. Then, create a legend and assess each person (e.g., strength of your relationship, power to contribute, willingness to actively help, etc.).
- Establish a purpose(s) for reaching out right now. Do you have some new ideas, recent successes, a career inflection point on the horizon, etc.? Add to any current purpose the standard purpose to know and be known, simply staying in touch.
- Determine an authentic and disciplined approach to reaching out. If you are not a discipline-rich person, you can decide to simply look at your map/net diagram every two weeks and reach out to three different people for a connection.
- Use only the time required for your intention with each person. Consider a twenty-minute telephone call, a 45-minute breakfast, a drive-by chat, etc.
And always think about creating some reciprocal value from your connection over time. How can the person help you? How can you help?
What about time? It took me ten minutes to print, one hour to organize a first draft of my map of people, and about ten minutes to set my plan. Start with whatever contact information you have and make the plan simple (e.g., identify the people with whom you truly want to stay connected, make three calls or emails each week, etc.).
Over time, what could be more important to our success than the people we know?