This post is a guest post from Brian who blogs over at In The Money. To get an idea of why he’s started a blog, you can check out his about page or subscribe.
A personal network is one of the most valuable things you can have. You’ll often hear people say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” If you are well connected, you are more likely to succeed in almost anything you pursue. We cannot do everything on our own and often times, a connection can help significantly. You never know who can help one day, so the larger your network the more you will benefit from it. However, just because you know a lot of people, it does not mean that they are going to help you. Your network needs to be well maintained. Here are some ways to build and maintain your network:
- Social Networking – In the age of social networking, it is astronomically easier to stay in contact with people. Instead of having to call people or even taking the time to email them, you can just keep tabs on contacts on social networking websites. The two main websites would be Facebook and LinkedIn. Use these tools to stay in contact with friends and classmates.
- Networking Events – There are many organizations that have networking events. Some of these cost money, but a number are free. It is likely that your company has networking events. Try to be involved with those to build your career. Your alma mater probably has a local alumni chapter that hosts these events as well. Class reunions are also a good way to network with people you might have been acquaintances with, but never really knew that well.
- Getting Personal – Merely meeting a person is not enough for them to feel comfortable with doing you any favors. If you do not already know the contact personally, try to get to know them on a personal level. The next time you talk to them, mention something that shows you care about them on a personal level. For example, ask how their wife and kids are doing or ask them if they have had a chance to improve their golf score. Friends will be a lot more compelled to help you out.
- Constant Contact – Keep in touch often enough so that it doesn’t become awkward to talk to each other. If you don’t talk to someone for years and then ask them for something, chances are you will get nothing. The people who you think are your top contacts (possibly those who refer you the most business/have the best relationship) should be in contact at least every couple weeks. Those whom you think are good contacts to have should have contact every couple months. Everyone else could possibly get a holiday card once a year or get an email/message every few months.
- Help People Find Jobs – With the current unemployment rate at a high, many people are without jobs. If you are ever in a position to help someone find a job, let them know about a position or connect them with someone you know who can place them. They will never forget that you helped them when they needed it, and will likely return the favor one day.
- Talk to People and Be Open – As an entrepreneur, I quickly learned how important this tactic can be. I have always been a quiet guy and prefer not to tell people too much, but it is so important to tell people what you are doing. People want to help you and if you don’t share things with them, you might never get that help or connected with someone who can help you. My business partners and I have been connected to a number of potential investors and people who want to help our business, just by telling our friends and sometimes even strangers about our business. Next time some asks you how you are doing, be open and tell them more. It’ll pay off in the long run.
- Create Goodwill – Do as many favors for other as possible. Not only does this make you a good friend and a good person, but it creates goodwill. One day, people will return the favor and remember that you have done them a favor in the past. This doesn’t just apply to your career, but can benefit your personal life as well. If I go out of my way and give a friend a ride somewhere today, maybe if I need to go to the airport in a few months, that friend will return the favor. Never underestimate the power of goodwill and helping others.
Comment from Steve: #6 could also be titled “ask for help.” I’m always surprised by how reluctant I am – and others are – to ask for help in a job search. I also always surprise myself by how often I agree to do it for others, and how often they agree to do it for me. People enjoy helping others out when they can, so never be shy about asking for help.
photo by Cormac Phelan