When I started out my career in marketing and advertising, you had to be a hard worker, display a professional image, and be willing to go the extra mile to do well. Not just to get ahead, but to keep your job in case times got tough.
But nowadays you need more than that to succeed. You need mentors, supporters, and peers in and outside of your organization who want to do business with you. Building a strong and wide network will bring you personal and professional satisfaction.
It’s actually fun to engage with different people from varied backgrounds, and it’s educational. I’ve learned so much from so many different people through the years.
And if you carefully build your network, your connections may be willing to help you in return. For example, all the jobs I’ve held for the past several years I’ve gotten because of my personal reputation and connections. I didn’t call up looking for any of these jobs, people called me.
Here are 5 tips to help build and establish your network:
1. Be Valuable
You must bring something to the table that will make the lives of your connections better. It could be as big as putting together a large deal for someone or as small as sharing helpful information online through your social networks that will help make somebody’s day easier. Perhaps you take on those extra tasks for your boss or teach somebody at work something new. It just needs to be something that cements your connection in a tangible and valuable way.
2. Be Responsible
If you promise to do something, do it. If you say you are going to help a peer with their work, call someone back, or write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn, do it! I remember distinctly when I asked someone to do this for me. He said he would and he kept forgetting. That was year’s ago and I still haven’t completely let it go, even though I’ve forgiven him. I actually wrote a reference letter for him a few years later. But that’s just because I’m a nice person and I truly enjoy helping people.
3. Be Respectful
Treat EVERYONE you meet along the way with respect. I’ve always done this, simply because I’m a nice person. And because it’s the right thing to do. If you stay on the same career path for very long, you will soon realize that it’s not as big of a world as you think. You will run into people over and over again in different jobs and roles. I remember all of those that were nice to me on my way up the ranks. And I remember the ones who weren’t. If your personal brand reeks of being a detail-oriented pain in the buttocks, you may not have a lot of people willing to do business with you down the line if your circumstances change.
4. Be Consistent
Do all of this consistently. You can’t do any of these things just when you feel like it. If you do you could be remembered for something besides the good stuff. Like our many presidents.
5. Be Connected
Stay in touch with former colleagues. Set up the occasional lunch or dinner. If that’s not possible, stay connected via social media. Social media makes it so easy to stay in touch now, there’s no excuse not to join in the conversation with your network. The best social site for business is LinkedIn, but if you engage with your contacts on a more personal level, Facebook also can be acceptable. Just make sure you have your settings set correctly as to what people can view if you have personal stuff you don’t want people outside your inner circle to see. Of course you should also work to build a virtual network through other sites such as Twitter and Google+.
Building a strong professional network of people you can count on is one of the most important career moves you can make. If you follow these steps, over time you will find you have more people to help, to learn from, and who ultimately want to help you.
What would you add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts.