How to Leverage Your Network
Networking is no longer a dirty word. It’s the lifeblood of our careers. Whether you were referred by a friend to a great organisation, or you’re a freelancer — without connections your career wouldn’t be what it is today. So, since everyone’s doing it all the time, what can you be taught about networking? This Sunday, we offered our attendees frameworks to make networking more effective. We don’t have a lot of spare time these days, so it was important to demonstrate how to make relevant connections more effectively. We started out with the basics, how do you introduce yourself when you’re in a networking scenario? We asked attendees to write down their qualities, strengths and achievements in the context of three spaces: their online identity, their personal opinion of themselves and what others would say about them. We believe that the traits that correspond to all three spaces are your truest self and should form the basis of how you describe yourself when networking. This exercise followed on from one we practised in ‘Crafting Your Narrative’. It helps you fine tune your elevator pitch, the summary of your personal brand. Networking is often defined as “creating mutually beneficial partnerships”, so by having a clear story about who you are and what you do, it makes it easy for your connection to understand from the get-go what those mutual benefits might look like.
With this in mind, the question arises, are all partnerships created equal? We all know someone who we bump into every now and then who promises us everything under the sun. In our workshop we taught our attendees a matrix that maps influence against relevance, and encouraged them to plot their connections within the space. The reasoning behind this is to be as objective as possible when allocating time and effort to connections. We emphasised the difference between building sustainable professional relationships and feeding your reward system with lovely, but fruitless conversations. Mapping contacts is a pragmatic way to measure how you interact with your connections. Some connections need a call every now and then. Others might need a little less immediate attention and perhaps they can be best kept in the loop through your online activities — share one of your blog posts with them if it falls within their area of expertise and ask for their opinion.
Finally, once you know how best to present yourself to new people, and where to focus your networking energy, think about the approach you will take with each connection. It’s a partnership after all, so what value-add will you bring? Your value lies in your unique skills and experiences. Content marketing is a great investment in your personal brand; write articles, speak at events — not only will you enjoy contributing to your field of expertise, your network will continue to get a better understanding of you, and the great things you’re capable of. This is how we think you can begin to leverage your network to open more doors. What are your experiences? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram for our latest updates and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to find out about our next masterclass dates.