As you build a great career, there are few things more valuable than a great personal network. And yet, many of the tasks that must be done to build a truly extraordinary network seem to go ignored.
Perhaps it is because these tasks take us outside our comfort zones. Or because they require genuine effort. No matter the reason, we must find the motivation and time to get them done. After all, in today’s economy we’re only as strong as the weakest link in our sphere of influence.
To make sure you have the strongest network possible, here are the three tasks you must complete before, during or after each networking event or online session:
Before: Deliberately Build Your Network Before You Need It
Far too often, young careerists get to the point when they need advice… but have no clue who to go to for direction. I call this the “I-wouldn’t-even-know-where-to-start” dilemma. This all-too-common quandary is the result of one simple fact: they do not have a network.
Well before you need a network of colleagues and mentors, you must put in the necessary time to build genuine relationships with the right people. Successful people are always connected to other successful people.
Join local networking groups or business associations and immerse yourself in rooms full of success. You want to be a millionaire? Surround yourself with millionaires. You want to be a drug addict? Surround yourself with drug addicts. This might sound ridiculous, but it’s absolutely true.
During: Make Yourself Uncomfortable
No, I do not mean wear a wool sweater in Phoenix in August. I mean put yourself out there. Unless you are one of those rare people who can meet a random stranger on the street, strike up a conversation and get a stranger’s life story within 30 seconds of meeting them, approaching someone you have never met before can be nerve-racking.
But if you want to build a great network, you have to do it – a lot. The more you do it, the better networker you’ll become.
Make it your goal to get people talking about themselves, while genuinely listening to what they are saying. If you fake it, they will know and you will have burned a potential valuable connection. Dale Carnegie’s classic “How To Win Friends and Influence People” is an incredible resource built largely on this idea. I highly suggest you read the book. Twice.
Next time you meet someone new, smile, introduce yourself and ask a simple question; i.e. “Where are you from?” or “What brings you here today?” Proceed with small follow-up questions. You will find that they talk at length and naturally warm up to you. It’s basic, but it works.
After: Follow Up Every Time
You know the person who says they are going to do something, then doesn’t? You do not want to be that person. In fact, you want to be the opposite of that person.
When you meet someone, even if you do not think they can help you directly, ask if you can keep in touch. Send a simple follow-up email the next day saying that it was nice to meet them and that you look forward to staying in touch. And over the course of time, stay in touch. Just because you don’t think they might fit your idea of an important connection does not mean they don’t know 10 other people who are perfect for what you may try to accomplish in the next month or year.
This last point is what a great network is all about. Networking is not just about the people with whom you are directly connected; it is about getting those people to tap into their networks on your behalf when you need it most.
Want to build an extraordinary network? Keep this tips in mind… before, during and after.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at YEC!
About the Author: Adam Callinan is a founding partner of Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage VC firm that excels where technology and entertainment intersect. As an entrepreneur, Callinan spent nearly a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie and remains active as a founder of BottleKeeper.