A big, diverse network of relationships is the most important resource you can have to support your personal and professional growth.
A powerful network is rich in social capital. That capital takes many forms:
Social capital is how some find the inside fast track for their career. Even the president of the New York Stock Exchange says he owes every job he’s ever had to networking. And, it’s the magic in how some people seem to be luckier than others.
If you want to change your career and life for the better in 2017, growing your network must be at the top of the list.
I know what that you may be thinking: “I hate networking,” or, “I’m terrible at networking because I’m not an extrovert.” That’s okay. I’m not a huge fan of traditional networking either.
Think about it this way instead: Growing your network is about building meaningful relationships with good people, one at a time. When you view it this way, it doesn’t sound so awful. In fact, it can be both rewarding and fun.
Below is a list of simple, highly effective ways to grow your network if you make the time commitment to do them.
- Make a list of people you’d like to know better. These can be people at work, in your neighborhood, or in your industry. They can be people you admire, people you want to learn about professionally, or just people you think are interesting. The simple act of making a list will help you recognize opportunities for building or growing relationships throughout the year.
- Create time for connecting. Schedule a coffee meeting (or a phone call if they aren’t local) with someone from your list or someone who you don’t know well at least once a month. The invitation can be as simple as, “Would you be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee next week? We haven’t really had a chance to chat and I’d like to learn a little more about you and what you do for a living.”
- Get involved. One of the best and easiest ways to grow your network is by getting involved in a meaningful activity with others. This could mean raising your hand to join a project team at work or volunteering for a non-profit board or committee within your community. Joining together with others to work on a cause or effort that you all care about is fertile ground for real relationships to take root.
- Keep in touch. When you go to the work to cultivate good relationships, it’s important to tend to those relationships and keep them alive and well. Depending who it is, this could include anything from scheduling a monthly coffee to sending a Christmas card once a year. The key is to ensure the people in your network know you’re thinking about them and that you desire to stay in touch.
- Use social media tools to amplify your efforts. Online social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook are incredible tools for supporting your network-building efforts. By connecting on LinkedIn, you can keep track of your network and get notified of changes they make professionally. Depending on how you use Facebook, connecting there can help a relationship grow as you learn about one another based on what you post and share. For example, if we were friends on Facebook, you’d get to know my family and learn about some of my interests.
If you want to find greater success, impact and meaning next year, commit yourself to growing your network. As it grows, so too will your opportunities.