How Do I Grow My Influence Through Professional Network?
The significance of the famous saying by John Donne that goes: “no man is an Island” has been proved to be the reason why many of us need to make a collective effort in the bid to achieve success in one’s career. For many professionals who have succeeded in their careers, the causes have largely been contributed to the strong networking channels they have created over time. But the question of who you network with and their relevance to your career matters more.
All of us know that a major success factor for any professional is the breadth and depth of his/her professional network, but too often we’re passive and expect our network to grow on its own with minimal effort on our part. It’s also tempting to confuse random robotic social media scrolling during our work breaks or weekends with actively growing our professional network. It’s not the same. Professionals with really strong networks actually make an effort to build them so don’t make the mistake of being passive and allowing your network to stagnate (or worse).
Let’s learn to develop a specific plan to grow your professional network. Here are 5 ways that can help us do that.
1. Strengthen The Existing Relationships
Growing your professional network doesn’t just mean quantity — quality is much more important. Instead of focusing only on doubling your number of contacts, let’s also consider how we can deepen the connections you already have. Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to an important connection you’ve recently made.
Instead, intentionally reach out to a colleague or new connection when you don’t need anything. Author of CONNECT FIRST: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work, Dr. Melanie A. Katzman suggests doing a bit of homework before you meet with a colleague to encourage a deeper, more substantive interaction.
Remember that every single person we meet is someone who is in or will be in a position to be a client or a referral. That means that the person sitting next to you on a dinner table or at a family function could be a potential boss, employee or colleague. So, be friendly and kind to everyone. Treat everyone with whom you come into contact as if they could be a future coworkers in one way or the other. Because you never know.
2. Widen The Network
Success is all about who we know. Having a vast network can lead to new opportunities, business ventures and strong professional relationships with peers who may have knowledge or skills that you don’t. But what if everyone you know in your professional network is the same kind of person in the same industry?
Diversify your network. So, what are the most effective ways of expanding your existing network to make new contacts in different areas of the professional world? How do you meet people who are clearly not in your current circles? Trying to build a relationship amidst a crisis is rarely a recipe for success. Instead, start meeting people of influence more socially, but a year from now, you’ll be so glad you did it. It’s super simple.
3. Stay Active on Professional Platforms
Professional networks can be critically important to everything from professional growth to job security. Jobvite’s 2020 Job Seeker Nation report found that most professionals found out about job openings through professional connections (31%) and friends (45%). And while it might seem like social distancing, lack of professional events, and remote work make networking harder now, you might be surprised, says career coach Eliana Goldstein: “I think it’s one of the best times to network,” she says.
People tend to have more flexibility in their schedules, and it’s easier to schedule a 15-minute phone call or video chat versus the pressure that they might feel to meet up for coffee or lunch if the pandemic wasn’t a factor. And it’s important to build your network before you need it, Goldstein says.
4. Continuous Learning is the KEY
Part of the reason why our networks stagnate is that it’s so natural to focus almost exclusively within our specific area of expertise. It’s important to step outside your comfort zone not just to broaden your own skill set but also to expand your professional network. By dipping your toe in the water of other professional disciplines, you’re opening doors to entirely new sets of contacts and relationships.
companies value traits such as Speed, agility, flexibility. Such characteristics come only when an enterprise has employees who are inquisitive, engaged, think dynamically and have the ability to make decisions quickly to impact the business. To build such an organization, corporations must nurture a culture of continuous learning — something that seems intuitive but is quite challenging. More corporations have started to talk about creating a learning culture with working conditions that support an open mindset, encourage an independent search for knowledge and welcome shared learning.
5. Take Time Out to Volunteer
Volunteering for organizations in our part of the world is yet another way to grow your network organically. This is a great strategy because it provides regular networking opportunities and also boosts your resume at the same time! Certainly, be strategic and realistic with your volunteering choices. Volunteer to help coordinate the the basics, then grow vertical with the passage of time when your calendar allows.
Remember that your network won’t dramatically change if you don’t take steps to make that happen. Carve out some time to think about how you want your professional network to be quantitatively and qualitatively different this time next year, then take specific steps to make that happen. This just might be the most important investment you make in your career this year.
One can never tell how much he/she knows without listening to other people. Success in life is largely attributed to the pool of information or ideas you have garnered over the past. When networks have been created, it fosters ideas to sustain long-term relationships and mutual trust. When you are receiving ideas, it helps both in your workplace and out, in addition to instilling best practices that soothe your career.
If networking is a mutual relationship, then having a right networking channel can help build your career. Though networking might not be an easy and fast approach to building a long-lasting relationship. But making it a two-way process of giving and taking and can open the door for a firmer relationship. People that have made networking their sole priority have been able to build careers relevant to their set down goals.
Suggested Reading: The Hidden Power of Social Networks
About the Author
Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder and Managing Director of Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan, Evolve HR thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.