You don’t need to be a rockstar salesman to cultivate a responsive network. Soft skills will make you shine, attracting others to your likability and influence.
To build a responsive network, you need to recognize others and show appreciation both professionally and personally. Of course, a little “elbow grease” doesn’t hurt; around thirty minutes per day of dedicated engagement should suffice. Yes, clear communication and attention to detail can produce satisfying results — new career opportunities, invitations to exclusive events, new channels to showcase your skills, etc. Additionally, cultivating your network presents a prime opportunity to display your project-management prowess. To derive the most value from your social effort, take a page from our project-management playbook and focus on people, process, and tools; and play an active role in shaping a prosperous future with a responsive network.
A Responsive Network Requires Relationships
Interconnectedness. Support. Opportunity. Exposure. Everyone wants it, but few know where to find it. And even fewer realize that these factors are a natural extension of a responsive network. In essence, you must work on crafting your network if you wish to experience career longevity.
Building the right network is a crucial step for experiencing personal and professional success. Similar to the way high-performing teams function, a strong network relies on one irreplaceable component: people — those who support each other’s values, interests, and approach to happiness. And similar to the way a successful project outcome requires clear communication, a lucrative network demands good people who are a good match for you — and you for them.
As Twitter’s Mike Davidson said while building a 100-person research and design team, “It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end, it is people that are going to hire you.”
To surround yourself with a supportive network, you must pick your people: Who you work with or do work (and for) shape how you experience success. If you choose with intention and purpose, chances are good you will be pleased with the results in the long-run. “One of the biggest assets in anyone’s life is a generous network.” And the way we see it, a generous network is the result of attracting generous people. As we have said from the beginning,
Your network is no different. The right people for the right community — that’s networking. However, there is one caveat to consider… Often, the most beneficial action involves directly helping others rather than yourself, serving as the connector rather than the connection. But don’t worry. Eventually, the gratitude comes full circle. American Express advised with their “7 Ways to Build a Strong Network,” if you can, always try to give before you receive. Not only is this unexpected behavior, it influences people to put an asterisk by your name, giving you the edge when your time comes to ask for assistance. So, moving forward, think: win-win rather than immediate gratification. Create a winning outcome for someone else (expected or not) and improve the likelihood you will experience a win when it’s most needed.
Most importantly, by picking your people you are inevitably emphasizing quality over quantity and will attract others who share this mindset. Approach your networking with an honest valuation of the people component; be purposeful and understand that the health of your network has more to do with communicating with others rather than caring for yourself.
Creating a Networking Process
Building on our project management frame of reference, establishing — and adhering to — a process enables you to cultivate a responsive network more effectively. Organization, time management, and clear communication are attainable when you answer the ‘who,’ ‘why,’ and ‘how’ of your networking activities.
Who do you want in your network?
What value do you offer them? — and them, me?
How do I network with the right people?
No longer will you use the excuse ‘there isn’t enough time in the day to actively network.’ Most importantly, establishing a process will provide clarity and reduce the stress associated with investing in long-term growth tactics.
Do you ever reflect upon your busiest days and think: when will my hard work pay off? Well, answers will vary, but one thing is for sure: having a robust and supportive network can empower you to reach your goals in a shorter amount of time.
No different than farming, cultivating your personal and professional network requires resources. The more you have available, the faster your network will grow, and the healthier it will be — like a prize-winning pumpkin at the county fair, everyone will appreciate and want to know more about your experience — the how-did-you-do-that mindset. It’s a sign of a winning process.
To understand why a process is needed, let’s reference the work of a project manager (PM). For a PM to see the fruits of their labor, they need to understand the business objectives at stake, i.e., how will this project impact the organization and all stakeholders involved (customers, shareholders, and the team). So, although getting the job done is still an accurate indicator of project-management performance, it must be balanced with an understanding of business objectives if a project manager wishes to perform and experience long-term success.
Now, about that process, let’s outline what it might look like for you.
First off, what works for you may not work for your friend or co-worker; therefore, it’s vital to adopt a process that’s enjoyable and do-able. (Trial and error work well.)
If you’re just getting started, asking others how they began building their network — By merely sharing a post using our favorite tool (hint: we will discuss this next) — can be most effective. Responses from network members will provide fundamental knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. However, once you get the hang of your tools, it’s time to add structure to your efforts. A plan that fits your schedule and delivers measurable change over time.
Moving forward — using our preferred tool mentioned below, think:
Search → Discover → Connect
How would you align yourself with a company that you want to work for?
First, you might search for the company or specific employees. Doing so will reveal profiles relevant employees or even better, people you already know at the company. You may also discover open positions or future work opportunities. Lastly, connect with the people and companies that align with your interests. You initiate this with a personal note or simple connection request; it can also lead to so much more — did someone say coffee meeting? We’re in! And remember, every time you gain a meaningful connection (a person who you share value with and vice versa), your network grows.
Using our search, discover, and connect process, you might consider how executing these small actions can lead to desirable change. Especially using LinkedIn, the results will offer a plethora of valuable additions to your network, not to mention access to events and educational opportunities. Finally, review your newsfeed daily, looking for exciting stories or posts about your current goals: Search/scan posts for relevancy, discover valuable content, and connect with the people and or companies that fit with your network. Then capitalize on the opportunities you uncover.
Common Tools to Network Effectively
Many would agree that LinkedIn is currently the “tool of all tools” for building a network. It’s accessible, easy to use, and provides both short and long-term results. Offering both active and passive forms of participation (yes, your digital profile is available when you’re not physically interacting with your connections), users are free to search, connect, and even promote to a potential audience. Not to mention, LinkedIn encourages you to create content for your connections, further elevating the idea of someone having thought-leadership.
LinkedIn rewards consistent engagement. So, the more process-oriented you are — adding value to your current connections and interest groups through sharing useful information — the more people (potential contacts) you will reach and eventually introduce into your growing, diverse community of professionals.
However, change is rapid; therefore, it’s crucial to interact with your network, whether it’s part of the morning coffee routine or the evening recap on the day. And what might be the most motivating aspect of creating a process for LinkedIn participation, every previous and current co-worker, colleague, business partner, acquaintance, or staff member is a potentially new connection. See, your network is already more extensive than you imagined.
Symbolic of useful digital tools, your LinkedIn network is always there for you, safely stored in a device or computer, meaning you can engage with people at your convenience, 24/7. If you need to reference a job posting — it’s there, view a person’s profile — it’s there, or publish your latest article — it’s there!
Last but certainly not least, Linkedin is process-oriented.
Think about people, companies, and content. And remember to search, discover, and connect.
Go ahead: Every day for the next month, follow these three simple steps. Make it a routine and share your process with others. We are confident your network will grow. Therefore, you will too.