Networking is the unwritten rule of success in business. Your next business opportunity is more likely to come from a loose connection rather than a close one. But first, you need to have connections.
1. Your Network Is An Investment
It’s important to understand what networking is, and what it isn’t. Networking is not randomly clicking on people on LinkedIn. It’s not making a bunch of new friends and it’s not about getting an immediate payoff.
Networking is about nurturing connections over time. The early years are about investing in it - doing some introductions and little favors, inviting people to events or letting them know about a job they might be interested in. If you ask people for a bunch of favors before you do anything for them, they’re likely going to look at you askance.
Like any good investment, over time, your network will yield a return. The return, though, is on the portfolio, not each individual relationship. You may spend a lot of energy on one person and get nothing in return, but another person might introduce you to someone who will turn into a great connection.
2. A Diverse Network Is A Strong Network
Be in a network, not an echo chamber. If everyone is like you, you’ll be comfortable, but you won’t grow. That also means networking outside your company. Colleagues are great, but they aren’t likely going to tell you about opportunities outside of your cubicle.
3. Put It Into Action
- Do something nice for someone in your network every week. That doesn’t mean you have to find someone a job, but you can connect two people who should know each other, send over an article that someone may find useful, or give a LinkedIn recommendation.
- Deepen one relationship every month. Spend time with someone you want to get to know better, and that doesn’t always mean having lunch. Consider doing something active - inviting them to volunteer with you, or go to a concert or a show.
At the Ellevate Network, we aim to give women opportunities and tools to connect and learn in order to get to the next level in their careers. Whether it’s at an in-person event or online during one of our "Jam Sessions," women supporting women is just smart business.