Establishing your support network increases your credibility in your organization, industry and/or community. People know who you are, know what you do, and know the great results you’ve delivered in your job. A successful support network increases your access to resources, time, and the right people to achieve your goals. It can lead to larger bonus payments, better jobs, higher overall performance evaluations and promotions.
We went to Maureen McKinnon, executive coach and career promotion expert to get more insights on how to establish your network in a strategic and organic way where both parties benefit. Read on to find out more.
Building A Network Starts with Mindset
Many women think building a professional support network strategically is somehow “bad” for various reasons. Most of which are not valid. What needs to be realized is that it comes down to your “intention” or “mindset”.
When establishing your support network, have the mindset of building mutually beneficial relationships where both parties benefit. When you meet someone and make a connection, understand how you can add value and help them achieve their goals. A connection is ultimately the cornerstone of establishing and growing a professional network. Additionally, making a connection in a beneficial way will build trust for a new relationship.
In sales and marketing terms, clients or customers do business with people they know, like and trust. People must first know who you are, then they trust your product or service and finally they trust the benefits and results of your product or service.
4 Steps To Building a Network
Here’s a quick overview of our four step process that Maureen has developed to help women build their professional network.
First determine who is in your current network. Build a list of top 5-10 work relationships. People you know and are comfortable reaching out and meeting them. Next assess this list with a series of questions to help uncover patterns in your relationship building skills and the people in your current network.
Let’s start with two questions to get you thinking:
i) How many years do you know the people in your network?
ii) What type of relationship do you have (personal, colleagues, peers, manager, senior management, executive, mentor, network acquaintance, other)?
Patterns that may emerge could be how many of your contacts are three years or older, which demonstrates that you are not making new relationships or the make up of your network, which shows how many are mentors, managers or senior management.
Once you have assessed your top relationships, next identify who you need to build a strategic mutually beneficial relationship with. Think in terms of 5 – 15 new relationships over a six-month period. Look at your company’s organizational chart of individuals in their company roles.
Start building relationships with colleagues and peers prior to mentors, managers, and senior management. Another place to practice is to volunteer in an association or a non-profit. Remember connecting with people is a “skill” that you are learning.
The next step is to connect and reach out to them, but first research each of your chosen strategic persons to get to know them more. You want to be interested and curious about them to determine areas where you have common ground – things you both like and can talk about as well as how you might be able to help them.
You can research online, for example, do a search on Linkedin. Once you’ve researched, you can reach out to them through LinkedIn, but the better way is to have a personal introduction. Getting an introduction from someone you respect generally gets you the KNOW and LIKE and well on your way to TRUST. Remember to be natural about this and not force a conversation or a connection. See how they respond to reaching out online or how your introduction goes.
Developing the relationship is moving them from online and having the first in-person conversation outside or at a coffee shop or via zoom meeting. You want to share with them the things that you have in common, sports, lifestyle, hobbies, interests, so that you will have an organic and genuine conversation with them. When you make a new connection, be sure to ask how you can help them. This goes a long way to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship!
Building a strategic network takes time, effort and some thought. You want to find and build an organic network with the right people and fit for you and for them and letting the connection grow and progress over time. Our next blog in the series is about maintaining your network and how to continually growing and develop your relationship – stay tuned next month for it.
Here’s a quote for inspiration:
“You are the sum total of the people you meet and interact with the world. Whether it’s your family, peers, or co-workers, the opportunities you have and the things that you learn all come through doors that other people open for you.” -Tanner Colby
If you like more support to help you build your network and more questions to help you assess your current network, book a free 30mins Career Strategy Session with Maureen .