As an executive coach, the most important piece of advice I share with my clients is to understand the role that networking plays in their career. In fact, networking must be managed as a long-term strategy, a give-and-take, where you are able to grow your career while also helping others to flourish.
Now I often get pushback from my clients when I first suggest that they improve their networking skills. Common objections I hear are that it takes too much time, or doesn’t generate sufficient results. But usually the problem is that these individuals have a misunderstanding of what networking should be. Keep in mind when I say “networking”, I don’t mean that you should just attend in-person or virtual business gatherings and conferences, talk to a couple people you might know, and hope for the best. Instead, effective networking requires you to develop a plan and to have specific goals in mind.
So, how do you start this process? I find it helpful to first segment your network into 3 categories; strategic, operational and developmental. Let’s look at each category individually.
Category 1: Strategic Network
Your Strategic Network includes professionals who can help you stay on top of the trends of your industry. You might not know these individuals first-hand, however, you might already be connected to them through your current contacts.
Category 2: Operational Network
Your Operational Network consists of individuals who can help you to become more effective in your current job. These are often known as the subject matter experts. They have perfected their trade and can provide insights and ideas on how to improve your output.
Category 3: Developmental Network
Your Developmental Network is a collection of individuals who can help you reach your 3 to 5-year career goals. This might include professionals who have already had the job you are working to obtain.
It might sound overwhelming to manage and grow all three categories. I can assure you it is not! I have perfected this approach by simply allocating 10 minutes a day and my network has tripled in size in less than a year. With that came more opportunities and business growth.
Take the first step and write the names of three people in each category and begin interacting with them more often through their LinkedIn or other social media platforms.
Today, nearly 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. By implementing my networking strategy, you will be more prepared for a promotion or a career move.