Do you have visions of asking someone you barely know if you can add them to your network because you want something from them? Experts would call this approach transactional, unauthentic and not very effective. There is value to you but nothing in it for them. Building your network shouldn’t be like that. Let’s agree – connections are important and a truly helpful, professional network can be leveraged to get you your dream career.
- be authentic to build a genuine relationship with another person
- work with the people you know
- create three degrees of separation for the people who can help you the most professionally
- prioritize the high-quality relationships across a large number of connections
To be authentic, start with a friendly gesture that immediately adds value to them by being associated with you. An example would be, “I have a management tool I think you’d love. I’ll send it to you.” The authors say it is essential to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to develop an honest connection. Then think in terms of how you can collaborate with and help the other person. That’s the authentic part that you just can’t fake your way through.
The best way to engage with new people is by working with people you already know but focus on deepening the connection. Most people maintain 5 to 10 active alliances. An ally is someone you consult regularly for advice and proactively share and collaborate on opportunities together. An ally is someone you will cooperate with, sacrifice for and are few in number.
I cherish my alliances. Recently, a dear friend engaged in possibly acquiring a manufacturing firm to compliment her business. It was her first acquisition attempt. Though she had all of the right resources to perform due diligence and make the decision, we still spent endless hours walking, talking about the process and her feelings throughout. She, in turn, has been a resource for me several times during our relationship.
How does it work – you leverage your network through an introduction from someone you know, who knows the person you want to reach. For your network to be successful, you need to be effective at requesting and making introductions.
They suggest that in the next week you:
- Introduce two people who don’t know each other but ought to
- Think about a challenge you face and ask for an introduction to a connection in your network who could help
- Identify a weaker tie with whom you’d like to build an alliance. Help him/her by giving a small gift such as an article or job posting
And their paramount tip on networking to build a great career – be authentic!
Debra Koenig, President, B2A