Building a strong and viable network is something every business professional understands as critical to long term success. The advent of social media platforms and other technologies provides the ability to reach out to virtually anyone to grow that network. While that access has made it easy to rapidly build the network, it has eroded the authenticity of that network and has made it difficult to grow one that is truly personal or meaningful.
In the digital age, it is more important than ever to leverage the ‘personal you’ to truly stand out and add value to a network. Here are three steps to ensure that your networking strategies are not only powerful, but personal:
1. Pay It Forward
Are you offering people in your network information or ideas that would help them achieve their goals? No one likes an “all-take, no-give” personal relationship and your professional relationships are no different. When you share information that benefits someone in your network it goes a long way to building both authenticity and trust – two necessary ingredients to a personal network.
2. Be Genuine
When you seek someone out in your network for assistance, be candid and up front about it. Beating around the bush can feel like a waste of time at best and disingenuous at worst. Ask for what you need politely, but directly. Then listen closely and take in all the information they are willing to give. Being coy will only limit the growth and viability of your network.
3. Be Consistent
Connect with those in your network on a regular basis. If you only make contact when it is for your benefit, all trust will be destroyed and people will view you as merely an opportunist. Congratulate people on a new job, comment on a blog post they’ve written, or engage them on an article they shared. Your consistent engagement will be viewed as professional, not opportunistic.
The goal of many networking strategies is to develop – and maintain – strong relationships that push both parties forward. The glut of available information online has made it easier than ever to build a network. However, a network that is built without putting the needs of others first, consistency, or candor is nothing more than a house of cards that will collapse at the exact moment the network is needed.