Your network is your net worth. It is a source of knowledge, job opportunities, potential business partnerships, future hires, and so much more. In short, your power is derived from and amplified by your network.
One of the world’s most successful tennis stars; a pop singer from the ’90s making her comeback; the beauty director at a major national consumer magazine for teenagers; the son of a former Pennsylvania governor; executives at a major personal computing company — these are some of the people I count among my network. And I don’t just network with so-called high-powered people. I’m all about sharing my expertise and getting to know younger professionals, including new fashion designers, writers, photographers, etc.
My many connections have enriched my life, personally and professionally. Traditional networking guides and tips make networking pretty transactional, but networking is more effective when you’re meeting and getting to know people before you need help with something or want to sell your products and services.
Networking should be a regular part of your life. Find a way to grow and maintain your network and break it down into easy-to-follow steps. Sallie Krawcheck, the former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America and current leader of 85 Broads, has a really simple but brilliant strategy. She follows two very simple rules for networking: She aims to meet at least one new person per month or to significantly deepen an existing relationship, and she does one nice thing for someone she is already connected to every week.
When networking outside of your company, you shouldn’t focus on just colleagues within your industry, either; a wide-ranging network is a happy network. Sallie Krawcheck added a third rule for networking to her repertoire: connect with professionals who are different from you. I love that!
When you read about impressive entrepreneurs or you learn about interesting research coming out of a university 3,000 miles away, research that person and shoot them a quick email. You can say something like, “I read about you in The New York Times and the work you’re doing fascinates me. I’d love to talk to you for 15 minutes. Maybe a phone call or a Skype session? Hope to hear from you soon!” or “Your work developing new algorithms for Google sounds really fascinating. SEO affects so many industries that what you’re doing is sure to have a lot of implications. I’d love to learn more about it. Could you fit in a quick call?” Short is sweet. It becomes information overload if the email exceeds a paragraph or two.
There are natural ways to meet people outside of your bubble. If you pursue non-work related interests and volunteer, say, at an animal shelter or take a not-for-credit dance class, you’ll meet professionals outside of your industry. You’ll already have interests in common, making connecting that much easier. Being part of a board for something that doesn’t directly correlate to your industry is another fantastic approach. (Although, you shouldn’t join a board just to get to know people.)
And no matter how you meet someone, try to give before you take. As a high-powered executive, you might feel weary of giving away your valuable time. But as Adam Grant, professor at Wharton and author of Give and Take has found, the people who give more than they take go farther and experience more success.
Erica Dhawan, a leadership expert and CEO of Cotential, mentioned a mantra in a recent post on Forbes that has helped her build deep connections with people and connect with the likes of Bill Gates and Sheryl Sandberg: “Give, give, get.” Make it your motto too.
With these tips, you should be able to grow your network in a way that will make people excited to help you when you ask for it.
Rakia Reynolds is the founder of Skai Blue Media, a multimedia public relations agency with an all-star roster of lifestyle, technology and fashion clients. Noted as an influencer in the creative business industry, Reynolds is sought after by companies to provide her expertise in creative development, branding and strategic communications.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.