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Fix up, look sharp - How to build the professional network you need

Posted: 05 August 2015

We all have one but do you ever take a second to think if it actually does anything for you or your connections? Building a network is almost professional second nature with the likes of LinkedIn making connection a breeze. But with this easy peasy approach comes a lack of understanding as to how important a relevant network really is.

Let’s face it, networking can be more of a numbers than quality game these days. It’s super simple to make those business connections and it’s chipped away at the value of the mighty network. Take a second to have a good hard look at your LinkedIn connections, what does this network actually mean to you? Is it a two-way street of real sharing and utilisation? The risk you take with the likes of LinkedIn is that you create a larger, rather than smarter, network. Here’s a few ways to take your game back to basics and create a connection collection that can do great things for you and your networkees.

The Smarter Seven - Change your networking game.

If you’re looking to create the type of network you actually need, you need to re-think the very notion of the word.

#1 - Assess the nature of your need.

This is a stage many folks neglect when it comes to creating a killer network. They see creating one as a necessary accessory rather than a functional asset in its own right. As with any business tool, the first thing to do is ask yourself exactly what you need from it. What do you want a network for and why? What type of people could help you and what can you offer them? What form does this network need to take?

#2 - Get timely.

Your new networking efforts should be focused and selective but that doesn’t mean you can’t make connections of the moment. Not every connection needs to be a life-long valuable asset, you can make timely connections that fulfil a unique, time sensitive need. Just make sure you treat each connection with respect and don’t just aim to bleed them dry and cut your ties. Root every connection in a context.

#3 - “Ask not what they can do for you…”

The best network is a mutual exchange in favours and free flowing knowledge. The best networkers aren’t greedy, they know that real relationships are all about sharing. Before you connect all over the shop ask yourself what you can do for your potential new connection. Add positively to a fresh networking culture, it’s the difference between a number chaser and a genuine professional.

#4 - Get personal with requests.

You don’t have to opt for a uniform request when it comes to networking. LinkedIn makes connection crazy easy so it’s no surprise that we don’t really think about how we reach out to others. Personalising any activity sets you apart and sets a tone for your future mutual value. It goes hand in hand with transparency and more importantly shows that you see them as a unique professional, not just an addition to a collection.

#5 - Use what you have to get what you want.

Leveraging your current network to create your future one is nothing short of an artform. From asking for an intro to seeking out a recommendation, there’s a world of possibility sitting within your network and it’s ready to be explored. Be part of a community, not just gather together a network. This is what inspires others to help you in your business quests. Keep updated on what your networkees are all about and make sure to congratulate them, reach out and offer help and everything inbetween. Stay active and you’ll become a fluent in cultivating your collective.

#6 - Get pro with InMail.

There’s a knack to writing an email, never mind an InMail. Make this a mixture of practicality and personality - what I want from this connection and why. People connect with people as well as their profession. Learn how to plead your case and humanise your business aims in a way that’s tailored to each connection you want to make.

#7 - Stay on top of your network.

Your network should be an ever-growing thing, moving and reshaping as your career does. It takes commitment and care to keep it relevant and valuable to yourself and others. Instead of just racking up numbers be sure to reassess your network’s purpose.

Instead of taking a gamble and hoping a few connections might come through for you at some stage you need to get focused and thorough with your networking efforts. There’s a certain discipline that the best networkers have and it serves them well when it comes to actually using their connections. Be the new standard in networking and others will follow.

Do you like this stuff? Then join over 21,000 other awesome people who get tips on improving their employer brand, recruitment, marketing and the odd spot of career advice delivered directly to their inbox from me! @markbevans