Your network is your most valuable asset for having success in this new economy. The key is to systematically develop it and I will share with you why being generous and helping others is the only way to unleash its full potential.
The unemployment numbers reported this month by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics show a slight improvement to 7% but we entered the 69th month in a row with unemployment over 5%. The numbers hide another troubling factor, The Washington Times reports that 77% of jobs created this year were part-time forcing more and more Americans to piece together multiple part-time jobs and income streams just to make ends meet. Recently in my Fox News article How to Build a Full-Time Life in a Part-Time World, I gave seven tips for navigating this new economy. On this blog I’ve been going in-depth on each point. Tip number three was to enlarge your personal network and I’d like to tell you why this is critical for your success.
This year I spoke with multiple CEO’s of large head hunting and employment firms from around the country trying to understand their industry and how people can improve their chances of finding a new job. Here are three interesting facts I learned:
1) Most jobs are not advertised. They are filled internally and by word of mouth recommendations.
3) Search firms will look at all your social media outlets to get a total picture of the person they are recruiting before they contact you with an offer.
If you are without work or looking for your next opportunity, it is critical that your network of friends, family, former business associates, and social media contacts know that you are on the market. It is also imperative that your online presence on all social media outlets is current and presents the professional image that you want portrayed to the world. I am convinced that success in this new economy favors those who understand networking and leverage it to its full potential.
Maybe you are familiar with the quote, “Dig your well before you are thirsty.” This is very appropriate for this discussion. If you are not investing in building your network I highly encourage you to start today. When you start looking for your next job, your network quite frankly will be your greatest asset.
The term “networking” can sound cold and impersonal. However, networking is simply building relationships with people. If you see it in this light it is not as intimidating. We do this everyday. With the right focus, we can build a network that helps us better understand the world and different perspectives. We will learn about other industries and changes in the economy and how it might impact us. Most importantly, we are in a position to help others make a difference in the world. If you do this you will become a master networker or better put, a master relationship builder. I realize there may be some that still think they can’t be a networker. Do you know of someone in your life who seems to be loved by everyone, they have friends everywhere they go, and they always seem to be trying to help people? They may not call themselves a networker but they have mastered the skills to build and maintain relationships and that is what we are talking about here.
I try to spend a little time each week maintain the network of friends and relationships I have around the world. It is very rewarding. I love helping people and by staying in touch and I feel more connected and knowledgeable about global events by getting first hand accounts of global news from people experiencing it first hand. I am always looking for ways to help and provide value to my friends and in turn sometimes they have been able to help me. When we start with the right mindset and focus we see networking is very different from what others may think it is. If you start with the end objective “to make the world a better place”, you will be blessed in the process.
When building and developing your network remember these four words; Secure, Expand, Leverage, and Give.
First, secure your base. You don’t start building your network by going to a business conference in New York. Building your network starts with those closest to you. View your network with close concentric circles radiating outwards. Your strongest relationships are closest to the center and thus have the greatest value. The relationships you have with people who you can call at 2 am and they will drop everything to help you are the most valuable and are at the center of your circle. It can take a lifetime to build these types of relationships. If you have a handful of people like that in your life you are blessed individual.
You can only build your network once you have secured your base, know who these people are, and are spending quality time developing and protecting those relationships. These are the most important people in your life and no matter what happens they will always be there for you. Regardless of what you do in life, NEVER neglect these relationships. Over time your base (your most valuable relationships) in the inner circle will grow.
Secondly, we need to expand our network of relationships. It is easy for us to get complacent and stay in our comfort zone. We all have our routines in life and over time our relationships will consist of the same people from our places of work, neighborhoods where we live, schools we attended, our place of worship, and maybe a local club we joined. If we don’t venture outside those standard spheres our network will be limited. This is where joining global organizations, non-profits, attending industry conferences, and traveling will open doors and help expand our relationships. The more we are able to expand our network of relationships outside our normal daily paths the more valuable it will become.
If you do not have a global network, I highly encourage you to look for ways to develop it. You can join global business organizations like Young President’s Organization (YPO) or Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). Non-profits, mission organizations, and relief efforts are always looking for volunteers and this is a great way to get involved globally. I worked with the Autism Society in Washington, D.C. and other non-profits around the United States and it has been some of the most rewarding work of my life where I met people that have become life-long friends.
Attending leadership conferences that brings in people from many different industries and walks of life is also great a way to grow your network. Some of my favorites are the Giant Impact LeaderCast, The Global Leadership Summit, Christian Economic Forum, TEDTalks, South by Southwest, and Catalyst. If you have never attended a conference like this, I highly encourage you to attend one and you will understand the benefits.
Thirdly, learn to leverage free tools and resources to grow and maintain your network. I only have the ability to invest in building a few really deep relationships in my life at any one time so I have to be strategic where I invest that energy yet still have time to keep up with contacts from around the globe. I can’t have coffee twice a week and talk about my start-up project with my friend in Dubai like I can with my close friends here in Knoxville. However, I can stay in touch and invest in that relationship by communicating with Google Hangout once a month. I use various forms of communication to stay in touch with hundreds of other close friends around the world. Luckily, we live in an age where we can leverage technology to stay in touch. My favorites are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Google Hangout. You can use each one to offer a unique view into your life and to communicate with your friends. The more you communicate and share your life with others, the closer you draw them to the center of your relationship circle. They become part of your life and sometimes part of your extended family. Networking is nothing more than building deep friendships where you can offer help, advice, encouragement, and in turn these friendships will help you.
Finally, in everything you do think about giving first. Many people look to build a network to extract value from it. This is the wrong mindset to have. If you follow the rule to “give before you ask”, you will build a valuable network that when you need it most people will come to your aid. Always be monitoring your network of friends and relationships and looking for ways to help them. It may be with advice, introductions to key relationships that can help with a business project, sending them a business deal you know about, and a whole host of other possibilities.
There is one key rule in networking, the more generous you are the more valuable your network becomes. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Even the most successful men and women in the world once had help from mentors, advisors, and people that helped open doors and give then an opportunity and they were prepared to seize that chance. We all need help at various points of our lives. Many people have helped me in my journey and opened doors, given me opportunities, or given me great advice and I am forever in their debt. Those people who helped me in times of my greatest need can call me at any time of the day and no matter what I am doing I will drop everything to come to their aid. I know there are people that will do the same for me. Over time as you look to serve others and help people within your network you will build up enormous social equity. The next time you are in a career transition, looking for work, needing assistance on a project, or having a life issue where you need help you will be surprised at how many people will be excited to help the person that once helped them.
Building relationships is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. It just so happens to be good for your career as well. If you have any questions about this post, need help leveraging social media, or have ideas to share post them below.