There is no fail-safe method when it comes to growing your career and earning potential. Whether you’re looking to expand your horizons in your current profession or even explore a passion project as a second career like this First Republic client did, these networking tips can help you build the foundation for professional success.
1. Admit you don’t have all the answers.
The first thing you need to do is admit that you don’t know everything. So instead of reinventing the wheel or trying to solve something the hard way, tap into your network.
I met someone who was having challenges with his business and who had expended a lot of effort trying to solve a problem with many different solutions and products, including employing different contractors to try different approaches.
I asked him whether he had spoken with colleagues in the industry who would likely have had the same issues. His answer was no. And yet they were just a phone call away!
2. Make sure to give rather than just take.
You will be likely to meet with resistance from industry colleagues who are as busy as you or who don’t always recognize the benefits of networking. That’s why you build your network before you need something. Give help first so that it is easier to get help later on when you need it.
Pass along useful solutions that you have learned or read about to your network. The next time you meet members of your network, see if there is something concrete you can help them with. When the time comes when you are looking for advice or help, they will be more likely to take the time to help you.
3. Help your competitors.
Even if you are in organizations that compete, it is often in your organization’s best interest to work with others in the same industry rather than keeping your distance. You can help each other reduce costs, find service providers and suppliers, or solve issues in ways that are not at each other’s expense or proprietary to your business.
And they don’t have to be down the block. You can network over the phone just as effectively as in person; in fact, a phone conversation is often easier than trying to set up a formal meeting. If they are further away, they are less likely to be concerned about sharing information with a competitor, since you are unlikely to be in the same marketplace.
4. Leverage your association.
Industry associations exist to advance the industry and help members advance their careers. When you need to find solutions or get advice about issues and problems you might be having, your industry association can be an excellent resource.
Hopefully you have built your network already, but if you have an issue or problem that nobody in your current network can solve, call your association and ask if they can recommend someone or pass your request along to another member. If you have access to the member directory, use it to find a person you think might be able to help you based on their location, title, etc.
When you are at conferences, find people you think can add value to your network (and whom you can offer value to as well) and be sure to follow up after the event via email, LinkedIn or phone.
So, the next time you think about networking, don’t just think about preparing for when you need another job or need to find new clients. Think of it as the ongoing practice of sharing information and knowledge for everyone’s benefit.