Build and grow a network around you so that you give yourself the best chance of success in building more influence.
You are a brand
Surround yourself with people who you believe will have an appreciation of who you are, the work you do and what you have to offer. A new network takes time and while you may believe this is an activity for entrepreneurs or sales people, it is not. Building a network is what anyone in business needs to do today.
You are a brand and that perception takes root in the network you build. The idea of each of us having a personal brand has long been around. Read the classic 1997 Tom Peters’ article, The Brand Called You.
As Tom put it, “… regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Take the time to focus on both – building your brand and your network. Remember that the act of building your network has to be a purposeful one rather than a consequence of whatever activities you happen to engage in or any people you cross paths with.
A network takes time to grow
A network does not build itself which means that you need to dedicate time daily (especially if your network is small). There are a number of activities to be done. Identify and refine your target audience. Make and maintain different lists of the types of people you believe you should connect to. Develop your messaging. Plan what you will say to people when you reach out. Be clear about who you are and your purpose for reaching out. Be succinct yet persuasive. Personalise your message so people feel special.
Monitor what works and what does not. If your outreach doesn’t work, ask yourself why. Is it because of your profile or your message? There could be many reasons and truthfully, not all will relate to you and what you’ve done.
Focus on building a digital network
Build a digital network because, quite simply, you can. There was a time when the world felt much smaller. All the people we knew were the ones we lived close to, every interaction was a face to face one. Our networks were much smaller, bound by proximity and our face to face interactions.
But this is not the case today.
Online universities and micro-learning online give us access to the best teachers and lecturers from around the world. Digital job boards give us access to jobs in the region or locations we want to pinpoint. Social media platforms open up new worlds for us, enabling us to reach other professionals much like ourselves and more. The world does not feel so small any more. Everything seems to be right at our fingertips and these choices can be staggering because if we choose to do nothing, who or what do we have to blame?
A vast array of features, platforms and functionality are vying for our attention and simultaneously, creating equal if not more, distraction. So these opportunities sit alongside risks and challenges we must face. But these challenges are not insurmountable.
“Do it once, do it well”
This has been my mantra to my kids for as long as I can remember. If you’re going to spend the time to do something, you might as well do the best job you can. Be proud of your results so you can look back on a history that’s rich and fulfilling. Realise others too can look back on this alongside you.
What happens if you do something badly or get it wrong? Simply learn through the process and tweak as you move along. Although there are many ‘rules’ in life, the best and most appropriate rules are the ones you embrace and make your own.
You should not and do not need to follow the crowd. This means taking what makes good sense to you, discarding what does not and tweaking everything to your individual circumstance and need.
In the case of building your network, this means a few things. Review whatever background information you can get your hands on about those who want to connect to you. As you develop your LinkedIn profile and start becoming active on the platform, you will find people wanting to connect with you. Be purposeful about accepting connection requests.
In my experience, there are two kinds of outreach I have experienced. The first is people reaching out to connect and stopping there. This means that once they have connected with you, you receive no further communication. It would appear that they’re merely interested in growing their number of connections and not as interested in establishing anything further in the relationship. This may not necessarily be true but if someone connects with you and then fails to reach out over the next few months, you’d be forgiven for thinking that.
The second type of outreach is where people seem genuinely interested in who you are and what you have to offer. They may send a personalized message and exchange a few emails. They may interact with and respond to some of your posts.
The reason for doing a little background research before accepting a connection request is that you want to authenticate it as much as possible. This can be done by taking a quick look at their profile and activities. There are fake profiles, spammers and those with ulterior motives out there. This is just a preliminary, yet necessary step to protect yourself. You’re looking to see that the person seems genuine and this can be extracted from the information gleaned from the profile description – how they describe their headline and summary, their work experience, whether they have uploaded a photo etc.
A review their online activities within LinkedIn and elsewhere may include articles published, posts shared, comments and feedback on other posts. This review ensures that the network you build is driven by your goals.