Building an Active Network Naturally
By Greg Scott Irwin
What would you say if I told you that you’ve already networked today – even now, in this virtual world we are currently living in? Most people still think of networking as an art, a planned event. Something that only charismatic and outgoing people succeed at. This is an old mentality and I’m here to tell you that there is more to networking. Networking is the incremental process of building personal and professional relationships through simple, everyday actions that you’re already taking.
Every person you know has their own network of personal and professional relationships they know, interact with, and understand. This group of people is usually different from your own group of contacts on some level. By working to build long term connections and relationships, you are opening your network to them. In return, they will almost certainly open their network to you. Now, instead of knowing just one person, you have grown your network to include everybody that person knows as well. Networking is not about how many people you meet. Rather, it is about the relationships you can cultivate with these people.
Contrast this with the transactional networker. These are the people who think, ‘What can this person do for me?’ They are easy to spot. Conversations are focused on the one thing they are hoping to get out of the conversation and when you walk away, the ‘relationship’ ends with no value to you. They are looking for easy short-term gains instead of long-term connections and the benefits that come with an expanded active network.
Let me give you an example. I have a good friend named, Steve. When we met, we started casually chatting, got to know each other, and became friends. We’d get together every few weeks. If I hadn’t seen him in a while, I would shoot him a quick text to catch up on how things were going. We would talk about his job and he would always ask about my work.
About two years after meeting Steve, he invited me to a local event. As soon as I arrived, he said, “I have someone you have to meet!” He introduced me to Andrew as a fellow entrepreneur with a lot of things we could talk about. Andrew and I chatted and found out we worked from the same coffee shop. This introduction ultimately led us to become business partners. Many times, the benefits of networking aren’t realized right away.
Ultimately there are three steps to network successfully:
- Talk about them – be inquisitive and interested in what your connections have to say. Listen to them so you may provide value to them. This is the single most missed point of networking. It’s all about how you provide value to others.
- Talk about you – Next, you want to share your background, passions, and goals. If you don’t let others know what you want, it would be difficult for them to help, provide an introduction, or mention it to their contacts. So, get comfortable with talking about yourself and your ambitions.
- Cultivate Relationships – Do this in a way that works for you! Not a fan of phone calls? Text them. Do you love social media? Tweet them. Send them a message on LinkedIn or wish them a ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook. Log on to your online gaming console and say ‘Hello.’ If you enjoy in-person interactions, then stop by their desk or book a coffee meeting. Reach out in a way that feels natural to you. These little touchpoints help you stay involved and active in their life. The key here is to just do something.
You already have a network. Now, by staying consistent, being active, and doing more of what you are already doing every day, you will realize the awesome benefits of a strongly connected network. Opportunities that you didn’t even know were a possibility will start to present themselves. When they do, look back on the role that your network played in that success, and don’t forget to thank your connections.
Meet the Contributor
Greg Scott Irwin is a Product Manager and Professional Networker. If you haven’t gotten the chance to attend one of his talks on becoming a better networker, you can tap into his genius on his Instagram at greg.scott.irwin and grow your skills with his series Girwin in 60 Seconds.