As you progress in your career, one of the things that is important for you to be successful is to network.
You are building relationships at each job. As you move on to your next job or your colleague moves on to their next job, it is important that you maintain that relationship because at some point in the future one of you is going to need to call on the other for help.
What makes this process challenging is that it takes work and, although important, it isn’t urgent so it is easy for you to let it go. You don’t maintain the relationship because it isn’t right in front of you and then when you need it, you are starting off from a less than ideal situation.
Professional Relationship Lifecycle
The life cycle of professional relationships is interesting. You work with someone and because you spend a huge portion of your week at work, you get to know the person pretty well.
Think about the people you work closely with. There are people you talk to daily and people you talk to at least weekly. You talk regularly because your job requires it.
And, although you are likely talking about work, over time you are building a relationship. You get to know the person and they get to know you. You know what they are good at, the way they communicate, whether or not you can rely on them, if they meet deadlines, etc.
And then, you get a new job and move on. Suddenly, someone you were talking to every day is no longer part of your life. Someone you relied on to get your work done – to be successful in your career – is not part of your life at all anymore.
It is a very interesting phenomenon. Now, you may keep in touch with some of the people who you developed a more personal relationship with. These are people who crossed over the professional relationship divide into the personal relationship category.
These are not the people I’m talking about today.
I’m talking about the people you had professional relationships with – strictly professional. Keeping in touch with them is important for your career. The better you are at keeping in touch, the better off you will be when you need something that they can help you with.
Networking is not something you do at a weekly breakfast or cocktail hour. That type of networking, when you goal is to hand out as many business cards as possible, is really a marketing activity.
What I’m talking about is a relationship activity. You need to constantly maintain your network because relationships are important to your success.
Doing this isn’t hard – at all. But, it also isn’t easy for the simple reason that its not urgent, which means most of us won’t get to it. We aren’t intentional about networking because it isn’t in our face.
The piles of email and stacks of status reports are in our face.
The deadlines we have to meet this week are in our face.
Reaching out to Dan, who we worked with 2 jobs ago is not in our face because we don’t need anything from Dan right this minute.
Become Intentional About Maintaining Your Network
What I’m encouraging you to do is to be intentional about maintaining your network. Here are a few things you can do to make this process a more active part of your professional life:
For example, recommend a book or app or tell people about a tip they can use such as how to better organize their email or how time blocking can make you more productive.
The idea with this third activity is that you are posting something general out to your network that will both remind them of you but also be seen as something of value that will create a memory in their mind that you are someone who is always adding value.
The Difference Between Networking and Thought Leadership
I want to talk a little more about why this post should not be specific to your company or industry. What I’m talking about in this post is the importance of building and maintaining your network. I am not talking about the importance of building your reputation as an expert in your particular industry. I’m also not talking about the importance of marketing your company.
Both of those things are also important, but just not for this episode. So, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do those things. But, I am saying that you need to separate the activity of maintaining your network from these other 2 things.
My network has people in a lot of different roles. I am connected to sales people and accountants, writers and educators, marketers and developers.
If you are in accounting and the only thing you ever post is related to accounting, you are not being relevant to a good portion of your network.
By posting something that is more general, that can be useful to people in a lot of different roles, you are making connections with them. Don’t stop posting about topics important to accounting, just remember to also post about time management or goal setting or communication as well.
By doing these 3 things monthly, you’ll see a lot more traction from your network and find that when you are in need of something from your network, you’ll find them more responsive.
Being intentional about your networking will pay dividends the next time you need something!
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