When was the last time you sat down and thought about all the people you have in your network? Years ago? Last time you were hunting for a new job? Never?
Here are some tactical tips and a template (see my profile – it’s on the summary) to help you get started. Start by looking at your contacts list in your mail program and see who you’re connected to in LinkedIn to do this exercise. Grab the template or some blank pieces of paper and put your name in the middle. Then determine which views of your network would be useful. Create several sheets. Here are some ideas for each Network Map. “Who I know in other locations”, “Who I know in other groups inside my company”, “Who I know with same/similar job title”, “Who I know in my Industry”, “Who do I know in other functions (HR, IT, Finance, Hardware, Software, Logistics, and more). Begin to fill out the sheets. Then go through the Four Rs below and evaluate your maps and create follow-up actions to help you strengthen and grow your network.
Step 1. Review
Review the people in your active network. Write down what you receive when you interface with them. Look for those folks you interface with regularly. See who you email, see who emails you. Think about who you wave to in the hallway. Who do you see at lunch? Who do you see at networking events? Who is in regular meetings with you?
Step 2. Reduce
Step away from energy-draining or redundant contacts. If you’re a very busy networker; are there folks that you should stop reaching out to? Anyone who is only taking from you and not giving? Anyone who wastes your valuable time and energy? Eliminate them from your active network.
Step 3. Renew
Look for new folks to add and make sure they have the right attributes: look for folks with new views, those that give you energy and challenge you. Those that are in groups that you don’t have represented in your network maps. Those that are in roles or have the knowledge you need to learn and grow in your role. You don’t have to know their name…yet. Putting down – “I need to meet someone who does what I do in California” will get you started.
Step 4. Realize
Ensure you are using your contacts as best you can – re-kindle or maintain contact with those folks you have put on your list. Identify potential allies. Some may already be in your Network. Others you may need to work to build a trusting long-term relationship. When possible, don’t rely on formal authority.
Share knowledge; don’t hoard it. Figure out who you can teach or mentor and bring along to strengthen your discipline or area of expertise. See your allies as partners. When you view people as partners, you embrace the different perspectives & talents they bring and you will fight hard to avoid mistakes because you care about the outcome.
Send out emails to find the right contacts to add to your network. You know you’ve got holes in some of your maps. Work to fill them. Set up ‘get to know you’ meetings. Search through blogs and groups to find people. Make some cold calls. Ask others in your network for introductions. Meet with people who speak regularly on topics that interest and inspire you. And if that freaks you out – know that 99% of people you ask inside your company will meet with you if you want to talk about what they know. So start there – right where you are now. And, for that 1% who say ‘no’, realize it is usually due to the timing you’ve proposed. So ask for a meeting in the next month or quarter to give them plenty of time and no pressure and a reason to say ‘yes, I’d love to network with you!’
Good luck! Have fun! Grow your network!