Your Success Coincides With The Balance In Your Network Bank Account
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~Dale Carnegie
Success in nearly every aspect of life comes down to your ability to build meaningful relationships – both personal and professional. It’s no surprise that the best leaders are skilled at building diverse networks that are mutually beneficial, where they contribute more than they take. What about you, how robust is your network?
When you struggle with something in your life or career, do you go about trying to solve these issues alone? Or do you turn to your network for solutions? Do you have a life line you can call for help? More than one? If you can think of several people who provide you with advice, you already know that challenges are easier to overcome when you are surrounded by a supportive network of family, friends, colleagues, mentors, and thought leaders. But do you find yourself equally supportive when others need you? Or is your network bank account overdrawn?
How expansive and diversified is your network today and how would you rate the quality of those relationships? How can you optimize your network to be mutually beneficial where you contribute as much as you take?
How I Learned The Importance of Networking:
I graduated from Henderson State University at the top of my class; however, I was not properly prepared to enter the job market in my chosen field as a Theater Director. Not because I didn’t have the knowledge or experience. I had been involved with Theater since I was ten years old, but I was lacking a diversified network to help me connect and navigate a very competitive job market.
Somehow, I must have missed the college course on The Value and Importance of Networking although I don’t remember my advisor (or any of my professors) mentioning this critical foundation during my four-year tenure at the college. So, I graduated with a dream, a plan, and a prayer. But even those weren’t enough to help me get my foot in the door.
At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of developing a network of colleagues and mentors and how that would help me pursue my goals. Consequently, I struggled somewhat needlessly and couldn’t find employment in my chosen field. I was frustrated, depressed, and angry that I had spent so much time and money to obtain a four-year degree that I couldn’t even use.
After three years as an in-store trainer at a restaurant in my hometown, I reached out to a friend and told her that I needed to find more challenging and rewarding work. I asked her if she could put a good word in for me as a viable candidate at the company where she worked. She did that and helped me get my first corporate job as a Communications Manager for a Fortune 100 company.
I was 26 years old and I still didn’t fully understand the value of networking. But my immersion in a company with a rich culture taught me how to build and diversify my network in a mutually beneficial way. Doing this helped me create deep meaningful relationships and increase my sphere of influence.
When I reflect on the things I’ve achieved since that time, I know without a doubt, my success was partially due to the diversified network that I spent years building. I thrived in the company for almost 20 years getting promoted every 2-3 years, directed dozens of plays locally, started my own film company and produced 2 feature length films, and wrote and published my first book. This was all possible because of the wonderful family, friends, mentees, colleagues, mentors, and inspiring Thought Leaders who supported me along the way.
[ctt template=”8″ link=”6cHak” via=”no” ]“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.” ~ Christine Comaford-Lynch[/ctt]
The Value of a Diversified Network
Developing a robust and diversified network is hard work. It takes time and commitment to build and maintain important relationships. This can be challenging in the midst of our busy lives. The thought of having to meet someone for lunch or coffee, sending a personal email or letter, meeting with a mentee, or having one more phone conversation after a 10-hour work day, seems like one more thing piling up on an overflowing “to do” list. So, why do it? And what’s the best way to optimize the impact of your networking efforts?
The reason why is simple. Connections are the bread and butter of life – they sustain, fulfill and support our growth. Through our connections, we learn to better understand ourselves and what we are capable of. This realm of support enables us to strive and reach our full potential and to help others along the way. The why is easy, but the how is more calculated and intentional.
Your personal and professional networks are like a bank account. The more you contribute and invest into the account, the more you can withdraw when you need it. You can only take out what you’ve put in without overdrawing, so it’s important to deposit into the account often.
“A really important part of networking is actually about what you bring to the table – not just what you want to get out of it. Contribution is a big part of networking success.” ~Gina Romero
As with your own finances, you diversify your portfolio of investments into accounts with different business objectives to optimize your returns. The same is true with your network. It should be diversified and have specific objectives for each group.
Here’s an example of what a diversified Network might look like:
Educate (Mentees)– Dedicate 15% of your networking time to sharing your knowledge and experience with mentees who are not as far along on their personal or professional journeys. Giving back to others is rewarding and fulfilling and can be a great counterbalance to daily routine work.
Collaborate (Peers/Colleagues) – Dedicate 50% of your networking time to working with colleagues and peers for the purposes of sharing ideas and collaborating on projects. This is a great opportunity to brainstorm, test ideas, and get feedback in a low-risk environment.
Learn & Connect (Mentors) – Dedicate 15% of your networking time to working with mentors who will help you learn and connect you to other influencers in your career. Your mentors will provide you with feedback on your performance and help you reach your professional goals by connecting you with others in their network. It’s beneficial to choose mentors who are already experts in the areas you want to grow. If a mentor accepts the invitation to work with you, respect their time by clearly outlining your goals and objectives for the partnership ahead of time. During the first meeting, also ask how you can support the mentor as this should be a reciprocal relationship.
Expand (Thought Leaders)– Dedicate 10% of your networking time to Thought Leaders who will help expand your knowledge and critical thinking skills. Unlike your mentors, you may not have a personal relationship with this part of your network. Knowledge from Thought Leaders can be gained from books you read, podcasts you follow, professional networking groups, online seminars and training courses, etc . . .
Pay it Forward (Community) – Dedicate 10% of your networking time to volunteer efforts in your community, church, or a local/national organization that you support. Depending on the type of the volunteer work you choose, you might be somewhat removed from the people you are helping; however, the impact will also be greater since your efforts are targeted to a larger group of people.
The ways to approach networking are as unique as you are; however, if you’re not allocating time to building and sustaining relationships as a part of your diversified network, you will find yourself struggling needlessly in your life and career. By developing a robust diversified network, you will increase your sphere of influence and create a support group around you that will sustain you during challenging times and periods of growth. Through your generosity and your contributions to your network, you will position yourself to lead with trust and influence. This will ensure that your network bank account remains balanced so you don’t have to worry about overdraft charges.
Call To Action:
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