How to Build Efficient Networks?
Everyone has a network. It starts in our family, friends, ex-colleagues and its scope depends on how much we work on it. « Everybody has a networking, we just have to play with it. », says Aurore Berdah , Consultant in Talent Management & Outplacement. Developing a strong network can be crucial to one’s job and career. Networking has nothing to do with asking for favours or a job. It is the action or process of interacting with people to exchange information and develop a professional relationship. This is why networks are based on trust. People connect with each other because they believe specific contacts will be able to help them in different aspects of their business. This may include exchanging advice, information or even connecting contacts with other workers or organisations.
According to a 2016 report from LinkedIn, 85% of jobs were found via networking. That is one of the main reasons why, we must develop our network, whether we are employed or not. Obviously, networks can be more useful for unemployed people. They might help to connect with crucial people to find a job. But at the same time, it may be more difficult to establish a network when one feels more vulnerable and in a weaker position.
Networking with a job may seem pointless, however, it is critical. It is a way to preserve and continue developing one’s network. Moreover, networking allows employees to get new information about markets, companies, businesses, trends etc. So, whoever we are and wherever we are in our career, dedicating time for networking is very important. One can, for example, attend events, conferences or even schedule one-to-one meetings.
After defining a “network” and explaining why it is crucial to have one, we should remember that even though a first approach might be done over the phone, by email or through social media, to successfully network, people must meet face to face. During these meetings (lunch, coffee, etc.), one should try to grow their connections by getting new contacts to reach. This is what we commonly call indirect networking.
Another thing we might focus on while networking is internal networks i.e. developing relationships with co-workers within the company we work for. Indeed, it is one of the main sources of productivity and engagement for employees. To make this happen one should plan activities, events, coffee breaks or lunches together, discuss and exchange to support, give insight and help each other.
Regardless of whether we are discussing our direct, indirect or even internal network, we must demystify the idea that networking is for extroverts. It may be true that they experience less difficulty doing so however, networking only requires one to be friendly, open to meeting other people, and confident. Like everyone else, we have things to offer, such as ideas, advice, experiences, contacts, etc.
Another key point about networking is that employees must improve their networking skills, including the ability to ask questions. This shows interest in the conversation and that one is attentive to what others are saying. Active listening is equally crucial. It shows respect and helps build trust. Networking should be a two-way street, so learn to listen but also when to speak.
As much as networking implies asking questions and active listening, it also requires goal setting. We must target individuals with whom we are interested in establishing relationships. The most efficient networks include diverse people, from different generations, departments, genders, experiences, age…
Online networking is also becoming more and more relevant by allowing easy interaction and connection with people all over the world. Meaning that being active online is important: share posts, ideas, articles, advice, join groups or communities, add people who you think will be beneficial for your network! Establishing connections is the first step. After that, one should develop and maintain their network.