The question I get asked the most is “How do I build my network?”
It’s one of those things that makes me sit back and sigh. You see, I don’t believe in networking for humans. Networking to me is cables and wires and routers, oh my! I know what the term means, but humans have RELATIONSHIPS. You cannot hold a good, solid conversation with a server. So, my response to the question is always, “Let’s talk about building your relationships instead.”
Humans naturally navigate to other people that are just like them. It’s where we feel the most comfortable. We prefer to be around those that think like us, act like us, etc. But the true value in relationships is the differences that set us apart. There’s a reason why diversity in a workplace is so valued. Each person brings in different viewpoints, ideas, and procedures into the business, based on their background. A person’s background is as varied as a fingerprint. Everyone matters, all opinions have worth.
That said, who are the people you currently have relationships with? In order to add more contacts, I suggest you look at who you have in your circle right now. What are their skills, their jobs, their businesses? What types of personalities? Are they all conservative? Nothing makes more fun than throwing a liberal into a group of conservatives. Shark tank! Make a list. There is something visual about a list that makes you put two and two together easier.
Now that you have taken stock of who you have, and reviewed their list of skills and personalities, look closely for what’s missing. I recently took a look at my own circle, and found out that I had surrounded myself with people that agreed with me on almost all points, which does me no good whatsoever. I need people to argue with me, make me think of things I haven’t thought of before. People that stand their ground, and fight to the death over what they know and believe. People who don’t let me steamroller them. Hmm… Sounds like I need to find more people like my husband!
Your next step is to seek out the types people you need to add into your mix. Where do you find them? Have lunch with someone you normally wouldn’t. Introduce yourself to a different department, show interest in their jobs, find out why they’re valuable to the organization. People love to talk to others about what they do. Need a conversation starter? “So, what are you working on that’s really exciting to you?” This question leads to either personal or professional answers, and can tell you a lot about a person. Remember to keep the focus of the conversation on them, and be an active listener. What you learn can make them a great addition to your circle, and you a great addition to theirs.
Quote of the Week: “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