A guide to building your network
Businesses Are Built By Networking. Here’s A Blueprint That Has Worked.
No matter what you’re doing in business—trying to hire the best talent, chasing your dream job, or finding the perfect partner for a new venture—knowing the right people will help get you there faster.
This is true now more than ever, when social media helps savvy entrepreneurs and marketers build an influential network without even leaving the office—or our homes. We’re past the point where people only make connections with people in their industry or city—every connection can count, and the best networks often lead to the best outcomes.
I was recently introduced to Victor Garibay, a Los Angeles based entrepreneur who, at a young age, has executive produced multiple television series, made headway as a music producer, and coordinated multiple entrepreneurial startups. Knowing that his network was his constant asset, I asked him what principles he used to build it. Here are three things to know:
Get outside your industry
But it’s becoming increasingly important to build a network beyond your field as well. As Dorie Clark wrote in Harvard Business Review: “Relationships with those like you may feel more natural, but it pays to push beyond your comfort zone.”
Garibay is a great example of why this approach works. He has contacts in a wide range of fields, from music, to real estate, to film and television, and he uses those relationships to connect to people who can help him build his current venture.
Just because somebody in your network doesn’t work in your industry doesn’t mean they can’t connect you to somebody who does—by looking outside your field, you may find the connection you need to get to the next level, or connect to somebody with expertise you’ve never previously accessed.
Go deep, not wide
Another common instinct is to assume that bigger is always better when building a network. This is especially tempting when networking outside your industry—it’s understandable to try to connect with everybody you can, always be ready to help and to grow the largest possible contact list.
But it’s important to remember that quality is better than quantity. Anybody with a social media account knows that there’s a difference between the number of friends you have and the number of people you can actually count on when you need support. The same is true professionally—be mindful of the fact that having a small group of people who are always ready to help you can be more valuable than having many contacts who aren’t as helpful.
Just as ineffective is when you promise to help everybody you meet, and eventually stack up too many obligations to handle. As Michelle McComb, CFO at VTS said in an interview, “it’s okay to say no. You want to deliver quality work and, in order to do that, your “wheelhouse” needs to be in order.”
Whether you end up overpromising, or fall into the trap of working with a connection who isn’t interested in helping you, there are downsides to indiscriminately growing your network. It’s important to always be open to connect, but use judgment so you don’t get stretched too thin.
Be a giver not a taker
It’s a widely understood that it’s necessary to have a giving mindset to excel in business. This is especially true for networking—while you should be mindful of how the people you connect with can help you down the road, you should always be ready to help others, whether you’re serving as a mentor or helping them connect to the right people.
This is Garibay’s core mindset as a networker—he’s focused on using his connections to help others grow their startups, thinking of how he can give, rather than what he can get out of a situation. Garibay has built a network across several industries, and he’s done it by always being ready to help others and pay his success forward.
Your network is your greatest asset in business, no matter the industry. The people with the strongest connections—those who carefully look beyond their field for contacts, are thoughtful about what they commit to, and have a giving mindset—are often the ones who land the best talent and grow their ventures.
Have you done what you can to build the best possible network? You should. This is the way to start.
Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Join 100,000+ global leaders who follow his inspirational weekly Friday Forward at www.fridayfwd.com or invite him to speak. His new book, Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, publishes October 1.