Notes on Building Your NetworkBelow are a few rough notes from my session on Monday about building your network. A special welcome to first-time visitors whom I met that evening.Why would anyone want or need to build a network? And I emphasize the verb build, as opposed to the mere activity of networking. It’s not just something you should do when job-hunting—a classic mistake made by many—or important for those in sales & business development, another common misconception.
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” --Jane Howard, British actress & novelist.
I’ve had the good fortune to spend several years of my career in various places where the concept of networks were carried to a high art.
A good network should provide you many crucial things, among which are listening posts and at least a couple of walking encyclopedias. Who are yours?
- Covering Capitol Hill in my 20s.
- Working later at a university in the Alumni Office, where you learn that friendraising MUST precede fundraising
- Shared offices for a few years with a search & outplacement firm, where I picked up lots of insight about network-building around the watercooler.
- General business reporting background.
So let’s go back to that Jane Howard quote and pay attention to that term “tribes.” You might also know it as “affinity groups.” Building your network should begin there.
Types of Tribes or Affinity Groups
- Schools you attended, especially college
- Former employers (IBM and McKinsey alums are famously tight)
- Places you’re from
- Industries/sectors you work in or want to work in
- Ethnic groups
The strongest and largest networks come from combining the power of in-person and online networking. Each alone has its limits. When combined, they reinforce each other. Remember, every interaction you have in person or online represents a chance for you to shine, or not.
You should always be developing superchampions (friends, mentors, former and current clients) who can become your sales force. How do you find/grow them? And remember the power of the second tier of your network, the people who your contacts know. There's often gold to be found there.
UPDATE: My friend Valdis Krebs, the guru of gurus on network mapping, recently posted this interesting exploration of how some people use their personal networks in an especially mindful manner. You can review an earlier mention of him here.