Tips to Building Alliances in your Life Game
From my earliest days in the professional world, I was introverted, even a little shy. The idea of engaging with others, especially strangers, was nerve-racking, and stepping out of my comfort zone was a concept I struggled to embrace. However, life had other plans, pushing me towards circumstances that not only necessitated but insisted on the development of my networking skills. This shift was not immediate, nor was it easy. It took time, practice, and a healthy dose of courage. But once the transformation began, the fruits of networking unraveled themselves in ways I could have never predicted.
In the vast constellation of professional life, networking is the invisible thread that links individuals together, driving opportunities, fostering innovation, and paving the way for individual and collective growth. Its importance cannot be overstated, but it isn’t until we’ve personally felt its transformative impact that we can truly appreciate its value. I know this because my own life has been indelibly shaped by the power of networking, nudging me towards a journey of immense growth, extraordinary opportunities, and immeasurable personal development.
Looking back, it’s clear to me now that the networks I’ve built over the years have been instrumental in shaping the person I am today. Every new connection unlocked a world of possibilities, with each handshake, conversation, and shared experience contributing to my professional and personal growth. These interactions have not only opened doors to new opportunities, but they have also broadened my perspective, enriched my understanding of different industries and cultures, and instilled a sense of belonging and community that transcends professional boundaries.
In the following paragraphs, I will delve deeper into my journey, shedding light on the pivotal moments where networking made a significant difference in my life. It is my hope that by sharing my experiences, you too will see the transformative power of networking, and be inspired to leverage its potential in your own lives. We are, after all, not solitary stars in the vast professional cosmos, but interconnected beings, bound together by the potent force of networking.
The Art of Following Up
In the realm of professional networking, the task of preserving your contacts’ information is just the first step. An equally significant and often overlooked aspect is the regular check-ups. Think of it as a friendly catch-up rather than a corporate obligation – a chance to touch base every six months or so. Each contact is unique; their relationship with you varies in degrees of closeness. Thus, customize your check-in frequencies accordingly, creating an interaction rhythm that’s fitting for each connection.
Engaging with your contacts should be a casual and personalized endeavor. Begin with warm and friendly openings such as, “Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? What’s new and exciting in your world?” Show genuine interest in their activities and pursuits, asking about their business progress, hobbies, or personal investments. Make the conversation about them.
However, not everyone is naturally talkative, and some may be guarded, especially if the relationship is still relatively new. In such cases, break the ice by sharing snippets from your own life – recent experiences, pursuits, or plans. This gesture communicates that you view them as friends, not merely professional contacts. Gradually, they’re likely to open up. If the conversation gets tough, don’t fret. Navigate it with grace, share an anecdote, and end on a positive note, ensuring your call was primarily to touch base.
Initiative is the driving force in maintaining relationships. Show your contacts that you value their presence in your life and sincerely care about their well-being. Confidence and optimism are your allies during these conversations, enabling your contacts to feel positively about both themselves and you. Whether they share triumphs or trials, be supportive – compliment their successes, and encourage optimism during tough times. Remember, persistence is key in forming strong relationships. If a conversation doesn’t go as planned, don’t give up. Keep striving to strengthen that bond. This approach embodies the core values of networking, the heart and soul of successful professional relationships.
Finding Common Ground
When planning to meet a contact – be it a newly met professional or an old friend – finding a common interest can significantly enhance the encounter. Shared hobbies, interests, or even favorite cuisine can provide a pleasant backdrop for your meeting. Food is often a safe bet, given its universal appeal. So, when in doubt, inviting your contact to a restaurant with great reviews can be an excellent choice.
While professional details are important, don’t lose sight of the personal aspects of your contact’s life. Regardless of their professional stature, they are people first. Genuinely showing care for them as individuals will help expand your network significantly.
Honesty is paramount. If a contact is passionate about something unfamiliar to you, don’t feign knowledge or interest. Instead, admit your lack of familiarity but express curiosity to learn more. This approach maintains credibility and fosters engaging conversation.
Remember, knowing what brings joy to your contacts can significantly enhance your networking experience. After all, a brighter day is often just a conversation away.
Horizontal vs Vertical Networking
When it comes to enhancing your professional network, the most prevalent strategy is to broaden your circle, a process I like to call ‘Horizontal Networking.’ This involves expanding your connections, constantly meeting new people, and extending your networking periphery. However, an often-overlooked, yet equally potent approach, lies in the second dimension – “Vertical Networking.”
The essence of Vertical Networking revolves around empowering those already in your network. This means aiding their climb to success, which in turn amplifies the collective strength and reach of your network. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t necessitate a direct return of favors. The very fact that you’ve contributed to someone’s success story can potentially unlock opportunities for you down the line. And of course, sincerity is paramount. If each of your contacts thrives, whether as a CEO of a multinational corporation or a high-profile politician, you’re inherently surrounded by a network of success.
Regularly Lend a Helping Hand:
A simple principle yet a potent tool for expanding your network is to offer help. The foundation of networking rests upon mutual support. This is especially true for relationships that are still nascent. When you extend help to others, particularly those you don’t know well, it speaks volumes about your character. It reflects that you genuinely care about others’ welfare rather than viewing them as mere stepping stones to your own success.
Helping others should never be transactional. Abandon the notion of expecting returns. Instead, view the act of helping as a reward in itself. You may subtly acknowledge that your assistance might endear you to others, but the minute your actions become driven by what you might gain, your sincerity fades, and the impact of your networking diminishes.
In environments like schools or workplaces, there’s often a misguided perception that helping others compromises personal success due to heightened competition. I beg to differ. Life is a grand landscape of opportunities waiting to be discovered. Even if your assistance propels someone else to the success you coveted, that’s still a victory. You’ve played a part in their achievement, and they are likely to remember that. The resources and opportunities you may access through their success could propel you towards even greater heights.
Consider this analogy: imagine a group of people stuck in a deep pit, all striving to climb up. Instead of joining the struggle, you decide to boost a friend to the top. Now that they are out, they can extend their hand to pull you up. Help five people, and you’ll have five pairs of hands reaching out for you. Not only have you facilitated their success, but you’ve also earned their appreciation. You’ve simultaneously positioned yourself amidst successful individuals and strengthened your bonds with them.
Jesus Christ said in the Bible, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And in the realm of networking, nothing rings truer than this wisdom.
Be Positive. Be Productive
Networking is a symbiotic dance, a balance of give-and-take where you offer your potential assistance and care in anticipation of similar reciprocity. However, to establish a successful network, presenting a confident facade is not enough. You need to support it with genuine value. You might not be an award-winning academic whose groundbreaking research has reshaped the world, but you should strive to contribute to your field in your own way. What truly counts is not where you currently stand, but the direction you’re moving in. A person deciding to rise from their present circumstances, committing to productivity, learning, and making a positive difference, instantly increases their value. They transform into a desirable networking connection. Remember, to add value to others, you first need to do something valuable with your own life.
Spread Positivity: A Smile Goes a Long Way
A simple tool that can significantly boost your networking effectiveness is a smile.
Yes, emoticons have their charm; they help foster friendliness and uplift moods in digital communication (and I hope you’re smiling now!). However, in face-to-face networking, you have the opportunity to use your ‘real smile.’
A genuine smile is more than a display of friendliness; it’s a reflection of your confidence and a signal that you are enjoyable to be around. It also subtly communicates that you could potentially offer assistance or cooperation in the future, creating a welcoming entry point into a new professional relationship. Be wary though, authenticity is key. Ensure your smile is a true reflection of your joy in meeting a new individual; insincerity can derail your networking efforts.
So, as you step into the world of networking, remember to bring with you a resolve to be productive and contribute value, paired with an authentic smile that radiates positivity and confidence.
Stand Out: Do MORE than you “need” to do
Regardless of your position or experience, there’s a principle that can significantly boost your professional reputation – doing more than what’s expected. This principle, although particularly relevant to younger professionals, can be applied universally.
In many workplaces, I’ve noticed individuals who quickly complete their assignments only to indulge in idle activities like browsing the internet aimlessly. If an individual is capable of finishing their work swiftly, it implies they possess capabilities beyond their assigned tasks. Wouldn’t it be advantageous for others to recognize this?
Consider two employees: one completes their work quickly and then diverts their attention to online games, while the other finishes their tasks at a steadier pace but then seeks out additional responsibilities. Who do you think is more likely to receive a promotion or a referral? Despite this apparent logic, I’ve witnessed numerous individuals lamenting their stagnant career progression.
The key insight here is that fulfilling your assigned tasks, your ‘responsibilities’, is merely meeting the baseline expectation. Anyone in your position should be capable of achieving this. Your true merit begins where your formal responsibilities end. When you willingly undertake extra tasks, you transcend your job title, whether that’s a ‘Teller’, ‘Operating Director’, or ‘VP Marketing,’ and make your name synonymous with initiative and diligence. This distinction can be incredibly beneficial in professional circles.
This philosophy extends to interactions outside of work as well. If your peers perceive you as a capable, diligent individual who performs tasks effectively and maintains strong work ethics, you’ll likely be the first person they consider when opportunities arise. Therefore, by going beyond the call of duty, you not only bolster your reputation but also potentially widen your prospects within your network.
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