I lost my first job in 1998 well before the days of mobile devices and LinkedIn. Back then connecting with people was a slow methodical process. You suited up, attended events, exchanged business cards and then had a followup meeting to have a discussion.
Sounds hard, huh? It was. It took work.
The problem with today's "networker" is he or she treats a relationship like a transaction.
Too often we collect it with a click and don't do the hard work of following up. We think a click means something. We store away that piece of data and know nothing about it. Don't believe me? How many people do you really know in your social networks?
After 17 years of meeting people and engaging them in a one-to-one relationship, here are some mantras I have found useful in building a rock star network.
Make the Time Because It Takes Time
Aside from potential and experience, your network is the single most important asset you have in your toolbox for success. Not only is it valuable to have a network that helps you, but a network that can help others. Too often I hear people (women in particular) who say they have no time meet people. If you're not out spending 40% of your time building a network, you're not playing the game right. Pull your head out from your desk and start connecting with people. Don't be that person who waits to begin connecting with people when the big reductions are announced. Two words: Epic fail.
Create a Network of Strangers
Get out of your village and into the world. Cultivate new relationships. Don't trust that 5, 10 or more years at a company is enough. It isn't. If you continue to surround yourself with the same people, you are guaranteed to get the same results. Make good use of your networking time and sit at a new table at a networking event, rather than with your co-workers. In recent years I've turned to Twitter and LinkedIn to meet some of the most talented and interesting people. I most recently met my twin on Twitter. Creating a network of strangers and converting them into business relationships has been a sound way to build diversity in my network. Give it a try.
Make Deposits and Invest in Social Capital Early
Creating a network is all about making deposits. I give more than I ask. It's a strategy that pays handsome dividends. When you give to others, it comes back 10 fold. Not everyone will give back but when the time is right, people will be there to support you. Invest often and invest early! But, don't expect instant gratification. Relationships take lots of time, effort, and trust. It doesn't happen in a click nor does it happen overnight. Some of my greatest most trusted friendships and business relationships took years to form.
Connect to Learn
There's nothing I can't stand more than to get a phone call, email or LinkedIn request asking me to buy something. When you connect with people, make sure you have a purpose other than selling yourself or your product. Make sure you know what the other person wants to get out of the relationship and begin to form a real connection over time. [Tweet "Connect to learn!"] People who learn something are more likely to trust and buy from you than if you sell and tell. Sell and tell...how 1990s?!
Connect with Superconnectors
You don't need to know a lot of people to create a rockstar network. The people to get to know are those who know a lot of people. Superconnectors have super powers. They are connected to large groups of people and resources and can get you closer to an answer without a lot of effort. All it takes is knowing one and you're golden.
Building a rock star network is a personal investment. I argue it's the single most important non-tangible asset we all have because it enables so many things. Don't ever underestimate its value. Just as it was slow back in 1998, it's a process today that takes time and nurturing.
Have any tips to add to this list? I'd love to hear yours. Happy connecting!