Throughout your career you build professional networks around you. Those contacts or connections come from a range of sources. And from time to time, your professional networking list of contacts can become unruly, overgrown and a little out of control. Time for a connections Spring clean? Here’s how to approach your tidy up.
Spring clean your network
It’s important to recognise that your professional networks are fluid. People come and go from industry sectors. Some people in your network will be more active in some years than others, depending on what is happening in their lives.
Keeping in mind that networking should be conducted with purpose, it makes sense to review your networking strategy every 6 months or so. Make sure you are growing your professional network in alignment with your purpose and overall career strategy.
This short article explores pragmatic ways to review your current professional network and make sure you are on the right track for growing your contacts for the future.
Stand still and take stock
Review your professional network list every 6 months or so. Here are some things to consider as you look at each contact:
- Have I actively tried to add value to this person over the last year or so? If not, note down how you may be able to provide value and action that as soon as possible.
- Have I learnt something directly from this person recently?
- Does this contact post useful content that I can learn from?
- Could this person help me access work opportunities in the future?
- Could this person assist me to solve any problems I regularly face in my career?
- Have I kept pace with where this person collaborates online? Note: If you connected with someone on Twitter but not LinkedIn, consider connecting with them there as well.
Weeding out contacts
Don’t be afraid to cull your professional contacts. Every career takes twists and turns. And at some point or another, contacts become less useful. This is not a personal reflection on your relationship.
If someone doesn’t provide you with any ongoing value and you are unable to provide value to them, then the connection is unlikely to be very helpful to either of you.
Take some time every 6 months or so, to cull from your network.
Cultivating new contacts
Reviewing your networking approach every 6 months allows you think about new digital channels that might be useful for you to use more regularly to build your connections online.
Consider where you are currently building your networks. And ask yourself whether you have the capacity to add some new channels to source better connections.
“Random outreach is not an effective approach to problem solving, and at its core networking really is about seeking a solution to a problem or challenge you’re facing”J. Kelly Hoey – Build your Dream Network.
Here is a reminder of some of the places you can strike up an online conversation, ask for help, exchange ideas and offer help to others:
- Coworking spaces
- Coworking communities
- Meet ups
- Incubator and Accelerator programs
It can be overwhelming to consider building a presence on EVERY one of the digital platforms above. If you have capacity, just choose one further channel to add to your networking activities and trial how it goes. Not all channels will work for all career types or for your personal networking style for that matter.
Review your network growth strategy
Not every network building strategy works for every individual. Take stock of your approach every now and again to make sure it is effective.
If elements of your strategy are not effective, pivot and try something new. Constant innovation in your approach will open new virtual doors and introduce you to new contacts.
From time to time, consider asking your existing trusted contacts if there are others they think you should connect with or get to know. This can be a helpful strategy for growing your network further if you hit a plateau.
Simple ways to help your network grow
Feeling like you have stagnated a little in your network building efforts? Not all networking should be conducted online. Face to face (human!) contact is essential for nurturing your professional network.
Consider making some small changes in your weekly routine which might present new opportunities for physical connections with other professionals.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sit with someone new at lunch time. You may meet someone in your company you have not come across before.
- If you work in a co-working space, sit somewhere new today. You never know who will sit down next to you. This is a great way to meet different people every day.
- If you walk to work, walk a different way each day of the week. It’s amazing who you might meet on the street corners of your city!
- If you tend to head to client appointments during the day, mix up how you get there. Walking, catching a bus and catching a cab will take you on slightly different routes around town which means you increase your changes of running into different people.
- Arrive at your destination a little early so you have a few minutes sitting or standing in the building foyer. This is a classic location for meeting people you may have worked with in the past whom you have lost touch with.
- Attend industry events and seminars and don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to those you sit next to, and the new people you meet in breaks. Make sure you connect on LinkedIn or other digital platforms after the event.
I acknowledge that no one really loves Spring cleaning. But the results are always worthwhile. Set aside a small amount of time each day over a week to review your existing network and take steps to audit and replenish your professional connections.
A more meaningful network of contacts will provide you with significant value professionally and make working a more rewarding experience.