Networking is one of the most important activities that an entrepreneur can do. The problem is that many people don’t do it right. The current attitude of the “me generation” certainly lends to the passion and drive of the American Dream; the pursuit of wealth and success. But on the way, some people forget to nurture and build their networks. For most, this makes that American Dream that much more inaccessible. You can’t do it alone, so you’re eventually going to need the support of others. Once you’ve built a network, you need to nurture it for it to become useful to you.
A Story About A Colleague
A young entrepreneur colleague of mine has an incredible sense of drive and enthusiasm. He’s 22 years old. He’s even pretty smart, which lends to his success attributes. However, he absolutely fails at networking. He recently solicited my advice about his problem, and I wanted to share it with others in this article.
I pointed out to him that while he was good at meeting people, and great at letting people know (including me) what he was working on, he never sincerely asked his colleagues what they were working on, or how he could help. He shared with me the thought that he felt his work was more important and had a lot of excitement around it. I’m certain that many others share his position with their own projects. However, he clearly overlooked that others associate this behavior with being self-centered or uncaring. No one wants to help someone who doesn’t exhibit the ability to help in return (that’s questionably self-centered as well, but that’s beyond the purpose of this article).
While I know without a doubt that he’s not intending to be this way, a little bit of effort from now on, and he’ll experience a valuable return from his network one day.
Ways To Nurture Your Network
Many people find themselves with a large network, but no way to harness it. Here are a few ways you can nurture your network so that, eventually, it can become useful, meaningful, and profitable to you in the future.
- 1. Request status updates by touching base. Showing interest strengthens your relationship.
2. Share status updates with others upon their request and even when they don’t ask for it. Share it in a personal and meaningful way, and definitely not as an advertisement.
3. Be open to collaboration! You can use the help. And if you are helping a colleague, they are more likely to help you when you need it most. Working together only strengthens your initiatives and doesn’t mean you’re giving up control or ownership.
4. Find out how you can help, then do it. You’re busy and have very little time for yourself anyway, so giving a small piece can seem wasteful. Think of it like you would an investment. Chances are that you can discover small things that will help your colleague. This shows support and validation to your contact, both of which you’ll need later on.
5. As much as you think you do, you don’t know everything about everything, or even about your field, so don’t act like it. Solicit and value feedback and advice from your network. Be open to the opinions of others, even if it conflicts with your convictions.
6. Connect people in your network with each other. Once you have a strong network of people who trust and value you, one of the easiest but most important networking responsibilities is introductions and connecting other people together. For this to flourish, you will absolutely need up-to-date statuses on their needs and activities.
These steps take commitment and effort, but if you apply them, you will see fruitful returns from your networking investments.