Networking is a known quantity these days, part of any progressive career track. But effective networking is not always so well publicized. What makes networking effective? Forming genuine connections and building authentic relationships with your contacts, not just exchanging business cards and empty conversation.
Super connectors are people who have organically grown their own expansive networks. These networks wouldn’t be sustainable or, indeed, useful to anyone if the foundations were flimsy. So super connectors grow connections naturally by trading in value: quality versus quantity. And super connectors strengthen those relationships by enabling and facilitating further interaction within their own networks.
Rather than navigating a daunting “networking event” that may be unfocused, unorganized, and ultimately unhelpful–not to mention draining and time-wasting–consider these refinements to the networking process.
1. Offer Help
Rather than always asking for help, first offer it. Do favors for people to cement meaningful relationships. Build a reputation as a reliable contact, willing to give and not just take. Create value in your connections by building on a solid foundation, rather than just a passing acquaintance.
2. Find Common Ground
Maintain your network over time by keeping in touch with people. Grow your network over time by reaching out to people with whom you have common ground, like friends of friends and alumni networks. This makes meaningful use of both persons’ time.
3. Pick and Choose
If you want to attend networking events, pick and choose. Cattle call networking events aren’t likely to make good use of your time, but focused networking events increase the chances of making meaningful connections.
4. Convene Connections
Once you succeed in growing your network, you might consider holding your own events to leverage and strengthen your network. Super connectors can use such events to brand-build, in a sense, by curating their own networking events. These could be as small and informal as potlucks, or as large as summits.
Organizing these events with an eye for detail and opportunity means people will walk away feeling like the event was a worthwhile use of their time–well worth the value of a registration fee, even–and impressed by the size of the organizer’s network. These kinds of events can build your reputation while extending your network: “The world’s top super connectors use the power of convening to massively scale the depth and breadth of their network while building their thought leadership.”
Once you have built a web of meaningful connections, get in the habit of exchanging value by reciprocating introductions, trading advice, and building each other up.
6. Achieve Mastery
To have something to offer your network of contacts, it’s important to develop your own brand of mastery first. Mastery means value, for yourself and for your contacts, so honing your skills and cultivating your expertise is a worthwhile endeavor. Eventually, your mastery will include making connections, putting you on the path to being a super connector.
7. Stay Engaged
Whether attending events in person, connecting with people online, or just grabbing lunch with coworkers, it pays to stay engaged–and not in a hokey, salesy kind of way, but in a genuine way. Lunch is an easy opportunity to connect outside the office that doesn’t even feel like networking. Finding meaningful networks on social media can lead to deeper connections at meet-ups. And attending such events in person, at least occasionally, helps you maintain visibility with your contacts as you network.