When it comes to networking or deliberately expanding the number of people you have relationships with, most people are seriously lazy. It’s so easy to go home after a long day at work and forget such things. We often rationalize that we don’t need to network during those stretches of time when the job is going well.
There is a problem with waiting to have a robust network only when the need arises. If you wait to nurture and/or expand your network until you have a need, you’ve waited too long for your network to help you.
In these days of instant gratification, we often fail to understand the one primary characteristic of our network: people. People and how they behave have a pesky way of not working at the same level of urgency than our situation may require. This is especially true if you have been derelict with the people you need the most to help you with the next step in your career.
The primary thing you are trying to avoid is being a predator.
No one likes to be used or exploited for no other reason that having the bad luck of meeting you. If you have not invested in a relationship with another person, you can’t make demands on that person without being exploitive. That type of behavior leaves a lasting negative impression which is never career enhancing.
You must “deposit” into the relationship bank account first. You have to be the first one to be doing things to nurture or develop the relationship. Just like you, every person you meet (or most of them) is lazy about taking the first or even second step in moving the relationship along.
If you pay attention, the two primary commodities invested within any relationship is:
- Information exchange – You’ll notice that when you are communicating and therefore nurturing a relationship with another person you are primarily exchanging information. The type of information that is exchanged is based on the type of relationship you have with that person. eg.: If it’s your mother you are most likely exchanging information about the status of one another or a family member or events. If it’s a co-worker the information you exchange is about workflow or office dynamics.
- Support – The greatest act of giving to a relationship is to provide support to the other person. Support can be anything from help on a project to moral support on an important situation. When you support another person, it builds an almost automatic desire to support you in return not to mention the goodwill you’ve created.
Neither of the two relationship currencies is hard to do. When you barely know another person your task is to learn enough about the other person so you know the best “investment” you can make in that person.
In other words, as you get to know the person you will learn enough about them to know what information they would value as well as how you can support them.
Another characteristic you will notice is that learning about a new person does take time to accomplish making it anything other than instant. Even if you already know another person, it requires you to set aside some amount of time to contact them so you can do information exchange and support.
Your network is THE most important part of your career success as real progress is dependent on others. Your next promotion, your next great assignment, opportunity or job will come only with and through the people you are connected with.
As the saying goes: The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago and the second best time is now. The same is true for your network. Invest in your network because it is an investment in you.