Did you know that more than 50% of job openings are filled, not by publishing a vacancy, but through an insider’s network? Whether you are job hunting, looking for new clients or trying to get promoted, the first people you turn to are the ones in your network. You start talking to family, friends and coworkers, hoping that they can give you a lead on anything they are aware of. But what if your network isn’t that big? Or what if your regular family/friends/college buddies pursue a completely different career? How do you collect people in your network who can actually mean something to your future career?
1. Differ between personal and professional network
Most people have 2 types of contacts in their network. Personal and professional. Personal are those people you meet in school, through mutual friends or at a party. Your mother is part of your personal network, just like your brother in law (even though he might pursue a similar career path). You professional network are people you’ve met through work, conferences, networking events, our some people from college. The easiest way to divide your personal and professional network? A Facebook friend is a personal contact. Yes, also if you’ve added them on LinkedIn too!
2. Keep a favours track record
People tend to pay off their debts. If you did a favour to anyone in the past, you are in the position to request a favour from them to settle the loan. Be aware of how you’ve helped people in the past. It might come in handy in the future. Keep a track record of the favours you distributed. That way, you will be able to refer to that past favour whenever you want something from one of your contacts.
3. Create a stakeholder mapping
It is important to know who is actually in your network and what position they hold. You may have had a very interesting chat with someone on that party last week but you have to be aware on which network level he is standing. Divide your network in 3 levels, the people closets’ to you – those are the once you can just call to ask for a personal favour – are level 1, the people you just met and never got closer to are level 3. This way , you will find out which people you just need to maintain a relationship with and which people will need more effort.
4. Meet with your network
Knowing who is in your network is very helpful but in order to maintain your network and make it ready to use, you need to invest. So go for lunch/coffee/drinks with the people you consider important and who may be able to help you in the future. Find out if you can mean something to them so they eventually will have to return the favour. This way you will tighten your network around you which makes it a lot more accessible whenever you may need it.
5. Ask to be introduced
If you want to expand your network, you will have to meet new people. Ofcourse you can go to network events and make sure you get to know all of your colleagues. But in order to meet new people who are interesting for your network, you can also pull a favour yourself and ask to be introduced by someone you are already connected to. Don’t be afraid to ask people to introduce you to their contacts, they will probably feel flattered that you show interest in the people they know.
6. Consider expanding your network a job task
Expanding your network is not something you can do ‘on the go’. It takes time and effort to meet new people and maintain existing relations. So block your calendar some time a week to dive into your network and the opportunities that come from it. Consider it part of your job to meet new people and to keep your knowledge of other people’s life up to date. That way, maintaining your network will not be buried under the hundreds of activities on your to-do list.