When some people think about networking, they cringe. It brings to mind images of spending your work and free time connecting with people on a professional level, even if you don’t have anything else in common. However, maintaining a network might not mean what you think it does.
In fact, many individuals harbor misconceptions about who is actually in their network, as well as the best way to create value from the connections. So, before you relegate yourself to another conference solely for the purpose of meeting new people to forward your career, you might want to rethink what a network actually is.
A common error related to forming a network is the idea that everyone you meet lives in a particular box. Often, we separate our professional connections from our personal ones at a minimum, while others take the division even further.
If you are the type of person who keeps your work, family, social, educational, and other networks nearly separated, it may be time to break down some walls.
Any person in your circle has the potential to provide value to your career. For example, a friend of a friend may actually be an employee at your dream company, or your aunt’s neighbor might make an excellent mentor. The trick is to understand that every part of your network can hold professional potential.
Choose Relationships Over Acquaintances
Another misconception is that collecting handfuls of business cards at the latest professional networking event is the ideal method for broadening your horizons. However, if you don’t make a meaningful connection with any of these individuals, there isn’t going to be much long-term value.
Most professionals aren’t interested in humoring requests for professional help when no other effort has been exerted into establishing an actual relationship. It suggests the requestor can’t look beyond their own needs, and that isn’t the impression you want to make. And this is a factor when managing any network. Family members and friends aren’t going to go out on a limb for someone who hasn’t earned that privilege.
Instead, of trying to figure out what a person can do for you now, focus on building and cultivating relationships that provide both parties benefits. Then, if the day arises where you do need to make a request, you’ll have the connection necessary to make reaching out natural.
Don’t Force the Connection
Regardless of potential professional value, it is more important to be genuine than to bend who you are to help facilitate a connection. Typically, creating a network based on a false premise is difficult to sustain. And, if the charade is every identified, the relationship can actually result in more harm than good.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to someone and see if the connection is maintainable. However, don’t resort to falsehoods to keep it moving forward if it simply isn’t there.
If you are interested in learning more about creating networking skills or are looking for new employment opportunities, the experienced recruiters at TempStaff can help you explore your options. Call our office and speak with a member of our staff today.