Building a professional network, people with whom you share professional interests, is a time consuming and important effort. People will help you learn, will introduce you to new ideas, and often will let you know about new opportunities. You’ve heard it said before, don’t wait until you are looking for help to start making connections with people.
To build a network, you meet many people and learn about their experiences, interests, and preferred method of communications. It usually involves attending meetings, setting up coffee dates, and talking with new people whenever you can. Building a network remotely can be even more challenging, but it can be done. A professional network will be an asset you will value for your entire life, so it is worth an investment of your time. Make a commitment to work on building your network at least once a month — consistently –and before you know it, you’ll have a great community of friends all over the world.
Read Social Media
Identify people whose ideas you like or are interested in, study their profile, background, etc. If this is someone you would like to get to know better, send a message in LinkedIn® to connect – referring to their article or posts. If they reply to thank you, ask to schedule a phone call, just a quick ½ hour introduction to get to know this person a bit. Offer to use a video calling technology so you can see each other while talking. This first contact is much more valuable with the visual component. Nurture this relationship by touching base occasionally, sharing information or asking questions as appropriate.
Follow your network and read a few posts everyday. It only takes a few minutes and keeps you in touch with trending topics. When someone you know makes a post, Like it or comment on it. This only takes a few seconds but continues to strengthen your relationship.
Carefully post ideas and questions on social media with the goal of getting the attention of others. Asking a question in a post on LinkedIn or Twitter will often encourage others to post an answer in a comment. Once you see their name, you can begin to research them as mentioned above.
Recommend articles or posts which you enjoyed to your network and add a note about why you liked the article. This is a great service to your network. None of us have time to read all of the articles we’d like, but when we see someone we trust has recommended an article, we may be willing to take the time to read it. This rewards good authors as they get more readers.
Ask your Network to Make More Connections for You
If you are researching a company or industry and see that someone you know has a connection that you would like to meet, ask. Most people are happy to make an introduction and with an introduction you are much more likely to get a phone call.
Listen to Different Views
We get stuck in our own ways of thinking and tend to talk mostly with people who are like minded. Expand your perspectives by talking with people who have different opinions and different experiences than you do.
Respond to Other’s Requests
When someone reaches out to you – for advice, for a recommendation, for anything – answer. You may not be able to help but you may make a friend for the future. You will also learn something about what they are trying to achieve.
When you Travel, Connect with Local Friends
When you have an extensive network, you’ll have a friend everywhere you go. Let your friends know a week or two before your travel and see if they can meet for coffee. People love to show off their cities so you’ll be surprised how many people will offer to show you around. Meeting a contact in person really solidifies your relationship. I’ve traveled around the world and had many wonderful colleagues, who I had never met in person, made me feel at home in their countries – meeting for dinner in Portugal, giving me a tour of Kingston, Jamaica; hosting a buffet lunch in Singapore, and making a home cooked meal in Wiesbaden, Germany – all with people from my network who welcomed me based on a virtual relationship. Those experiences are some of the best memories I have!