"It’s not about what you know, but who you know."
With today’s immense competition and the growing global market, this phrase is truer than ever. Lucky for us, technology has made networking a piece of cake. Even so, the art of network building and maintenance remains a mystery to many.
Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed individuals obtain life-changing opportunities because of their connections.
Some naysayers write these opportunities off as sheer luck, but two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington once said,
“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”
That preparation starts now.
Here are four techniques to build and maximize your network potential:
Before setting off to build the network of your dreams, it’s important to ask yourself some questions.
What are your long-term and short-term goals? Who is already in your network? What type of people are you looking to add to your network? How do you plan to provide value to people within your network?
By answering these questions, you begin the process of building the roadmap and foundational blueprint for your network.
Now, it's time to execute.
Utilize social media
Wouldn’t it be great to have access to a database with thousands of professionals? Oh, wait, you do!
Take advantage of LinkedIn! Don’t be afraid to send a cold message, even when it comes to industry big shots because you never know who will respond back.
During the early stages of Alumnify, my cofounder AJ Agrawal and I failed to get into top-notch accelerator programs. However, that didn’t stop us from finding each program’s mentor list and reaching out.
We emailed more than 150 mentors who led to more than 60 scheduled calls. In fact, the majority of them are still part of our network today.
Maintain your relationships
How many times have you received a business card but never taken the time to reach out? How many times have you needed something from someone, but you were afraid to ask because you hadn’t spoken in ages? It’s a serious problem with a simple solution: It’s all in the spreadsheet!
Create a spreadsheet that lists your contacts and the last time you spoke to each. Try your best to check in at least once a month -- a phone call, email, lunch or even something as simple as sending an article that relates in some way.
Build your networking web
Let’s revisit: You’ve strategically figured out whom you want in your network, utilized social media to find key contacts and kept track of your interaction with the members of your network.
Now, it’s time for the final step: connecting your network.
A few months back, a friend of mine was on a mission to improve her diet. By no means am I a health guru, but I knew someone in my network who was. Earlier that year, I reached out to a nutrition expert via social media; we talked once a month about different diets, trends and workouts.
In time, she became a mentor to me.
During our last conversation, she mentioned her desire to expand her personal brand by selling health products like detox tea. It just so happened the friend who was looking to improve her diet was a branding expert in consumer products.
I made the introduction and the rest is history.
Finding your own success isn’t easy; you have to work, fight, fail and work some more.
But, you don’t have to do it alone. You can build a network of professionals, friends and family members who can elevate you toward your goals.
So, ask the tough questions, make an effort to reach out, connect your connections and prepare because some opportunities are once in a lifetime.