An essential part of business success is having a strong network. In fact, a Harvard study found that 85% of professional success comes from people’s skills. Though it certainly must be easier to build a network if you’re inherently part of a world of business and money, all you really need to build a good network is to be willing to meet new people and step out of your comfort zone.
Networking also doesn’t have to be as soul-stealing as it’s reputation suggests. Networks are really just a collection of friends, teammates and acquaintances. And in good networks, relationships are balanced. People help each other equally and genuinely care about the well-being and success of each other.
Give to get
In that vein, networking can’t be one-sided. If you want help from people, you have to help them. One of the most helpful things I think that people can do is connect you with people who are experts in what you’re trying to do.
So anytime a friend or acquaintance tells me what they’re working on, I try to think about who I know that might be able to help them. In turn, they do the same for me.
Regularly reach out to people in your network. Ask them what they’re up to and how you can help. That strengthens your relationship and makes it mutually beneficial.
Ask for what you want
I know how easy it can be to hesitate, hedge and hope someone guesses what you want. It can feel uncomfortable to ask for help from someone.
But in order to get what you want, you have to ask for it. It’s better for the other party too because they don’t have to guess what you need and the relationship is more open.
Of course, the most uncomfortable thing to ask for is money. Two years ago, my business was working on setting up our crowdfunding campaign. When we started, we cloaked our requests in words like, “if you want” and “if you can spare it.” When we made our language more direct about halfway through our campaign, we were much more successful.
One of the best ways to grow your network is to get out of the office. Often you don’t know what people you need to connect with. If you did, connecting with them would be as easy as shooting off a quick email.
But in a lot of cases, it’s the unexpected people who will really add to your network. So build strong relationships with people in all aspects of your life.
I’m a founder of Driven Media, a roving girl-power newsroom. At 23 years old, I’m helping create the kind of media that young women want. I both create content for and manage the finances of Driven. As a writer, I use storytelling to make sense of the world.